The CV San Jose FC Gunners 96B Red team participated in the 13th annual Premier League Championships in Elk Grove, CA. The “Gunners Red” was invited to this event because they recently completed back-to-back first-place finishes in the prestigious CCSL Premier Leagues (Open Premier and Fall Premier). The Premier League Championships pit the best Northern and Southern California Premier League champions (and second place finishers) against one another in the true State Championship tournament.
The Gunners 96 Red are currently ranked 5th in Cal North, 16th in Region 4, and have been recently ranked as high as 40th in the nation. Coached by Miguel Botto, the Gunners have been on an incredible run, as of late – they are undefeated since late August with a record of 14 – 0 – 3 with Goals For at 41 and Goals Against at 8.
First up for the Gunners was Olympica United FC (2nd Cal South, 4th in Region 4, 8th in Nation). The Gunners knew from watching this team play in previous tournaments that they were highly-skilled (at every position) big and physical. Coach Miguel drew-up an excellent game plan, even with a few key players out due to injuries and illnesses. The plan worked to a “T” in the first half – the Gunners possession-style of play really frustrated Olympica and the Gunners controlled the tempo and shots on goal though, each team’s defense was solid. In the second half, Olympica started playing an even more physical game and a see-saw battle ensued. Unfortunately an errant pass deflected back towards the Gunners goal allowing a quick counter and Olympica scored the only goal of the game (with less than two minutes left to play). Needless to say, the players were heartbroken – they knew they played their hearts out and left everything out on the field. Though the result was disappointing this taught the Gunners that they could run with the Nation’s best teams.
The second game, under the lights at the beautiful (and cold) Bartholomew Sports Complex, was against Santa Monica United Blue (13th in Cal South, 25th in Region 4, and currently 66th in Nation). The boys felt that Santa Monica posed an even a bigger threat than Olympica did and had a more balanced attack. The pain and strain from the first game left the Gunners bruised and battered however; they mustered the resolve to not let this one slip away. Though Santa Monica came out shooting, it was the Gunners who scored first. The forward, John Bruggeman (JB) scored about 15 minutes into the game. Over the course of the next 50 minutes, both teams had their chances but again, the defenses won the day. All involved; players, coaches, and parents really saw a beautiful game played by two teams with similar possession-style offense and great sportsmanship on and off the field. The two coaches knew they just witness a brewing North-South rivalry as the two teams play again at Surf Cup, over the Thanksgiving Holiday. Stay tuned…
Unfortunately the tournament format didn’t allow for a true round-robin event. So, with the opening loss to Olympica and the points allotted for goals scored in the other game, the Gunners were forced to play for the Consolation game against their league opponent and current reining Cal North State Cup Champion, Hayward Mini Chivas. In previous outings this season the Gunners have prevailed over Mini Chivas. However, with being soundly beaten by the SoCal teams the previous day, Chivas seemed re-invigorated and came with their “A” game. Their efforts paid off with a questionable “no-call” offside that allowed for a quick goal early in the game. Though the Gunners had several chances in the half, they just seemed to have lost their rhythm and were not controlling either the tempo of the game or showcasing their true abilities. Still, dealing with a depleted roster at several key positions, the players had to step-up and fill spots where they were unfamiliar. As the game progressed in the second half, the Gunners seemed to finally settle down and began to find their legs. An unfortunately foul outside the box led to a beautiful penalty kick and second goal for Chivas.
With 20 minutes to play and down 2-0, critical formation and positional changes were made. Nearing the 70 minute mark the Gunners finally found the back of the net. It was a beautiful series that started in the defensive backfield and after multiple passes to various players a précises through-ball found JB again in one-on-one with the keeper. Within a few minutes, the Gunners tied the score with a big-time header by Alex (Chino) Wheaton off a corner kick. The game ended in a tie in regulation time so the teams played two back-to-back 10 minute overtime periods. Whatever happened between the end of the game and the start of overtime fired-up the Gunners as they came out firing on al cylinders. Like the first goal, the team strung together several beautiful passes and JB quickly scored again. This was then followed by a goal by Austin Montalvo who hit a beautiful shot, in traffic, after receiving the ball with his back to the goal. It was followed quickly by a break-away in which JB hit a low shot below the diving keeper (hat trick!). At the end of the first overtime, the Gunners were up 5-2. Smelling blood in the water, the Gunners followed up with two more goals, one by Julien Childress and the other by one of the injured defensive players, David Martin, ending the game at 7-2.
As this was a total team effort, we need to also recognize the talents and efforts of the back line: Nick Brown, Nathan Engstrom, Ben Hughes, David Martin, and Thomas (T) Nazarenus. The Goal Keepers were Drew Deaton and a new addition at GK, Josue (Pollo) Sanchez. The mids were Nicky Saglimbeni, Jeff Sun, Ryan Stenberg, Austin Montalvo, Julien Childress, and Alex Wheaton. The tandem at forward was John Bruggeman and Cody Buchanan.
Overall, it was an amazing weekend of soccer. Though the Gunners suffered their first loss this season, the team was very excited to have the results and play at the level they did against some of the best teams in the state and nation. The team is really looking forward to an even better result at Surf Cup, later this month. Congrats to the Gunners ’96 Red, San Jose FC and Central SC Valley Youth Soccer for a good result by a great group of players, coaches, and families.