After defeating IE Surf 2-1 in the Semifinal on Saturday afternoon, there was no doubt in coach Alejandro Diaz’s mind that he and his team needed to scout and observe his next opponent’s Pateadores’ moves, analyze their strengths and weaknesses in order to have a shot at gold come Sunday morning.
Among the 172 teams that lined up to fight for the Cal South Governors Youngers Boys 2006 Championship title when the tournament started in late January, Spartans FC Pumas USA were the last team standing last Sunday afternoon at the SilverLakes Sports Complex.
“We stayed to watch them for a little bit and we knew it was going to be tough,” coach Diaz said. When I arrived [Sunday morning], the wind was pretty bad so I got kind of worried, but my boys talked to me and they told me ‘we’re going to be fine,’ and that kind of motivated me. I asked them to fight to the end and they did, and we got two great goals in the first ten minutes, the boys defended well as a group and they fought together.”
Spartans FC Pumas USA ended up defeating their Pateadores counterparts 2-0 to win the championship title. Ahead of the tournament, Spartans held their training sessions as usual, adding in beach trainings, as well as working on ball possession. Coach Diaz knew it was going to be a tough task signing up for the elite Governors Division, but there was one special thing that each of his players had that gave him a sense a relief.
“[They have a lot of] heart,” coach Diaz said. “A lot of these kids are a year younger, but I told them to fight for me, I told them to compete and they never backed down. I knew it was going to be tough against Pats – these kids are incredible; they can move the ball around. I asked [my team] to pressure them and compete and they showed the heart and desire to win this game.”
It was that same desire and heart that coach Diaz once had as a player that also helped him and his then teams lift State Cup titles when he used to play in Cal South. But now, as a coach, he’s passing on his knowledge, desire and dedication on to his players so that they can strive for more, something that means a lot to Diaz, a lot more than when he was a player.
“I’ve won this as a player, but as a coach, it feels a lot better,” coach Diaz said. “Just to see the smile on these kids’ faces after a year, it was tough in the beginning, and then these kids started to click. It’s been a great ride and a great feeling.”