Locals excited for UK adventure

Ten-year-old Jacob Muchnick can't wait to fulfill his dream of watching his favorite English Premier League soccer star Carlos Tevez play at the Manchester City stadium and then stopping by for autographs after the game.

His 12-year old brother Justin looks forward to competing against some of the toughest youth soccer teams in England. Both boys will get their wish when their team, HOGO FC, travels to England next month on a 10-day soccer excursion.

The team is comprised of some very talented local soccer players most of whom had high level club soccer experience but appeared frustrated with strict dedication required by most club soccer coaches. So their father Adam Muchnick, a former soccer player at Stanford, started his own team to give his sons Jacob and Justin as well as some of their soccer playing friends the chance to play high caliber soccer while still playing other sports. The name HOGO FC is an acronym for "Hustle Our Guts Out" which is the team's motto and guiding principle.

"I wanted to rekindle the love for the game that I felt was starting to get lost on some of the boys in the competitive grind of club soccer," Muchnick said.

It seems like his plan paid big dividends as the team has compiled a 45-3-5 record over the past two years while winning two AYSO Plus championships, three club soccer championships (Newport Mesa Cup, Canyon PSA Holiday Tourney, and Tustin United Winter Cup), and a Santa Ana Mexican League championship. But more importantly, the team's chemistry has been remarkable as the boys have a fondness for each other and their coach that is truly unique.

Most of the players are local to the Newport-Mesa area. Shane Gooding, Karl Donovan, Jason Simaan, Liam Somekh, Oliver Kim, George Wells and Spencer Lamoure are all seventh-graders at Corona del Mar Middle School, Jacob and Justin Muchnick attend Harbor Day School in Newport Beach, Travis and Dylan Campos attend Mariners' Elementary School in Newport Beach, Chase Dugan attends Carden Hall in Costa Mesa, Alex Young attends Lakeside Middle School in Irvine, Gabriel Gamboa attends The Waldorf School in Costa Mesa, and Kevin Rengifo attends Don Juan de Avila Middle School (Aliso Viejo).

These boys have played kids throughout Southern California most of their young lives, but it's now time to test their mettle against competition from across the Pond. Coach Muchnick has connections with several EPL teams and has coordinated games against some of the top youth academy teams in the UK.

"This will be a great test for us as we continue the boys' soccer development," Muchnick said. "But the real purpose of the trip is to further unleash the passion these boys have for soccer. I'm hoping the experience will deepen their understanding and appreciation for this beautiful game, and we are always looking for opportunities to have the boys create fun soccer memories together."

As might be expected, the boys are eager for their departure.

"We've spent a ton of time raising funds as the trip is expensive," Young said. The boys laugh hysterically recounting some of the more adventurous fundraising efforts including transporting luggage at John Wayne Airport until being run off by security (they got lots of tips including $100 from a traveler sympathetic to their fundraising efforts) and selling snacks at various local soccer tournaments.

The snack sales were unique in that the Campos twins' father, Bruno, owns C'est Si Bon, a local bakery and breakfast shop. So, instead of offering the traditional Gatorade and water the boys sold donated freshly brewed French roast coffee, baguettes and gourmet hot chocolate for cold winter night games.

"We raised $310 one night alone," Gooding said. "Of course it helped that it was freezing cold and the spectators couldn't get enough of our hot drinks. Best of all we got all the leftover hot chocolate for free."

"The fundraising is important," Coach Muchnick said, "as several players wouldn't be able to attend this special trip without financial assistance. So the boys banded together and came up with the concept of doing everything they could to raise money to allow all their teammates to join them. Through multiple team fundraising efforts the boys have raised almost $2,000 so far. We are still not quite halfway to our fundraising goal, but I'm confident that the boys won't stop pushing until they've hit their goal."

— Gunnar Gooding

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