After a commanding performance this past week at the AYSO Soccer National Games, the Laguna Beach boys' Under-14 Spring Select team, the Legends, captured the national championship.
Coach Silvano DiGenova, with Laguna Beach AYSO Regional Commissioner Alan Caserio as assistant coach, led the team to an undefeated record through the week-long tournament that ended Sunday at the International Polo Club in Palm Beach, Fla.
Despite two impressive wins to start the tournament over teams from Utah and South Carolina, the loss of star midfielder Alex DiGenova to a broken arm in the Legends' opening game left the team without any substitutes and worried about staying fresh in the wilting, 90-degree heat and humidity. A hard-fought victory over a strong Chino team, and easier wins over Central Florida and Pennsylvania teams, carried the Legends through pool play undefeated and into the knock-out playoff stages.
Strong performances by all the boys led to quarterfinal and semifinal victories over Grenada Hills and a team from Alabama. The game against Alabama ended in a 1-1 tie, which was won by the Legends, 5-4, on penalty kicks.
In the finals, the Legends used impressive team play and dominated in a 2-0 win over South Central Los Angeles on Sunday.
In the eight games, DiGenova, Taylor Davidson, Brayan Rico, Zach Jacobs, Willy Wheeler, Rory Saunders, Traer Freeman, Chris Tellez and Connor Jones all scored at least once. Tellez earned the "Golden Boot" award for most goals scored with seven. Goalie Nathan Lancaster allowed three goals the entire tournament and received help from defenders Jones, Rico, Saunders, Sam Wogulis and Nathaniel Colburn.
The new national champions returned home Monday with gold medals and memories that will last a lifetime.
The AYSO National Games occur every two years in a different part of the U.S., bringing together AYSO regions from across the country. The games encourage sportsmanship and team spirit and provide a unique cultural exchange through the many events surrounding the Games. More than 200 youth soccer teams took part in the games, utilizing 30 soccer fields.