U16 Boys Champions League Preview – 2018
The much-anticipated NPL Champions League finally returns this weekend as teams kick off their games at various sites around the state. There’s more at stake than just the glory of winning the Champions League as the NPL Champion and Runner-up qualify for the ENPL Western Playoffs taking place from June 29-July 3 in San Diego, CA.
ATLETICO SANTA ROSA
Head Coach: Gustavo Reyes
Atletico Santa Rosa are the exact side that every opponent fears: one that can score goals with the best of them, and yet also allows very few strikes on the defensive side. Finishing just one point off of the league lead in the NPL 1 North, Atletico scored an impressive 31 goals, while allowing just 13 to go 7-2-0 in the fall and cement their pedigree as Champions League contenders.
FORCE ACADEMY 2
Head Coach: Matt Marquess
Placed in the same division as the highly-decorated Lamorinda SC side, it was always going to be tough for Force to compete for the top spot in the NPL 1 South. But Force proved to be every bit of a top team in finishing five points off of Lamorinda’s mark with a 5-1-3 record, good for second place. Don’t count this team out once Champions League starts.
Head Coach: Jake Wilson
Last year, Lamorinda was one of the best teams in any age group in any division in NorCal as they stormed to win both the Champions League title and the State Cup, which came with an astonishing 8-2 victory. This year, Lamorinda picked up where they left off, topping the NPL 1 South with a 7-0-2 record with 27 goals scored and just six allowed. With such quality, it would be hard for any neutral to pick against Lamorinda capturing their second straight Champions League title.
PLACER UNITED GOLD
Head Coach: Don Finley
It’s not often that you see a side finish a fall season ranked first in both goals scored and goals allowed, but that’s just what this Placer United squad did in winning the NPL 1 North with a 7-1-1 record. Topping the goalscoring charts in the U16 fall season was No. 10 and State PDP player Tobias Metten, who hit the back of the net six times. Matten is joined by fellow State PDP players Fernando Zepeda and Coleby Phillips to round out a strong side that should be among the favorites in Champions League play.
SACRAMENTO UNITED RED
Head Coach: Zack Gordan
This possession-based team in Sacramento United were oh-so-close to winning the fall NPL 1 North, but fell short by just a point with a 7-2-0 record. Led by the versatile State PDP player and centerback/center forward Ulises Esquivel (four goals in the fall), United proved to be a thorn in all of their opponents during the fall, scoring 29 goals, while allowing just 13. Don’t count out this well-rounded side to be among the favorites.
SANTA CLARA SPORTING GREEN
Head Coach: Justin Slaven
Not many teams in the Champions League can match the pedigree of this Santa Clara Sporting side, which captured the prestigious Surf Cup title just this past year. The key to Sporting, in addition to their State PDP players in Ricardo Dominguez, Noah Robertson, Javier Leon, and Diego Baca, is the side’s defense, which allowed just eight goals in a tough NPL 1 South season. Sporting also scored 15 goals, good for third in the league, which shows that they can be a threat on both sides of the ball.
SANTA ROSA UNITED GOLD
Head Coach: Kelcey Chaidez
Backed by an absurd 10 State PDP players, Santa Rosa United finished fourth in the NPL 1 North with a 6-2-1 record, but were just three points off of first-place Placer United. The strength of Santa Rosa lies in their solid spine down the middle of the park, with center back/center mid Kevin Welch captaining a side that finished second in the NPL 1 North with just 11 goals allowed in nine games.
Head Coach: Rodrigo Palafox
The Turlock Tornados are an aggressive, attacking side, and they have no qualms when it comes to playing the brand of soccer they prefer. Sometimes it can cost them, as the 3-4-2 Tornados allowed 21 goals in NPL 1 South play, but on other times, the attack can take this squad to the next level: this year’s Champions League.