In a city of 376,380 residents, 22 Central California Aztecs players changed the history of the City of Bakersfield and will now go down as the first team to have ever won a national title.
When the team first began their 2017-2018 season, they were considered the club’s “’B’ Team,” as Central California Aztecs Coach Troy Lynch puts it, with the sole objective to clinch the Cal South State Cup. However, the Aztecs went on to surprise, not just their coach, but a whole town.
Six-thousand, seven hundred and sixty-nine miles travelled, 19 consecutive wins, 75 goals in favor and 12 against in three tournaments, the Central California Aztecs are the 2018 US Youth Soccer National Presidents Cup Champions in the Boys 14 and Under age category.
“It’s a huge accomplishment for these boys; they’ve worked really hard to get to where they’re at,” said coach Lynch. “Luckily everything went our way this year. I’m really proud of the boys, representing Bakersfield the way they did.”
“The [National Presidents Cup] Championship means a lot,” said Aztecs midfielder Jose Lopez. “Best in the nation means a lot, a lot of hard work and dedication went into it, we didn’t stop. Coach [Lynch] put us through a lot of mayhem, but everything turned out fine for us.”
To become a National Presidents Cup Champion, the Central California Aztecs had endless hours of training, but their biggest challenge wasn’t physical, but mental. Because the team and the club had never been at a national tournament stage, they weren’t quite sure what to expect. That’s when fear loomed over.
“They have a lot of talent, but they’ve never been there, they didn’t know what to expect,” the Central California Aztecs coach said. “I told them that they have a target on their back every game, Cal South, every time they go play at Regionals and Nationals, we have a target on our back.
“As [the tournaments] went on, the momentum carried us. But that was the biggest hurdle, just fear, not knowing how good they are and knowing they could improve and win it,” he added.
In the National Presidents Cup Championship Final in Westfield, Indiana, the Central California Aztecs players had to overcome their fears in order to clinch one of the most important national titles in youth soccer. Playing against Maryland’s ASA PGSA Real Barza, their worst nightmare came as they went down 1-0. However, once Lopez scored the game-tying goal, the floodgates opened and within six minutes, the Aztecs took over the game to clinch a 3-1 final.
“We thought, ‘we’re not going to lose, we have to score,’” Lopez said. “The last 10-15 minutes, the other team was on defense, we were on offense because we wanted it more than them, that’s what kept us going, to not lose, to win.
“When I heard the final whistle, my thoughts were, finally, no stress,” Lopez recalls. “My heart just dropped. I also felt very happy because I looked to the sideline and the parents were very happy, they’re were yelling, they were jumping; I’ve never seen my mom jump as high as that or run as fast as that day. It was fun.”
Watch out for the Central California Aztecs as they look to clinch their first Cal South National Cup in the upcoming 2019 season! To learn more about this team, click here to go to the Aztecs website.