PHOENIX -- The Columbia Darby wasn't David Buehler's first choice for a team to play with this summer. Yesterday morning, however, the Darby was sure glad to have him.
Buehler came off the bench late in the first half and scored twice as the Darby jumped to a four-goal lead, then held on for a 4-3 victory over Memphis F.C. in a men's under-20 semifinal at the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships at the Rose Mofford Sports Complex.
Buehler's Bethesda Dragons had disbanded, so he tried out for the two-time defending national champ Columbia City United, which was denied an opportunity for an unprecedented third crown when it lost in Maryland Cup preliminary group play. Columbia City coach John Ellinger could not find a spot for Buehler, but called Darby coach Bill Stara, who added the Columbia resident.
"I was hoping to play under-19 and I knew all the guys with Columbia City for years. I was really hoping to play with them," said Buehler, a McDonogh graduate who now plays for Davidson College. "Coach Ellinger and I talked a bunch and it just worked out he had made commitments to all his players returning and had a full roster. So I wound up here and now I have absolutely no regrets. These guys are all great guys. I didn't know them as well, but I feel like I do now and I'm so happy to be with them."
Stara admitted that only a late development allowed Buehler to join the Darby.
"When we put together the team, all I wanted to take was 14 [players], maybe 15 at the most. Three reserves and a [spare]goalkeeper," he said. "And what happened was one of our players had to have surgery on his foot, which put us under. David is a good ballplayer and I had a definite need for him. And he did a great job today."
Buehler, normally a midfielder, entered as a striker in the 35th minute after starter Jason Lockerman suffered heat prostration with the temperature topping 100 degrees. After a scoreless first half despite Darby's dominance, Buehler put his team ahead in the 51st minute. Cory Piette found Joey DiSalvo in the middle of the box where he launched a 10-yard shot that goalkeeper Brian Covey stopped but could not handle. Buehler was quick to net the rebound from 3 yards. "I don't score a lot of pretty goals. If it's a follow-up, it still counts just the same," Buehler said.
In the 56th minute, Darby defender Keith Donohue was knocked down in the box and DiSalvo drilled the penalty kick into the top right corner. In the 66th minute, Chad Evans knocked home a cross by DiSalvo and two minutes later, Buehler took a perfect cross by Piette and scored on a 10-yard header for a seemingly safe 4-0 advantage. But even in victory, Darby suffered a serious loss in the 71st minute. Covey had carried a ball 60 yards from his goal when he was tackled hard by Darby central defender Mike Green, who was ejected with a red card that will cause him to miss Sunday's final.
"In a 4-0 game and a goalkeeper coming 60 yards, I don't know what the heck the [referee] was thinking," Stara said. "In the semifinals of nationals, maybe Michael shouldn't have come out as hard as he should. It's a yellow, I'd say, just because he was a goalkeeper. If that's a field player doing the same thing, I doubt it's a card at all." With Stara resting starting keeper Bruce Engle and his tender ankle, David Semrau (82nd minute), Jamie Gaither (85) and Taylor Stirling (88) found net for Memphis before time expired. In under-18 boys, the S.C. Baltimore Stars faced Busch S.C. of St. Louis in a late semifinal.