World Cup fever catches Glendale AYSO squad

Apathetic observers have transformed into rabid fans.

People are learning names they can't pronounce, everyone all over the world is talking about the same thing, but in different languages and parks are starting to look more like pitches as more soccer balls seem to be flying around.

There is no doubt the World Cup has left a mark on the United States this year, as the U.S. national team made it to the round of 16 for the first time since 1994, but not only that, American soccer now has a viral video to their credit.

The AYSO serves as a stepping stone for young players hoping to become internationally-renowned soccer (or fútbol) stars.

The AYSO Region 13 caters to the communities of La Cañada Flintridge, Altadena and Pasadena, and practices and tournaments have taken on greater meaning for one of their teams

Serj Stepanian, a La Cañada Flintridge resident, coaches the Glendale G14 tournament team. Stepanian describes his team as the "creme de la creme" of its age group when it comes to soccer. The team recently came out as champions of the North Valley Classic on June 27, which was the team's last tournament together before a number of athletes left the team after they surpassed the AYSO age limit.

The World Cup served as inspiration for many of the team members.

'I get pumped up to get on the field and play after watching the World Cup," said Lisa Kang, a Glendale forward.

Kang said rooted for South Korea in the World Cup because of her heritage. She proved her devotion to the team by rising at 4 a.m. to watch South Korea's first-round match.

While America is finally experiencing World Cup fever, soccer isn't loved anywhere close to the same amount as fútbol is across the world, Stepanian said.

"It is all many countries have," Stepanian said. "It's a huge achievement to even make it to the World Cup for some countries. If you score a goal everyone back home are in the streets celebrating."

Sydney Redd, a defender for the Glendale squad, agreed with her coach.

"The World Cup is the most important thing to the soccer world," Redd said. "Especially if you look at a certain country when they win, it means so much to their country, you see how happy everybody is. It affects more than just soccer."

Anais Stepanian, the team's sweeper, said she learned from watching the World Cup. She hoped her team would adopt some of the characteristics of Brazil's national team in their tournament.

"[Brazil] plays and communicates really well together as a team," Stepanian said. "There is a lot of passing and moving the ball around. That is what I want to learn from them to help open up the field more."

The team used the World Cup as inspiration in the North Valley Classic, besting a rival team from North Hills, which beat the Region 13 squad in a Glendora tournament championship game earlier in the year.

"They beat us bad, 3-0," the team's sweeper Anais Stepanian said. "We just needed to play harder because we needed to beat them."

Anais Stepanian's need was fulfilled. After cruising through the first two games and overcoming a one-goal deficit in the semifinal, Stepanian's team squared off with North Hills in the tournament's championship game. They played through a scoreless game until they scored the first goal in the second minute of extra time, which stood up as the winner.

"It was a tough tournament for us but the girls did excellent," Serj Stepanian said. "The Glendale girls were dealt a very tough schedule in a tough bracket."

When the game was over, the team went to a Korean sports bar and grill in North Hills to watch the finale of the U.S. national team's game against Ghana. In the end, the national team wished they could have emulated Glendale's success.

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