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FC Dallas at Region III Championships in South Carolina

20 June 12:37 pm

FC Dallas at Region III Championships in South Carolina

By Scott Brown

Two FC Dallas Youth teams qualified for the 2012 U.S. Youth Soccer Region III Championships that began in Greenville, South Carolina this past weekend. The 97 Boys Central team and the 98 Boys Premier team each qualified for the tournament by winning the U.S. Youth Soccer North Texas Soccer State Cup in the U-15 and U-14 age groups, respectively.

97 Boys Central: U-15 Bracket (coached by Francisco Arias)

The 97s had a rough start to the group stage after being shut out in their first two matches. However, the team did manage a big win over eventual group-winners and U-15 Region III champions SAA Real Madrid Miami in their third group stage match.

FC Dallas conceded the first two goals in the match, the second an own goal, to set the stage for an unlikely comeback. The team responded with four unanswered goals scored by Oscar Romero, Jeffrey Withers, Leonardo Franzank and Leonardo Luvizetto. But the win wasn't enough to undo the squad's first two losses as their run ended in the group stage.

98 Boys Premier: U-14 Bracket (coached by Gabby Gentile)

The 98s found more success in South Carolina though, as they've made it all the way to the semifinals of the tournament. FC Dallas opened up the tournament with a convincing 5-0 win over HSC Phantoms, State Cup Champions of Alabama.

FCD took the lead in the first half off a goal by Tony Perez, but the Texas side poured on the offense in the second half. Adan Garcia scored the 98s' second goal just minutes before Junior Chavez made it a 3-0 lead. The fourth goal came off a free kick that Sebastian Venegas sent around the wall from just outside the box and bent into the far post. Bernie ZuaZua wrapped up the scoring with a one-touch goal off a har pass from Matthew Gonzalez. Fino Garcia set up two of FCD's goals to help the team start the tournament on the right foot.

In their second match the Dallas side faced FC Alliance 98 Black from Tennesse. FCD found themselves trailing by a goal midway through the first half after Jacob Helterbridle headed in a long throw-in. But Adan Garcia responded with a valiant individual effort to beat the goalkeeper far post just minutes later to tie the match at 1-1. A scoreless second half saw the match end in a draw and FC Dallas end their second day in South Carolina with four points for second place in the group behind their next opponent, Florida's Pinecrest Premier.

Pinecrest won their first two matches, making the final matchup of the group stage a must-win for FC Dallas if they hoped to win the group. The 98s proved up to the task, as Fino Garcia gave the team an early 1-0 lead after putting away a rebound. Minutes later Chuy Armendariz beat the 'keeper to make it a 2-0 lead. Pinecrest's Tavish Rice cut the advantage in half as he put in a goal off a corner kick towards the end of the first half. FCD put the game away early in the second half though, as Sebastian Venegas scored his second of the tournament to give Dallas the 3-1 win to advance the team to the tournament quarterfinals.

FCD's quarterfinal match against Georgia's GSA 98 Phoenix Red was a dramatic one. The teams went scoreless through both halves of regulation, but towards the end of the second half one of GSA's players received a second yellow to put the Georgia side down to 10 players. The sides remained scoreless through the entire first overtime period until the last minute when Dallas was called for a handball in the box to award a penalty kick to GSA. However, FCD goalkeeper Zach Sodolak made a game-changing save on the spot kick to hold the clean sheet as the match headed into the final overtime period. Junior Chavez played the hero for FC Dallas in the second overtime, scoring two goals to keep the match from being decided in a penalty kick shootout.

The 2-0 win set up a Lone Star State semifinal showdown against South Texas State Cup Champions Texas Rush Premier on Wednesday afternoon for a shot at the Region III Championship match. FC Dallas wasted little time in their semifinal matchup, jumping out to a 1-0 lead over their Houston-based counterparts thanks to an eighth minute goal by Fino Garcia. Garcia scored a brace just 12 minutes later after Junior Chavez sent in a pass that split the Rush center backs. Bernie ZuaZua made it a 3-0 lead five minutes into the second half off a feed from Sebastian Venegas, and 13 minutes later FC Dallas was awarded a penalty kick after Austin Day took a shot that hit the hand of a defender in the box. Adan Garcia buried the spot kick to seal the 4-0 shutout victory for FC Dallas.

On Thursday morning the 98 Boys Premier team faced Florida's Sunrise Elite with the Region III Championship and a berth in Nationals at stake. Sunrise entered the match having won all five of their previous matches while outscoring their opponents 10-2 at the tournament. In a tightly contested final, the lone goal of the match was scored by Sunrise Elite's Alexander Gomez to clinch the 1-0 victory for the Florida side and hand FC Dallas their only loss in the final match of the competition.

"We are very proud of the 97 Boys Central and 98 Boys Premier teams for winning the North Texas State Cup and advancing to the Region III 2012 Southern Regionals," said FC Dallas Youth Vice President Chris Hayden. " It is a great accomplishment to qualify for Regionals and to represent North Texas.  It is also extremely important that our teams play an attractive style of soccer, which I know is stressed daily by coaches.  These two teams have demonstrated their quality on and off the field all year long and did a great job representing FC Dallas on a big stage."