For 3 area youth teams, U.S. title on line in Indy 2 squads from Columbia, 1 from Baltimore compete

July 24, 1996|By Kevin Langbaum | Kevin Langbaum,SUN STAFF

Under a hard rain at UMBC last week, the Columbia City United and the Soccer Club of Baltimore Stars youth teams faced off, two months after their regular season had ended. Though the outcome was meaningless, the scrimmage was played with the intensity of a national title game.

This weekend, both teams hope to be playing in such a game.

The Stars Under-16 boys team, the City United Under-17 boys team and the Columbia Darby Under-18 boys team all won Eastern Region titles earlier this month and will be in Indianapolis this weekend competing in the Snickers U.S. Youth Soccer National Championship.

The age-group semifinals are tomorrow and Friday, with winners advancing to title games Saturday and Sunday.

It is the first time that Maryland has sent three teams to the nationals. Only three states have as many as three boys teams competing: Maryland, Florida and Missouri. All three Maryland teams play in the same league, the Maryland State Under-19 league, and both Columbia teams represent the Soccer Association of Columbia.

"Columbia has got to be real proud of both us and the Under-17 team," said Darby player Michael Green. "This is making Maryland real proud, showing that the soccer in Maryland is great."

Having three national tournament-caliber teams in the same league raises the level of play and can be an asset training for nationals, said Stars coach Anthony Adams, whose team scrimmaged both Columbia teams as tune-ups for the semifinals.

"It's great for us because they're older than the two teams we play this week and better than the two teams we play this week," said Adams, who two years ago went to the nationals as a player.

It also helps to have two familiar teams in the stands when playing in an unfamiliar town.

"It's great having [the other teams] down there," Darby player Kevin Shaw said. "I'm sure we'll all be supporting each other."

From the beginning of the year, these three teams have had their sights on a national title.

"It's been a goal for a year now to get to the nationals," said City United coach John Ellinger, whose team faces a St. Louis team Friday that they defeated in an April tournament. "They've been extremely committed to attaining the goal."

Thursday, the Stars also will meet a team they've already played, a team from San Diego that beat the Stars, 1-0, in a tournament in Dallas during the season.

"In Dallas, we never trained as hard as we have been," Stars captain Billy Nelson said. "We've picked up our ability."

The Darby will face a Georgia team Friday that it has never played, but coach Tommy Graham and his players are ready.

"We're pretty confident," Green said. "We wouldn't have made it this far if we weren't good enough. Now we're like 'Let's get it done.' "

Pub Date: 7/24/96

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