Between Californian powerhouse FC Golden State and Costa Rica’s high-flying Regional Proyecto Gol, the U-16 boys’ flight at this year’s Super Elite tournament is once again set to bring the best of the best in boys’ soccer to Blaine for Schwan’s USA CUP, powered by Sport Ngin.
St. Croix Red Bulls will look to keep Super Elite gold in Minnesota this year, in the face of some staggering competition.
Seemingly lost in the all of the international commotion however, is a relatively little-known squad from the Midwest that won’t need to hit the tarmac to wow the crowd at USA CUP.
Because while Minnesota is frequently overlooked on the national stage, St. Croix SC Red Bulls, the state’s top ranked U-16 boys’ side, is looking to change that.
“Every time that we travel, and we’re a pretty seasoned travel team, it’s always the same,” says head coach Phil Walczak. “We always have a chip on our shoulder.”
Walczak remains emphatic about this team’s chances: he doesn’t believe the hype, or lack thereof.
Walczak’s Red Bulls squad came together as an up-and-coming U-14 team just a few years ago, winning the league title as a member of Minnesota Youth Soccer Association’s Classic 1 division, and earning a long-awaited promotion to MYSA Premier in the process.
But while SC Red Bulls would continue its strong work in MYSA, the team’s bid to join the elite Midwest Regional League was less successful: the team went 0-8 during its inaugural MRL season.
The Red Bulls, however, stormed back, taking second place in the MRL’s West Division to close its sophomore season, earning the side a shot at another Premier ranking, this time joining the ranks of MRL’s best.
“We’ve been together for quite some time,” Walczak said. “We show up and we work hard every time.”
That hard work paid off on the national stage last summer, as SC Red Bulls earned a spot at last year’s U.S. Club Nationals, ultimately winning the Midwest Regional in Chicago.
Along the way Walczak’s side beat out a field that included teams from California, New York and Illinois, regions traditionally characterized as youth soccer hotbeds, and they weren’t finished.
SC Red Bulls would go on to an impressive third place finish at U.S. Club Nationals, and with an undefeated run through MYSA’s Premier division under their belts, the oft-overlooked squad has its eyes set on the top prize in USA CUP’s Super Elite division.
“We’re definitely a very blue collar team,” Walczak said. “We work very hard and we’re committed to the defensive side of the game.”
Unlike many of the other teams selected for Super Elite, SC Red Bulls has a tendency to turn its matches into low scoring affairs, with Walczak noting that his side rarely finds the back of the net more than once or twice per game.
“We tend to build from the back and go forward,” he said, describing his squad’s often opportunistic style of play. “We like to put the ball on the ground and knock it around, and then search for our opportunities offensively.”
Walczak himself is no stranger to USA CUP, having competed as a player during the early 2000’s, a fact that motivated him to bring a team of his own to Blaine.
“The big thing that I really enjoyed as a player was all the different teams from all the different countries,” Walczak said.
The USA CUP veteran hopes that his boys come away with a better appreciation for other cultures, and the international game.
“I’ve always found that to be the most interesting part of it and I want to give my players the opportunity to see the cultural differences,” he said.
And while the boys of St. Croix SC Red Bulls will get the chance to learn from the various states and countries being represented at this year’s USA CUP, Walczak and his team are hoping that they have a thing or two to teach as well.
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Tag(s): July 11, 2013