A local team that practices at Redondo Union called Beach FC B02 ECNL is this year’s national champion after beating Gwinnett Soccer Academy from Georgia 2-0 in the championship match at the Elite National Premier League National Finals held in Commerce City, Colorado on July 15.
Mauricio Gutierrez scored a goal fairly early in the first half to put Beach FC up 1-0 and added an insurance goal early in the second half leading them to the victory.
Grayson Doody of Hermosa Beach described how the first goal happened, which turned out to be the winning goal.
“The ball popped out from a corner right to me and I saw my center-mid, Mauricio Gutiérrez, making a run behind the defense," said Doody.
"I passed it, he took a touch, and then took a powerful shot at the keeper which caused him trouble as it deflected off the keeper’s hands into the goal to give us an early lead.”
That was all they would need for the victory.
“This is a special team that was built to do exactly what we did, win a national championship,” said their head coach Ever Morataya. “We have amazing players and parents that helped us accomplish our goals. This was a long season that started back in September and just ended mid-July.”
Around half the team is from the beach cities. Gutierrez lives in Lawndale.
The ENPL Finals is a collaboration between US Club Soccer (National Premier League) and the Boys Elite Clubs National League (ECNL).
It was quite an accomplishment after a long run through the playoffs.
“It was a huge honor and accomplishment just to qualify for the playoffs and then the finals,” said Michael Crisera, who is a midfielder from Manhattan Beach. “It was a great experience to travel as a team and play against some of the top club teams from around the country. Winning the championship was really the icing on the cake!”
The Beach Futbol Club team finished second in the ECNL Southwest Conference, with a 17-1-2 overall record. The Georgia team they beat was from the ECNL Southeast Conference.
Their top player is Doody, who is a forward/midfielder and ECNL Player of the Year.
“This team is special for many reasons besides our soccer abilities,” Doody said. “Coach Ever has been the main motivation for why we even are national champions. He brought up the idea to the team one day by saying we have the potential to really make a run for the whole thing.”
Because of their coach, according to Doody, is why they succeeded.
“Ever since that day he always had this motivation in his eyes to be national champions and he carried that with him day in and day out. I think once we saw the motivation in his eyes to do something special, it spread to the rest of the team. So, without Ever, none of us would be able to say, ‘We are national champs.’”
This team though had a special bond.
“It’s always fun being with all of these guys,” said goalie Jared Tang of Manhattan Beach. “We are so close both on and off the field and this has created a team chemistry that has been the major contributor to our success.”
It all began when they were one of 56 17-U Boys teams that competed in the ENPL Playoffs held June 28-July 2 in Rockford, Illinois.
The went 4-0 overall, winning three in pool play and one semifinal match advancing to the ENPL National Finals.
They beat SA City Red NPL (Texas), 6-1; Penn Fusion SA ECNL, 2-1, and West Florida Flames Brandon NPL, 1-0, in pool play.
In the knock-out round, they beat Real Colorado ECNL/National, 2-1, to become one of eight 17-U teams to qualify for the ENPL National Finals.
The team, which also trains at the Toyota Center in Torrance is a successful 60-11-9 on the season.
They won by shutout in the rest of their matches against Manhattan SC Titans NPL (New York) 1-0 and Dynamos Gold NPL (Texas) 2-0.
The win over the Dynamos was big because that put them in the championship.
“These boys are the first to win a national title for the boys’ side of our club, Beach Futbol Club, and that is an amazing feeling,” Morataya said. “I can tell you this, we will set our goals high and get ready for another great year.”
Here is the championship roster with player, position and hometown listed below.
Local players on the team are Grayson Doody, forward, Hermosa Beach; Finnegan West, midfielder, Hermosa Beach; Michael Crisera, midfielder, Manhattan Beach; Carson Nguyen, midfielder, Manhattan Beach; Alex Rieg, midfielder, Manhattan Beach; Jared Tang, goalie, Manhattan Beach; Logan Kaufman, midfielder, Redondo Beach; Kaweika McKinley, forward, Redondo Beach; Eli Ristovski, defender, Redondo Beach; Ethan Szuchan, defender, Redondo Beach; Tyler Telleson, defender, Redondo Beach.
The rest of the team included AJ Arriola, defender, Palos Verdes; Dylan Bartlett, forward, Palos Verdes; Kyle Connell, goalie, Palos Verdes; Wade Eddy, defender, Torrance; Mauricio Gutierrez, midfielder, Lawndale; Casey Lund, defender, El Segundo; Gustavo Munoz, forward, Hawthorne; Javier Navarro, defender, Hawthorne; Logan Pismopulos, defender, El Segundo; Toshi Smith, forward, Culver City.
Head coach Ever Morataya is from Lawndale.