Goooaaaalllll!!

With World Cup soccer matches underway, futbol/fuBball fever has infected millions of fans around the globe, not to mention locally.

My household is no exception, and even though we lack cable TV (go ahead and speculate!), the three soccer-mad males on hand have found creative ways to stay on top of a lot of the action.

Though the U.S. challenges Belgium in Brazil as I write, a few soccer games played closer to home remain on my brain. That’s because my 13-year-old son has been part of a Worthington Area YMCA Futbol Club team for a fourth consecutive season, and the enthusiasm of the league’s players is remarkable.

Last year, the U12 team was the state runner-up in its class, having overcome obstacles such as four-hour bus rides to distant fields on non-air conditioned school buses (largely paid for by team members’ families) in nearly 100-degree heat. This year, more players meant more teams, so my son has been on the U14 rec-plus team (comprised largely of other 13-year-olds like him), while the older athletes have filled the roster of a U14 competitive team (with a few of the best 13-year-olds thrown in to round things out).

So far this season, the U14 competitive team (playing as a C3 team in the Southwest District) has a 10-0 record, having scored more than 10 goals in six of those games–and with only three (THREE) goals total scored by their opponents.

The U14 rec-plus team has also enjoyed great success, having lost only two games this year and competed in tournaments at Brookings and Sioux Falls, S.D.–and just last weekend, in the popular Burnsville FIREcup Tournament (with over 200 teams participating in games at numerous southwest metro fields).

Watching this group of boys from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds (Mexican, Salvadoran, Guatemalan, Laotian, Sudanese, Karen, Eritrean and Caucasian, among others) band together and kick it with undying energy and drive is, truly, nothing short of inspirational. The skill, strength, teamwork and determination they display every time they take the pitch almost knocks your socks off–and I’m not exaggerating.

Other teams underestimate them at their peril, but many have nevertheless done just that.

Take last weekend, for instance. The U14 rec-plus team played at the Burnsville FIREcup in a higher class than they’d competed in all season, borrowing only four 14-year-olds from the local U14 competitive team for the occasion. This occurred because the tournament officials misread the registration and told our team representatives on site they had expected our undefeated U14 competitive team, so they’d placed them in the tougher C2 bracket against other suburban Twin Cities clubs with strong records.

And guess what happened? Although the Worthington kids lost their first match to Eagan in a closely fought 3-2 contest, they prevailed over Chanhassen/Chaska 5-4 later Saturday, then toppled Burnsville 4-1 on Sunday morning, thus qualifying for the championship game (against initial foe Eagan) late Sunday afternoon.

While the seemingly well-heeled Eagan fans lined up mostly in blue-and-white apparel, the Worthington supporters were more colorful in every way possible. It appeared Eagan’s crowd (which skeptically eyed the opposition) thought they had the championship sewed up–but were they ever wrong.

Buoyed by the non-stop cheers from their supporters, the Worthington team played with such heart and skill that nothing could have stopped them. Yes, they emerged the victors, 2-1, with the trophy for the tournament’s C2 bracket, and broader smiles (and stinkier socks) were simply unimaginable.

What a delight it’s been to be a part of this soccer juggernaut, if only from the sidelines. Worthington residents should know how well these young athletes have represented this community, with smiles, handshakes and sportsmanlike conduct the rule, even in the face of questionable calls and underdog expectations.

We’ll watch with pleasure as the U14 and U17 competitive teams play qualifying games the weekend of July 12, in hopes of advancing to the July 20-23 Minnesota Youth Soccer Association state tournament. The Daily Globe sports department plans to run more detailed information about the Worthington Futbol Club’s season yet this week, I’m told, so look for that.

World Cup soccer only takes place quadrennially, but the Worthington youth soccer teams give local groupies something to cheer about every year.

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