August 28, 2018

“Who’s ready to take penalty kicks? I don’t want to hear maybes, I want a yes or a no.”

On the field: It’s the ninth minute of double overtime and Soltilo FC (13UB) are tied 1-1 with SCCSA Dragons from Pennsylvania East. One minute to go.

On the bench: head coach Salvador Perez starts numbering his substitute players in order of penalty kicks.

“We’re not going to PKs, Sal. Trust me,” said team admin Terry Robnet.

And the subs go onto the pitch.

Thirty seconds later, the Soltilo bench explodes as JC Alarcon-Estrada pushes a ball into the back of net to give the Pomona-based team the 2-1 lead with just 15 seconds to go. A breather, and then the final whistle. Soltilo FC, US Youth Soccer National Presidents Cup Champions.

“Honestly, it hasn’t hit me yet. It was a very good feeling. These boys worked very hard, and I’m glad they were able to experience this memory. It’s a memory for me and my boys that we’re never going to forget.

“I’m proud of these boys. We never know if we’re going to that level ever again, but it’s very good memories for myself, the boys and for their parents,” Perez added.

“Being the first year in Soltilo, winning the National Presidents Cup Championship means a lot since we were nothing in the beginning, we just formed the team and now we’re national champions and being known around Cal South is pretty amazing,” said goalkeeper Elias Cardenas.

For a first-year club, Soltilo FC has set the bar high for generations to come. Kicking off operations in early 2017, Soltilo’s Director of Coaching, Daniel Fox, reached out to Perez to see if he was interested in coaching with the club. Perez, a former Cal South player, saw the opportunity as a way to get back into the game he loved after taking a year off from coaching. Two weeks after accepting the volunteer position, coach Perez had five players on his team. A couple of weeks later, 11 players. And just in time for league, a full 18-player roster.

Initially, the goal for the season was to win a handful of games in the local league. Winning the Cal South State Cup was nowhere on the wish list. Despite having played for Cal South, coach Perez was unaware of US Youth Soccer’s Regional and National Tournaments, so when Cal South Operations Specialist Julie Roshardt let him know of the advancement opportunities, there was no stopping Soltilo FC.

“A year ago, we were just coming together as a team; we were just starting to get to know each other, how we play,” said Ethan Trujillo, Defender and Team Captain. “Since that year we’ve grown so much, our friendships, we know how we play now, and we can just know what we’re going to do before we do it on the field.”

What started off as soccer practice between seven boys has turned into a family for Soltilo FC. The boys turn to and support each other both on and off the field, and the bonds built between them are only a plus on the field, pushing each player to give it their all for their teammates.

Such was the case for goalkeeper Elias Cardenas. Despite learning that at 13 he would need surgery due to a collapsed lung, Cardenas and his family opted to hold off on the medical procedure to be able to play in the Far West Presidents Cup and National Presidents Cup. Soltilo FC went into the championship match knowing what the game meant, not just the importance of lifting the trophy, but the sacrifice Cardenas had made for his team. And in the end, it was all worth it.

Throughout the tournament, Cardenas left it all on the field, fighting against all odds and allowing only two goals and turning him into a US Youth Soccer National Presidents Cup Golden Glove recipient.

“I was playing to win and not leave with any regrets and when my dad told me I won [the Golden Glove], I didn’t even know there was a trophy for that,” Cardenas said. “To know I’m one of the best goalkeepers in Cal South and in the country, it was unexpected, but it’s crazy to think about it.”

Soltilo FC is currently participating in the 2018-19 CRL Premier League and will also be taking part in the Cal South National Cup in 2019. Check out for all the latest news and updates on this team.