Manhattan SC U-18 boys seek to defend US Youth Soccer national title
For the top teams in American youth soccer of boys born in 1996 and 1997, the honor list begins with New York, New York.
In 2013, Smithtown Arsenal of the Long Island Junior Soccer League (LIJSL) won the Boys-Under-16 US Youth Soccer National Championship. Last year, Manhattan Paris Saint-Germain of the Westchester Youth Soccer District (WYSD) won Nationals in the Boys-Under-17 age group. They have played three finals against one another in the past two months with Manhattan winning two games, including the Regional championship match, to qualify for Nationals.
On May 10, Smithtown prevailed over Manhattan in the shootout after tying, 1-1, in the Region 1 Champions League final, which qualified the LIJSL team for Regionals.
Three weeks later on May 31, these wonderful teams met in the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) Boys-Under-18 State Open Cup final. Manhattan’s Jack Harrison scored in the fifth minute, then Daniel O’Grady scored on a penalty kick plus Amara Sessay and Sam Farman added insurance goals as Manhattan easily won, 4-0, sending the diverse team of boys from New York City to Regionals.
During Regionals from June 26 to 30 in Barboursville, West Virginia, both teams went 3-0-0 for first place in their groups. In the semifinals, Manhattan won, 3-2, over Massachusetts’ FC Blazers 96/97 with keeper Gerard Amigon saving the day by stopping a penalty kick with 10 seconds left in the game. Smithtown shut out Virginia’s ABGC Annandale United FC 96, 1-0, to set up another final between the past two national champions.
In the Regional final, Manhattan prevailed in overtime, 1-0, on a Martin Dadaj goal assisted by Jack Harrison, to win the rubber match between these two spectacular sides.
“Martin is a very versatile player, a big heart and talented. I have played him mostly as a right defender but he loves to play up front,” commented Manhattan coach Wilson Egidio. “Before Regionals, we were having trouble scoring and he told me, ‘Wilson, put me up there and I will be the top scorer of the tournament.’ He ended up with three important goals.”
Coach Egidio praised his entire team, particularly his keeper, Gerard Amigon. “His save on the penalty kick in the semifinal was huge, then he made two big saves in the final vs. Smithtown. Gerard came up big for us!”
Egidio also spoke about the team’s diversity. “People look at that as a handicap. I don’t think of it that way. We’re all in here for the same goal. It’s a beautiful combination. We’ve got the Upper West Side guys who get driven to work with a driver and other guys who need $2.75 to get on the subway. We all come together in the name of soccer—beautiful soccer.”
They will be defending their national championship from July 21 to 26 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Manhattan received another $2,000 donation from Eastern New York for Nationals, in addition to their $2,000 check for Regionals, to defray their costs during the National Championship Series.
“We knew that if we were going back to Nationals to defend our title, we needed to win Regionals and that was our goal,” Coach Egidio added. “We are coming back this week with three practices plus a few scrimmages. Andrew Fitzgerald, our fitness guru, will work alongside me on getting them ready for the hot temps in Tulsa.”
The team receives its name and uniforms from the French Ligue 1 team that announced an alliance in 2010 with the Manhattan Soccer Club. The youth academy of Paris Saint-Germain has sent its coaches to New York City to conduct training sessions and Manhattan coaches such as Egidio have gone to Paris to share training methods as well.