At the beginning of their Oregon Premier League season in January, the Eastside Timbers Red U-16 boys team laid out its mission: qualify for the 2013 NPL Champions Cup.
Three months later, they and seven other OPL teams can check that off the list, as the league has rounded out its list of champions who have earned places in the national championship competition, which will be held July 18-22 in suburban Denver.
“Our team set qualifying for the NPL Champions Cup as our primary goal,” Eastside Timbers Red coach Joey Leonetti said. “It is a great opportunity for our boys to compete on a national stage against elite competition, and we couldn’t be any prouder representing Eastside Timbers FC and the State of Oregon in challenging for the NPL Champions Cup.”
Once in Denver, Leonetti’s squad and the rest of the OPL winners will take on champions from the other 16 NPLs, giving them a chance to face off against the nation’s best teams. In addition to the Eastside Timbers Red, the following seven teams clinched berths in the cup via winter OPL titles: The OSSA Green I U-15 boys, WT Copa U-15 girls, OSSA Blue I U-16 girls, WT Copa U-17 boys, Tualatin Hills United SC United Sodium U-17 girls, and FC Portland Academy Navy U-18 boys and girls.
During the fall season, four teams qualified by winning the two youngest age groups: FC Portland Academy Navy U-13 and U-14 boys, EMFC Athletica Blue U-13 girls and Tualatin Hills United SC Onyx U-14 girls.
Together, they’ll all head to Colorado looking to showcase the OPL’s strength on a national stage.
“Obviously we are very excited to be able to test ourselves against the top competition in the country,” FC Portland Academy Navy U-18 girls head coach Chuck Bechtol said. “This is a great opportunity to show how far we have come as a group, and the growth of the individuals that constitute that group.”
Bechtol’s side was one of two teams to win its age group with a perfect record, as the OSSA Green I U-15 boys joined them at 10-0-0.
“I am very proud of the OSSA Green 1 team for going undefeated in the Oregon Premier League this season and winning the U-15 boys division,” coach Jim Brazeau said. “The boys are a great group of individuals who consistently remain focused on their development as players and as good members of the community. They are a great group to coach!”
Undefeated or not, the OPL teams will head to the NPL Champions Cup after impressive seasons in which they held off tough competition, and they’ll hope to build off those achievements as they face their toughest challenge yet.
“Winning the Oregon Premier League was a pleasing measure of our team’s progress this year,” WT Copa U-15 girls coach Chris Thurley said. “It is very rewarding for me as a coach to win a league, because league titles are about consistency of performance rather than getting on a ‘hot streak’ for five or six games.”
Here’s a look at the eight teams who won OPL winter titles and have qualified for the 2013 NPL Champions Cup:
Boys U-15: OSSA Green I (10-0-0)
OSSA Green I had a spotless record, as well as the league’s top attack and defense, but winning the division was no cake walk. Eastside Timbers Red (9-0-1) made it a race to the finish, with the deciding result coming via OSSA’s 4-0 win in their head-to-head matchup in February.
Girls U-15: WT Copa (8-1-1)
WT Copa finished atop a group of three teams separated by four points, claiming the title over Tualatin Hills United Onyx and the Vancouver Timbers Red team, which were the only two squads to take points from Copa during the season. Onyx has also qualified for the NPL Champions Cup by virtue of winning the U-14 girls division in the fall.
Boys U-16: Eastside Timbers Red (8-1-1)
Goals were hard to come by against Eastside Timbers Red, which held seven of 10 opponents scoreless. That stout defending faltered briefly with a loss and draw in the middle of the season, but a strong finish was enough to clinch the league by a five-point margin.
Girls U-16: OSSA Blue I (9-0-1)
With an average of more than three goals per game and just four goals allowed, OSSA Blue I put in a well-rounded performance to win the U-16 girls division. A draw with Tualatin Hills United SC Mercury was the only stumble in an impressive season.
Boys U-17: WT Copa (9-0-1)
After winning the middle six games on its schedule by a combined score of 28-4, WT Copa gutted out two 1-0 victories down the stretch to stay atop the standings — winning one of those against second-place OSSA Green to maintain its lead.
Girls U-17: Tualatin Hills United SC Sodium (8-0-2)
Tualatin Hills United SC Sodium was another example of sound defending, with only three goals allowed to go with an attack that produced 3.3 goals per game. A pair of scoreless draws against the second- and third-place finishers kept them from a perfect record, but not from a championship.
Boys U-18: FC Portland Academy Navy (9-0-1)
Fans of attacking soccer will enjoy watching FC Portland Academy Navy at the NPL Champions Cup, as the team recorded 49 goals in 10 games, winning the league by three points thanks to a head-to-head win against second-place Eastside Timbers Red in February.
Girls U-18: FC Portland Academy Navy (10-0-0)
The schedule pitted the top two finishers against each other twice, and FC Portland Academy Navy made it a U-18 sweep for the club thanks in part to winning both of those games, 1-0 and 3-1, against OSSA Blue — the second of which polished off the team’s perfect record.
A list of teams that have qualified for the NPL Champions Cup can be viewed here. Be sure to check back in with NationalPremierLeagues.com for updates throughout the spring as more leagues crown their champions.