The Best Little Soccer Team in Texas is from California

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The Fullerton Rangers, a small Southern California local soccer club, overcomes long odds and expectations to win Dallas Cup, a premier soccer tournament that draws professional academy teams from Europe and South America.

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On April 16, 2010 date the Fullerton Rangers Boys Under-14 soccer team flew out from Ontario, California to Dallas, Texas. No one in the airport would have remarked on their departure or even their arrival in Dallas. Players, coaches, family and friends of the players were excited to be there, no one else took any notice. They knew they had worked incredibly hard for years to just be given this opportunity to showcase their ability. They would not be denied the chance.

The Dallas Cup is the oldest (32 years) and most prestigious international youth soccer tournament in the United States. Participation is by invitation only, based on an elite set of competitive statistics. Teams travel from 100 countries and six continents to take part in this first-class tournament hosted in the Pizza Hut Park, home of the FC Dallas Major League Soccer (MLS) team. “The players knew they had done the work and they were prepared, they knew what they had come to Texas to do,” said Maureen Smith the team manager.

Notice was finally taken of the little club that could after the 1st round of the competition. There were 32 teams from 13 states and 5 countries including Mexico, Canada and England in their group. The Fullerton Rangers’ results were three shut-out victories of 4-0, 5-0, and 3-0, beating the Pumas from Mexico, LVU from Pennsylvania, and Manchester United from Houston. “These victories earned the boys an advance to the quarter finals,” said Coach Obleda. “Of the seven other quarter-finalists, only two other teams won all three of their first round tournament bracket games and only one denied their opponents of even a single goal. With 12 goals for and 0 against, the Rangers’ advanced with the greatest goal differential in the 1st round, now everyone knew that we had arrived in Dallas!” said Coach Obleda.

In the quarter-finals, after a 2-2 tie in regulation play, the Fullerton Rangers scored 2 goals in the 20 minute overtime period to win 4-2 and advance to the semi-finals. The semis brought them face to face with Andromeda who won their quarter final match 4-1. “This was a huge challenge for the Boys mentally and physically as they had given everything they had to get to this point,” continues Coach Obleda. However, the Fullerton Rangers’ prevailed 3-0.

After 5 games in 5 days, they had scored 19 goals and given up 2, an incredible performance that placed them in the Championship Match against FC Dallas Premier, an academy team sponsored by Major League Soccer’s FC Dallas.

FC Dallas earned their place in the Finals by scoring 13 goals and giving up 3, so both teams had formidable defenses and a dangerous attacking potency. Messages of support were pouring in “by text, phone and e-mail from not only Fullerton, but from all over the soccer world from people who understood what an amazing accomplishment it was for a small club like ours to be in the finals of a major international tournament,” says Maureen Smith.

John Seminara president of the Fullerton Rangers was reading the updates posted online with keen interest, satisfaction and amazement. “Coach Obleda has been a recruiting talent, passionately training, and pushing his players to achieve their best as he watched this group consistently improve. Everyone at the Club is proud of this group of young men that were fulfilling a vision of the Fullerton Rangers and Coach Obleda’s. He never doubted that this was a goal we could accomplish as a club,” says Seminara.

The Championship Match was played on Saturday, April 23rd in the FC Dallas stadium in front of a crowd of 2,000. The boys were each given lockers in the professional locker room, walked out of the tunnel beside their opponents, and followed the four referees onto the field amidst the roaring crowd. “This is a new experience for our young men most of whom are used to putting on their cleats at a bench next to the field but we knew they would overcome any jitters it may have created,” says Maureen.

The Fullerton Ranger logo was in lights on the scoreboard and the video feed was projected onto the huge JumboTron screen. “I think everyone was a little emotional at that,” says John Murphy a team parent.

It was intense soccer from both teams from whistle to whistle. After two 10-minute overtime periods, the score was still 0-0, driving the game into tie-breaker penalty kicks.

On the second penalty the Rangers goalkeeper (Keith Murphy) dove to the left, sweeping the ball into his hands. The final shoot-out score was 5-4 Rangers. The Fullerton Rangers won the Dallas Cup Championship after 90 minutes of scoreless play, five perfect penalty kicks by the Rangers shooters and one saved penalty kick by the Rangers goalkeeper.

“The celebration after the championship game was indescribable. The Fullerton Rangers are the smallest club to win any age group in the 32-year history of the Dallas Cup. Their record earned them an invitation to play, but nobody would have put money on them to take it all,” says Murphy. This little team from Fullerton, California truly turned some heads. “All over southern California our other Rangers teams were getting text messages with updates. I know every player in Ranger blue was rooting for the team,” says Seminara.

Reflecting on the entire week, Coach Obleda said of his team “I am so proud of each and every one of our boys. They are skilled, strong, fast, and courageous young men. They play as a team, moving the ball quickly up the field like no opponent we faced. And most important, they are great kids … intense competitors on the field and respectful gentlemen off the field. I couldn’t be prouder of or happier for them. They have absolutely earned the title of Champions!”

“The whole club will be out to congratulate our team on their return from Texas,” says Seminara who is planning a reception for the team on their return to the Club. “We are incredibly proud of them.”

For more information please contact Mr. Raul Valdivia.

Contact:
Mr. Raul Valdivia
714 724 3879
ravaldivia(at)aol(dot)com
http://www.fullertonrangers.com

Notable quotes:
“The celebration after the championship game was indescribable. The Fullerton Rangers are the smallest club to win any age group in the 32-year history of the Dallas Cup. . ."

“This is a new experience for our young men most of whom are used to putting on their cleats at a bench next to the field but we knew they would overcome any jitters it may have created. . .”

Fact:
The Dallas Cup is the oldest (32 years) and most prestigious international youth soccer tournament in the United States. Participation is by invitation only, based on an elite set of competitive statistics. Teams travel from 100 countries and six continents to take part in this first-class tournament hosted in the Pizza Hut Park, home of the FC Dallas Major League Soccer (MLS) team.

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Raul Valdivia

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