Twice the fun for Larsen

When you are George Larsen and you have two Newport Beach-based Slammers FC teams traveling to the Midwest, one team flies Sunday and the other the next day.

The chaotic flight schedule is one Larsen is glad he experienced.

Larsen is the only coach guiding two teams to the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships in Overland Park, Kan. Larsen has a side in under-17 girls' division and one in the under-16 boys' division.

The tournament starts Wednesday, giving Larsen and the teams time to settle in. The girls arrived before the boys and right away each felt the change in temperature.

"It's hot and humid," said Jack Gorab, a defender for the Slammers boys' team. "It's something to get used to."

Gorab and the rest of his teammates plan to sweat it out at the tournament for five days. The Slammers want to make it to Sunday, the finale.

Gorab has won a lot this year. He said much of the Slammers success is due to having six members of the Corona del Mar High boys' soccer team. Larsen coached the squad and Gorab, midfielder Mason Case, striker Jack McBean, goalkeeper Connor Gaal and sweeper Greg Allen played.

The cohesiveness has allowed the coach and the five players to thrive after Larsen, in his first season, led CdM to its first CIF Southern Section Division IV and CIF Southern California Regional Division II titles in the program's history.

The Slammers qualified for the national event after winning the U.S. Youth Soccer Region IV title last month in Bernalillo, N.M. Behind McBean's three goals, the Slammers upset defending champion Sereno White of Arizona, 5-1.

The victories just keep piling up for Larsen. He has been around the game of soccer for most of his 37 years alive. He's played and coached on the high school and club levels, winning section titles and prestigious events.

This season doesn't compare to any of the past.

"For sure this has to be my best year," Larsen said. "I've never had a year like this and it's been pretty nice.

"I don't have any pressure to win. Are you kidding? Winning in CIF and now this?"

The stress of coaching has diminished after Larsen learned it was possible to coach both the boys and girls on the biggest stage. There is no scheduling conflict as each of his teams play at different times.

The boys open Wednesday with Waza FC 94 Black from Michigan at 8 a.m. Two hours later, Larsen coaches the girls against the SoCal Blues, a rival from Orange County.

"It would have been a shame if I wasn't able to coach both of my teams during the tournament because they played at the same time," Larsen said. "I would have had to choose which team to coach. It would have been a nightmare."

The girls advanced to the national tournament after a runner-up finish at the U.S. Youth Soccer National League event in March. This is the team's third trip to the national championships in four years.

Local members of the team include Kaylee O'Connor, who will be a senior defender with the CdM girls' soccer team next school year, and Corona del Mar resident Lindsey Luke, who plays keeper. The two will try to help the Slammers claim the tournament in which they finished third and runner-up in the previous two trips.

"This is my seventh year coaching both of these teams and I feel so fortunate to be here with them," Larsen said. "Out of the six teams at the tournament from Southern California here [competing in 12 age group divisions], I have two of them.

"My two teams have never won at this tournament, but three other Slammers teams have won here in the past."

When Larsen and his boys and girls return to Orange County, they hope to be the fourth and fifth Slammers teams to bring home the grand prize.

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