By Charles Boehm
After last week’s “Finals Weekend” was disrupted by the impending arrival of Hurricane Sandy, the 16 finalists in the 2012 Virginia State Cup will reconvene at the River City Sportsplex (formerly known as SportsQuest) in Midlothian, Va. to battle for top honors on Sunday.
Some of the participants are Cinderella stories, others are fully expected. In the Under-15 Boys final, it’s the latter, as top seeds FC Richmond Magic ’97 (No. 1 seed) and Arlington Impact Red (No. 2) will meet at Field #7 at noon in a rematch of one of last year’s U-14 quarterfinals.
Magic ’97 won the U-14 championship and have yet to win a U-15 State Cup match by less than two goals, scoring 15 goals in five games – and allowing just four – in a string of victories over teams from Loudoun, McLean, SOCA and Roanoke Star.
Arlington have scored less, but also conceded less, in their run to the final, and both teams remain undefeated in their respective Virginia Club Champions League campaigns. Magic ’97 remain the odds-on favorites to repeat as champions, but as always, the pressure of a cup final must be faced and overcome.
The U-16 title bout will be a Beltway battle as third-seeded Arlington Strikers Red face Annandale Boys & Girls Club Spartans SC (10:30 a.m., Field #4). ABGC Spartans are the unseeded dark horses who knocked off No. 1 seed Beach FC 96B Red (Spartans are nonetheless ranked No. 3 in Virginia by Gotsoccer.com), surprising those who expected this bracket to offer up a rematch of last year’s U-15 final between Beach FC 96B Red and Herndon Boca Juniors.
After leading his squad to a strong campaign in VCCL North, Strikers Red coach Mo Tayari may fancy his team’s chances against league rivals Spartans FC, who have been excellent in their own VCCL season and present substantial danger in a knockout tournament which their club has always prized and prioritized.
As their own club motto states, Churchland Soccer League Junkyard Dawgs Elite will be looking to “own the bone” as they meet John O’Hara’s top-seeded Loudoun Soccer Red 95B Red in the U-17 Boys final (10 a.m., Field #1). The Tidewater-area squad (No. 6 seeds) will undoubtedly be underdogs (pardon the pun) against their Northern Va. opponents, who are looking a bit less unbeatable after barely slipping past SYA Excel Red in a tight semifinal decided by a penalty-kick shootout last week.
Two old NoVa rivals will duel for one last shot at State Cup glory in the U-18 Boys final as Reston FC 94 (No. 2 seeds) and ABGC Knights FC (No. 4) face off (2:30 p.m., Field #4).
RFC won 2-1 when these teams meet in the semifinals of last year’s U-17 competition, and they already took care of another ABGC team, United Force, in this year’s semis. That said, Knights FC have been explosive this fall, racking up 19 goals in four State Cup matches to date. Good luck predicting this one – just find a way to watch the fireworks in person if you can make it River City Sportsplex.