From the third-smallest city in Los Angeles County emerged the top talent in the nation, InterAmerica Halcones.
Coach Juventino Bernal had coached the majority of the players for a few years now, but it wasn’t until mid-2016 that the team decided they were destined for something greater. Training day in and day out, Maywood-based Halcones clinched the top spot and swept through Coast Soccer League.
“At first, it was like a dream,” coach Bernal said. “We wanted to see what we were made of. The results kept coming in and we kept advancing. The dream was slowly coming true.”
The road to the biggest dream and challenge in their lives began the moment they won the Cal South 17UB State Cup in the Presidents Division. Lifting the cup only meant that the road ahead held something greater. And so they went on to prove themselves in Salt Lake City in the US Youth Soccer Region IV Presidents Cup. On Sunday, June 18, their objective was fulfilled. They were regional champions moving on to National Presidents Cup in Auburndale, Fla.
Coach Bernal knew that the task at hand would not be an easy one on the field, but it was also a challenge off the field that made him and the team uneasy. In the trip to Salt Lake City, many of the teams drove to Utah instead of flying, saving costs. However, a trip to Florida could mean a huge dent in many of the players’ parents pockets to cover airfare, hotels, meals, transportation, among other necessities.
In order to help each other out, the team began selling food during training, while players like midfielder Ramiro Rolon went to the extent of secretly selling chips and candy at school.
“Many of the players don’t have the financial resources to pay for the time that we would be travelling,” the Halcones coach said. “There were a lot of costs, even though Cal South helped us, it was still a lot of expenses. Many of them sold candy at school, chips, and they would do so secretly because it wasn’t permitted. That’s how many of them were able to raise funds to pay for the trip with us.”
But it was definitely a sacrifice worth taking for what would be an unforgettable trip. After three preliminary games, InterAmerica Halcones moved on to the final. With the right mentality and preparation, and with over a dozen parents on the sidelines, Halcones had it all to go all the way against a tough Ocean Township United from New Jersey that they had earned their only draw with in the preliminary round.
After a tough 0-0 draw in regulation time, Halcones had to make their magic happen in overtime. Rolon ultimately gave his team a breather in the 110th minute when he knocked in the lone goal that would give Halcones the National Presidents Cup Championship.
“My teammate, Alexis Arroyo, had the ball, he tried to cross it, and I was in the middle, took it between two players, and the keeper came up to me, I took him in a 1v1 and finished the game,” he said.
With ten minutes still ahead, Halcones defended their goal, but also pushed forward in search of extending their lead. It wasn’t until they heard the final whistle that the dream was fulfilled.
“[The National Presidents Cup Championship] is my biggest accomplishment,” Rolon said. “It was a dream, it was so perfect; I never thought we’d be champions, starting at the bottom. It was amazing, I had the chance to score the winning goal and it was so amazing, I’m never going to forget that day.”
One dream down, plenty of more to go for the InterAmerica Halcones. Up next, Bernal will lead the team into Coast Soccer League’s Silver Elite Division, Cal South’s State Cup, and why not another championship?