Last year, New Mexico Rush Nike beat Sereno 2-1 in the semifinals and went on to win Region IV. The year before that, Sereno had the upper hand, winning the semifinal match 1-0 over their New Mexico counterparts. And this year, both teams know that the other could be waiting in the knockout rounds.
“It’s been a great rivalry,” says Sereno coach Dave Robertson. “When both teams are at full strength, there’s no telling what might happen.”
The two squads met twice this year in Far West Regional League play and Sereno won both matches. New Mexico Rush Nike was missing players in both games and was fresh off of high school play. But Robertson knows that this time, his team’s biggest rival will be ready to defend their crown.
“Their whole roster is very, very strong. They are a lot like us, and that’s what makes it fun,” he says.
But he also says that his focus is on group play, and the boys from Sereno are taking things one game at a time. They’ve narrowly missed trips to the National Championships before, and in their last full year at U18, they want to make this one count.
“They really believe in themselves and have that desire to win,” says Robertson. “We’ve had those disappointments in the past few years, and these boys realize now that they have to dig a little bit deeper.”
Sereno is led offensively by Riggs Lennon and Mason Robertson. But the team prides itself particularly on its defense. They’ve kept track of their team shutouts ever since their days in the Under-15 age group. In the past four years, the team has logged 84 clean sheets.
Next week in Phoenix, watch for this team to add to that total as they try to add to their trophy case.
Sereno (Group A) – It’s been an excellent spring for the Arizona State Cup champs
New Mexico Rush Nike (Group B) – The defending champs are back at full strength for this year’s regionals
Westside Metros Premier (Group C) – Oregon State Cup champ also won the Surf College Cup and was a finalist at last year’s US Club Soccer Nationals
SC del Sol (Group B) – Far West Regional League champs are one of three Arizona teams in this age group
Players SC (Group C) – A finalist in last year’s Surf Cup, this squad is ready to prove themselves at regionals
Players to Watch
Justin Schmidt, New Mexico Rush Nike – Has a knack for silencing opponent’s scoring threats
Isaiah Madrid, New Mexico Rush Nike – National Team Pool, named in the Best XI at last year’s US Youth Soccer National Championships
Aaron Goo, HSC Bulls Ka’ula – Region IV ODP
Jason Khamvongsa, HSC Bulls Ka’ula – Region IV ODP
James Yamane, HSC Bulls Ka’ula – Region IV ODP
Garrett Jones, Idaho Rush – Region IV ODP
Riggs Lennon, Sereno – National Team Pool
Douglas Jamison, Sereno – Region IV ODP, National Team Pool
Brayden Prothero, Hawaii Rush Nike – Region IV ODP
Yoshinori Tamukai, Hawaii Rush Nike – Region IV ODP