This past weekend, the Pelican Rapids United Under-18 team (PRUSA) won the championship in Detroit Lakes.
The team played against the International Soccer Club (Fargo) on Friday night winning 3-0 with goals coming from Sebastian Centeno, Alan Villagomez and Josh Urbano.
Saturday morning, the team defeated Thief River Falls 2-0 with goals from Villagomez and captain Oscar Diaz. This victory clinched a place in the finals for the United squad but they still had one game remaining in pool play against Alexandria who it was expected would face PRUSA in the finals.
Pelican shorthanded much of weekend
Throughout the weekend, due to conflicts of various kinds, the United squad only had 12 total players (11 players are on the field in soccer).
Friday night, the team only had the minimum of 11 players and played the entire match without a substitute. Saturday the team had a 12th player, so one substitute, but even so, the match against Alexandria would be about conserving energy and staying healthy.
Alexandria proved to be much bigger and a very physical team. They also employed a tactic of man marking and double teaming of Alan Villagomez. Alexandria took an early 1-0 lead and held it into the half although throughout the United squad maintained the majority of the possession.
Late in the second half, Villagomez got himself free before being fouled heavily and drawing a penalty, which Oscar Diaz converted to make the score 1-1. Soon after this, Diaz was fouled outside the box earning a free kick. However, by this point in the game, he was also suffering from heavy hamstring cramps. Diaz willed his body into cooperation just long enough to make the free kick which Sebastian Centeno poked into the back of the net to put United up 2-1.
The final 5 minutes were frantic as two other United players were rendered immovable due to cramps and with no other substitutions.
Left-back Jaime Zavala came through with the defensive play of the game clearing a ball off the goal line in a last minute scrum that seemed sure to result in an Alexandria goal. The PRUSA squad was able to hang on for the victory earning them top spot in the group.
The weekend’s schedule played in United’s favor as a break from the final pool play game, which ended at noon, and the final, which began at 7:30, provided a window of time for the United squad to return home, sleep, refuel and re-hydrate.
Pelican faces Alex in final match
In the final, PRUSA again faced Alexandria in a rematch from earlier in the day. Roughly 10 minutes into the game, United was dealt a blow when their one substitute, Armando Saavedra, was injured and unavailable the remainder of the game.
Midway through the first half, Alan Villagomez found Sebastian Centeno who hit a beautiful left-footed shot into the upper right corner of the net to put PRUSA ahead 1-0. Just two minutes later, Axel Zavala made a spectacular one handed diving save to keep the clean sheet.
Throughout the remainder of the game, the United back-line of Abdirahman Said, Kirby Nelson, Sebastian Rosiles, and Jaime Zavala locked down the Alexandria attack and held them to no other shots on goal throughout the night. All four players made significant contributions to stopping various attacks from the opponents.
Due to the lack of substitutions, players like Suhayb Farah and Adrian Murillo also did a great job of playing the entire game and at times out of position so others on the team could find pockets within the field to rest.
Tourney title a first for Pelican
The final whistle blew and the Pelican Rapids’ squad celebrated, with team captain Oscar Diaz lifting their first championship trophy as a purely Pelican Rapids squad. All other Pelican Rapids soccer teams that have won trophies have had an affiliation with Detroit Lakes Youth Soccer Association.
This year was the first year the club broke free of all other competitive affiliations and operated on all levels as an autonomous soccer club in Pelican Rapids.