Earlier this week, members of Nevada’s LVSA 97 Red U-18 boys soccer team joked that the Idaho weather was a bit chilly for some of their morning games.
There was nothing chilly about Sunday’s US Youth Soccer Far West Regional championship match between LVSA and Southern Calilfornia’s FC Golden State White.
From the 100-plus degree heat to the intensity on the field that resulted in five yellow cards and one red card, LVSA prevailed 3-1 to secure back-to-back regional titles. Golden State won the 2013 Far West title in the U-16 age group.
Because LVSA already earned a national tournament berth via the National League, both teams advance to the US Youth Soccer National Championships from July 21-26 at the Mohawk Soccer Complex in Tulsa, Okla.
Before the start of Sunday’s championship game — which featured at least 20 Division I athletes — LVSA head coach Bart Gallia told his players to douse their heads in cold water. Referees also stopped the match halfway through each 45-minute half to give players a chance to rehydrate.
If any team was equipped to handle the heat, however, it was Las Vegas-based LVSA.
“For us, we don’t talk about the heat,” Gallia said. “We played some early games here and the guys were like ‘Dang, coach. It’s a little chilly out.’ We were not going to use (the heat) as an excuse.”
Having played to a 3-3 draw against Golden State in National League action in March, LVSA was eager to prove itself in the second meeting between the two teams.
LVSA forward Miles McRae — a sophomore-to-be at Yavapai College, one of the top junior college soccer programs in the country — scored in the 27th minute when he out-paced his defender on a deep ball from goalkeeper Angel Alvarez.
Forward Nolan Sherwood netted LVSA’s second goal four minutes later, and UNLV commit Justin Lyons found the back of the next three minutes into the second half, prompting Golden State to switch keepers.
“The main thing today was just putting chances away early, scoring goals early, whereas we gave up two goals early the last time we played them,” Gallia said. “Today I knew if we could come out and get on it early and put the chances away that we felt we were going to create, it was going to be tough to beat us.”
Golden State forward Gabriel Costa entered the title game tied for the most goals among boys in any age group at the tournament with nine, but LVSA kept Costa in check until the closing minutes of the game. Costa helped his team avoid a shutout with his goal in the 88th minute.
“This has been a rough tournament for us. We’ve had a lot of injuries in the back,” Lyons said. “But we’ve had a lot of guys step up for us. It’s just guys showing heart back there.”