“We’re coming back! We’re coming back! We’re going to get this,” said team dad Luis Pacheco, reassuring that a victory for FC Dallas Youth Premier soccer team in the Dr Pepper Dallas Cup U18 championship game was coming.
Since its establishment in 1980, the Dallas Cup has enjoyed a rich history of bringing together marquee teams and talented players on the rise with long-lasting friendships and memories across nationalities and cultures.
“This team, they have been together for the last 10 years,” Pacheco said, explaining the significance of this match. “This is how they’re going to close their cycle, because most of them are going to college.”
Dallas Cup is an annual, invitation-only event held during Easter week that ensures the highest level of competition each year. The tournament is perceived as “prestigious.” Some of the best soccer talent in the world has passed through Dallas Cup.
The list of alumni includes Landon Donovan, Wayne Rooney, Giovanni dos Santos, David Beckham and many others. The Dr Pepper Dallas Cup has built a reputation of ensuring high-quality competition on the field and extraordinary Texas hospitality off of it.
The tournament tradition consists of approximately 40% international teams and 40% state-side teams with 20% made up of Dallas-area teams. Each year, more than 100,000 spectators watch teams from all over the world participate in the highest stakes of international youth soccer. The best of the bunch goes home with the Dallas Cup grand prize: The coveted Boot and Ball Trophy. More than 900 international players participate in the tournament each year.
After an intense week of soccer matches, on April 21, FC Dallas Youth Premier found itself one game away from championship glory. The team dismantled its competition up to that point and the bracket play consisted of a series of dominating victories, 6-1, 3-1 and 5-0. The quarterfinals and semifinals seemed to be a cake walk for them as well. They handled those rounds 2-1, and 5-0 with just one opponent left, Maplebrook 2001 Elite from Minnesota.
“This is a team that’s known each other for more than half of their own lives. This is a team ready to put it all on the line for glory. This is a team who is ready to capitalize on one final hurrah,” Pacheco said.
FC Dallas Youth Premier dominated the ball and spent most of the first half attacking. The shots against Maplebrook 2001 Elite were numerous. The crowd was antsy about how close the shots were. The team provided many gasps for the crowd. Between the ball bouncing off the crossbar from a shot outside the box, or when striker Jose Ortiz failed to convert his one-on-one with Maplebrook’s goalie, Youth Premier kept the crowd on edge.
Finally, at the 32-minute mark, Jose Ortiz scored with a chip shot in the top right corner of the goal, to make up for his earlier miss. The defense had been stout all match. As the referee blew the whistle at the 45-minute mark, one minute of stoppage play had been announced.
“That goal was a little upsetting, because it was right before halftime,” Pacheco said, commenting on the swing of momentum right before the half. “We’re going to win this for sure. I want to say the final score will be 3-2. I only say that because Maplebrook, they’re good, too.”
Maplebrook may have been a little better than expected or else they turned it on in the locker room. When they returned to the field, they immediately poured in two goals pushing the score to a 3-1 Maplebrook lead. As aggressive as FC Dallas Youth’s offense was, the shots were not going in. Much more of the same occurred as in the first half with multiple shots coming close, but no cigar.
FC Dallas Youth eventually managed to score another goal, but in the 90th minute. It was a case of running out of time. They got one final shot, where a forward in scoring position may have fouled a defender. At least that’s what the referee called, turning possession back to Maplebrook and eventually running out the clock in the second-half.
The loss was devastating. FC Dallas Youth Premier went on to claim the runner-up spot in the U18 championship. While this may not have been the best news, they knew they were good enough to have won the tournament.
FC Dallas watched Maplebrook be crowned champions, and handed the Boot and Ball Trophy and bask in the ambience; not quite the hurrah Dallas wanted or expected.
As the students leave for college, they will have the previous 10 years and this championship game to reflect upon.
While a trophy is nice, forming long-lasting friendships and memories is what Dallas Cup is all about. It’s more than just an elite competition. Players disregard social, ethnic, religious and economic prejudices and walk away making friends for life through the love of this beautiful game.