Baltimore-area teams make their mark Three boys sides advance to U.S. Youth title games

July 26, 1998|By Gary Davidson | Gary Davidson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

PHOENIX -- Baltimore-area teams continued their recent strong performances at the national level, advancing three boys teams to title matches in the U.S. Youth Soccer Championships.

"That's the talk all around, three Maryland teams coming through," said Scott Buette, who had two goals and an assist in the S.C. Baltimore Stars' 3-1 triumph over Busch S.C. of St. Louis in a late Friday night under-18 semifinal. "I wouldn't say Maryland soccer is better than anybody, but it's just as good. We can hang with anyone."

Late last night, the Baltimore F.C. Bullets took on the hometown Cisco Flames for the U-19 crown. This morning, the Columbia Darby takes on Littleton's Colorado Rush Nike Warriors for the U-20 title. Then late tonight, the Stars have a date with the Atlanta F.C. Lightning Gold in the U-18 final.

"We've been here once before and we didn't finish out the job, so that's our ultimate goal, to win the nationals," said Darby center midfielder Ryan Smith, a Catonsville resident who graduated from Calvert Hall and attends Brown.

"We got our second chance, and we have to do it this time. Second place won't do. I've always been proud of Maryland. We always represent well with our club teams and in [the Olympic Development Program]. We always go out and support the other teams, the two Baltimore teams as well."

Maryland is the only state association with three teams in championship games. California also has three teams in finals, but they are split among the state's two associations.

"I think you go through peaks and valleys, and in Maryland soccer right now, in the upper age groups, you've got some real talented teams," said Columbia's Bill Stara, the Darby's veteran coach. "Right now, Maryland soccer is at its pinnacle, its peak. No one coach stays with a young group of kids the whole time. It has a lot to do with the kids putting in the time."

The Darby has won the Maryland Cup in all six years of its existence and has taken three Region I crowns, but lost, 2-1, to Santos of Phoenix in the 1996 U-18 final. Facing the Colorado Rush Nike Warriors in this morning's U-20 title match represents a last chance.

The Stars also advanced to nationals in 1996 but finished third in the U-16 division after giving up three early goals in a semifinal loss.

Baltimore's P. J. Wakefield, who had a goal and an assist in Friday's victory over Busch, said his team learned from its bad start in 1996.

"Two years ago, we got third, but we're here to win it this time," said the Calvert Hall grad who is heading to UMBC. "We gained some experience [in the 1996 nationals]. We weren't as nervous this time, and we got the job done."

With Columbia City United winning back to back nationals -- as U-17s in 1996 and U-18s last year -- and with the Severna Park Top Guns taking third in the U-17 age group in 1997, Baltimore-area teams are on a spectacular three-year run.

"I certainly think the three teams that are here certainly make their own statement," said Stars coach Sonny Askew. "Making it through regionals is tough enough. It's a wonderful feat, three teams in the final."

Pub Date: 7/26/98

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