Dallas Cup: A Feat for the Ages

Dallas Cup: A Feat for the Ages

Winning trophies always makes for a good narrative. Yet more compelling than claiming the esteemed Dallas Cup, or even doing so in such dominant fashion, is the story of a young club blazing a trail while epitomizing what makes it different from just about every foe it faced.

The Dallas Cup has long been recognized as one of America’s most prestigious national tournaments, inviting teams from across the globe with a list of past participants reading like a Who’s Who of the footballing world.

Just to be invited is an honor. To excel or advance is laudable, and to prevail in each and every match, including the final, is worthy of wide acclaim.

Seattle United’s B98 Copa accomplished all of that. As triple winners of the state league, regional league and state cup, it was only right that they earn a trip to Texas. Returning home as the first Washington team to win a Dallas Cup title in 35 years, they made their mark. They made history.

“That’s a very big feather in the cap of Seattle United,” says Brian Schmetzer, synonymous with pro soccer around the region for a generation and now top assistant for Sounders FC. “I think it’s great they’ve now won a prestigious tournament, and maybe they’ve just turned the corner.”

Only entering its sixth season, Seattle United was virtually unknown outside the region. Until now. By kickoff of the U16 final at Toyota Stadium, representatives of top college programs were watching. A B98 Copa player had been invited to a tryout by Pachuca, a prominent Mexican club. Once the final whistle sounded following the 2-0 championship win over local rival Crossfire Premier, the week had produced enough memories for clubs exponentially older than Seattle United.

Nothing Comes Easy
It’s long been claimed that no championship is won without facing adversity, and certainly that’s true in this case. Although an accomplished crew since their U12 days, the B98 Copas had their ups and downs. After Tommy Jenkins got the team off to a promising start, they lost some players to injuries and families moving out of the area.

Shortly after Jason Farrell, the club’s technical director, became coach, the team began building toward a spectacular run of success. He imparted his managerial method. Three new players from the club’s southern region were brought into the squad. Following a short adjustment period, everything began falling into place.

It was during the Surf Cup College Showcase that they began to realize their collective potential. “We played a couple of the national top 20 teams, went 2-1 in the tournament and the boys figured out we’re pretty good and we can pretty much beat anybody. Indeed, they now are unbeaten since November.

A Diverse Team, A Balanced Approach
Despite coming from all corners of the city, the B98 Copas are a close-knit group. “It’s really a melting pot, a team that reflects Seattle’s diversity,” notes Farrell. “We’ve got players of Mexican, Honduran, Eritrean, Ethiopian and Argentine descent. It’s just a group that loves the game; they’re passionate but they find that right balance.”

Seattle United encourages a balanced approach to play. Team members play other sports, and most were involved with their respective high school soccer teams approaching the Dallas Cup, and that posed a challenge. Under WIAA rules, players missing a high school game in order to play for their club face a season-long suspension. Thankfully, Seattle United arranged one-time waivers with coaches and athletic directors enabling everyone to travel without consequence.

“My big concern was that, when we reached Dallas, I had not seen them since playing the state cup on February 22,” admits Farrell. “We played three pre-academy teams and they don’t do high school (soccer); they train year-round. We hadn’t had one training session.”

That said, the B98 Copas, like their coach, don’t mind being challenged or playing the underdog role. Never mind no practice, straight out of the gate they beat FC Virginia, 2-0. That was followed by wins over Andromeda, Tx. (3-1) and Mexico’s Prepatec LA (5-0) to finish first in the group.

“All 18 of the boys had significant, positive impact over the week,” says Farrell. “Defensively, we’re very strong, very solid. And we have more attacking options than any team I’ve coached.”

Never Panicked, Never Gave Up
Both the boys’ flair and fortitude was on display in the quarterfinal. B98 Copa had demonstrated a resilience in their state cup semifinal, coming from 2-1 down with a pair of goals in the final six minutes. In their first knockout game at the Dallas Cup, they squandered a 2-nil lead and were in danger of going behind Arizona’s Pachuca.

“I wasn’t panicked,” states Farrell. “These boys just don’t give up.” And they proceeded to prove that point.

“With 20 minutes left, their guy beats our keeper, but our defender made a 30-yard recovery run to clear it off the line,” recalls Farrell. “At that moment I thought something different, something special is at play here. We ended up scoring three goals in the last 10 minutes. That was one of the turning points.”

B98 Copa did not allow another goal, advancing to the final with a 3-0 victory over FC Dallas Pre-Academy. The final goal aggregate of 20-2 rates as one of the tournament’s best for U16s.

“I’m not surprised we did well,” offers Farrell. “I was surprised how dominant our scorelines were; we were smoking teams.”

Once through to the Dallas Cup final, the experience of a lifetime awaits. Competition moves to the 21,000-seat Toyota Stadium in Frisco, home of FC Dallas. Matches are televised or streamed live on the Web. Scouts are scattered throughout the stand, there’s the pomp of the pregame introductions and, if you’re lucky, the postgame celebration.

Back in Seattle, a Super Bowl-like watch party of some 50 friends and family watched the game unfold.

“I wanted so much for them to get to that final, to experience playing in that stadium,” shares Farrell. “I care about these guys, and I was so happy for them. They not only got to taste that, they then went out and won it.”

A Dream Realized and More to Come
Farrell’s phone was switched off for the match. Once powered-up afterward, it began buzzing with over 200 texts and emails of congratulations, from inside and outside Seattle United. The outpouring of support nearly overwhelmed Farrell.

“It was a great accomplishment for Washington soccer and a great barometer for where Seattle teams are at now,” he says.

“It’s really hard to win tournaments such as this; it doesn’t happen often,” coaching director Jimmy McAlister points out. “So this is a big, big achievement.”

Adds McAlister: “Hopefully this is just the start. Seattle is a world-class city in every way, and they deserve a world class youth soccer club, both on and off the field.”

It was a year, a season and a week packed thick with tales that will be shared for years to come. Little stories behind the scores and always with the knowledge that this was special: It was Washington’s first Dallas Cup championship and the first such feat for Seattle United.

Winning a major championship is a game-changer, particularly for a club so new to the scene. Seattle United has earned a place on the national landscape, and a trail has been blazed for all those who aspire to go the distance.

“This team and the makeup of the team and the success of this team is a reflection of this club,” Farrell says. “We’re a very diverse club. We’re young, but we’ve come a long way in a short amount of time. This has put the club on the map, and we’re thrilled that the teams following us will be the beneficiary of it.”