NorCal PDP Squads Complete Successful Tournaments Abroad
NorCal Premier Soccer has taken its PDP teams out of the country before, but never for a competitive international tournament.
So when the organization decided to take its U17 Girls State Team to the prestigious Gothia Cup in Sweden and its U17 Boys State Team to the equally impressive Copa Chivas in Guadalajara, it was walking into the unknown.
The pair of teams had incredibly successful runs in their respective tournaments with the boys advancing to the semifinal stage and the girls coming home as the champions, defeating IF Limhamn/Bunkeflo 3-0 in the final after a grueling schedule that featured six games in six days.
For the girls, the tournament was a tough experience given their placement in the top flight of the competition.
“It was valuable for NorCal because we played in the elite group and lot of people showed up to the games,” said PDP coach David Robertson. “It really put NorCal PDP on the map. When we initially applied, it was hard to get into that top flight. Next year, if we decided to take a team, maybe our boys and girls, it will be easier to get into it. There were 80 countries, 1800 teams, and I could be wrong, but I think we were the only American team to win it. It was a very professional environment.”
Added captain Sara Bermudez of MVLA, who was named Woman of the Match in the final after scoring the third and final goal: “For me it was an incredible experience because I had been a part of PDP since I was 10, 11 years old, so to see it grow that much was amazing. The trip taught me to be able to be an individual and to work with new players and adapt to how they play, but still keep the way I play.
“It taught me how to be a young professional.”
Facing a tough slate of matches against some youth professional clubs, NorCal cruised to win the championship, winning five of their six games, scoring 15 goals, and allowing just three.
In the knockout rounds, the NorCal side, which was made up of 17 Division I soccer commits, won every game by at least three goals despite facing a more physical environment than normal.
“Over there, the soccer was definitely more aggressive,” Bermudez said. “I expected a good challenge. What made it kind of funny was it was aggressive, but the refs let it go. I think it woke us up and by the end, I think we realized that we were one of the more athletic teams out there.”
While the boys didn’t end up coming home as champions, it wasn’t for a lack of quality in the side as they cruised through the group stage with a 3-0 record, 15 goals scored, and just four allowed.
After a 2-0 win in the quarterfinals, though, their run ended in the semifinals on penalties to Academia Santos Monclova.
“We had the goal of winning the tournament. We got to the semifinal. We seemed to be on track, but we had a first half where nothing seemed to go our way…it was just one of those games,” said PDP Assistant Director Ian Mork. “It was their only shot in the game. All of a sudden they’re winning 1-0 and then we came back. We had a chance to win it in penalties, but it wasn’t meant to be.”
“That was a disappointment, but it shouldn’t overshadow the performance of the players,” Mork added. “They were really disappointed, but I think they’re going to learn a lot from the experience.”
According to Mork, the play of several of their players impressed scouts watching the tournament.
“You’re looking at about half of the team moving on to professional clubs this season,” Mork said. “That would be the main thing. These players were exposed to a level that was challenging and some will be moving on to a professional club. That’s what it’s all about.”
And even though they didn’t reach the final, the group still has much to be proud of.
“It was a really responsible group, they all reacted in a really professional way,” Mork said. “Our performances in the first rounds really showed the potential of the group. We played the NorCal way. We played really good football. We had the majority of possession all the time, created a ton of chances, scored a ton of great goals.”