U16 Boys Champions League Preview
With each Fall NPL 1 league coming down to the wire in the U-16 Boys divisions, the Champions League looks to feature a plethora of competitive matches regardless of who is playing. Turlock Tornados and the SJ Earthquakes do enter the Spring competition as favorites to come out on top having won their respective fall leagues, however EC Real Salinas Galaxy and Atletico Santa Rosa should also be considered as top sides after finishing just one point off the mark in the NPL 1 West.
ATLETICO SANTA ROSA BAYERN
Head Coach: Oscar Deniz
Thanks to the strongest defense in the NPL 1 West (nine goals allowed in nine games), Atletico Santa Rosa finished a solid third in their Fall NPL division. But if any team are to upset either of the favorites in Champions League action, Atletico Santa Rosa have to be considered among them, as Chivitas missed out on claiming first place in the NPL 1 West by just a solitary point.
CV SJ EARTHQUAKES PDA
Head Coach: Jeff Jenkins
By the time the SJ Earthquakes get their Champions League campaign underway, they’ll have garnered some valuable leadership through a recent trip to Costa Rica, where the ‘Quakes faced a handful of local U-17 professional academy sides. Oh, and they also topped the NPL 1 West with a 7-1-1 record that came behind a league-leading 37 goals, 13 of which came from Rayshawn Greer, the leading scorer in the U-16 NPL 1 divisions. The Quakes finished the Fall by taking first place at the Surf College Cup over the Thanksgiving weekend.
DAVIS LEGACY RED
Head Coach: Jesus Mata
Coming into the Champions League with only one loss in Fall NPL play, Davis Legacy Red feature a variety of talented players in a squad that finished in second place in the NPL 1 East. Top goal scorer Ivan Flores will rely on service from the dynamic Noah Ross to help fuel the solid Legacy attack that scored 24 goals in nine Fall matches. The Davis back line is led by center back Devin Sidhu, who was instrumental in helping Legacy allow just 13 goals.
EC REAL SALINAS GALAXY
Head Coach: Juan Moreno
Led by State PDP players Jerry Ayon, Jose Amezcua, Angel Medrano, and Joel Garcia EC Real Salinas Galaxy just missed out on claiming the top spot in the NPL 1 West in the Fall, sporting a 6-0-3 record. Of all the U-16 Boys NPL 1 squads, the Galaxy were the only to go undefeated during the season, and yet they still couldn’t claim the Fall title. Look for the defending US Club National Cup Champions, Real Salinas, to be a tough beat for any side when the Champions League heats up.
PALO ALTO BLUE
Head Coach: Oige Kennedy
Perhaps one of the most clutch teams in the Champions League, Palo Alto Blue qualified by virtue of winning their last two games, the last of which was a winner-take-all affair against Lamorinda that saw Palo Alto finish ahead of that same squad on goal differential. Palo Alto will look to continue their solid form as Champions League play begins, after completing their Fall season with a 5-4-0 record.
SACRAMENTO UNITED RED
Head Coach: Jason Drury
Despite finishing with an identical record and an inferior goal differential to fifth-place NPL 1 East side Placer United, Sacramento United advanced to the Champions League thanks to a 1-0 victory during the two sides’ only meeting in league competition. Though United head into the Champions League as the low point earner among the eight sides, they’ll be tough to beat as their solid defense includes the likes of captain Jason Welch, who partnered with center back Cole Barrett to allow just 14 goals in nine matches and help secure four shutouts in nine games. Mateo Pasqua led the team in scoring during the Fall with four goals.
TURLOCK TORNADOS SC
Head Coach: Bernie Ceja
Of the two Fall Boys NPL 1 leagues, the Turlock Tornados had the larger margin of victory in winning their division, finishing four points above Davis Legacy to enter the Champions League as one of the favorites. Through the magic feet of playmaker Roberto Ceja, the Tornados scored nine more goals than anyone else in the NPL 1 East. Goalkeeper Alberto Garcia, helped Turlock also finished tied for third in goals allowed, showing that they’re no one-trick pony.
UNION SACRAMENTO FC
Head Coach: Antonio Sutton
Union Sacramento FC certainly have pedigree at the top led by 11 goals from striker Adrian Galeana. The question for Union will be whether they can turn some of that pedigree into more wins after a 4-2-3 Fall NPL 1 East season. Still, Union have to be commended for the way they navigated the ending of the Fall season where they came out victorious on the penultimate match day to secure a spot in the Champions League.