There was little reason to believe that Kendall SC's under-15/16 squad was in for a breakout weekend in U.S. Soccer Development Academy Soccer action.
Coming off of last year's fourth-place finish in the eight-team Atlantic Division of the Southeast Conference, Kendall SC already winless at 0-1-1, having been outscored 3-2 in its first couple of outtings.
In addition, the Miami-based program was scheduled for two difficult conference games against the returning division winning Concorde Fire and the Birmingham United.
"The previous weekend, we just hadn't played our best. We didn't play as a team. So we spoke about it as a team, and we worked really hard in practice," said defender Ricardo Gomez, a 16-year-old junior.
"We figured that with the hard work and the dedication that we showed in practice, that hopefully, that would pay off," Gomez said. "We fixed all of the arguments that we had been having. We figured that if we played well as a team, that would get us a win this weekend."
Gomez was right as it turned out as Kendall SC maximized its offensive production in shutouts of 2-0 and 3-0 over the Concorde Fire and the Birmingham United on Saturday and Sunday.
Striker Sergio Lujan scored twice with one assist, midfielder Renato Punyed contributed two goals, and striker Ethan Spivack scored once for Kendall SC.
Lou Diego, Jorge Torress and Luis Hernandez-Ysasi also had assists for Kendall SC, which improved its mark to a division-leading 2-0 and its overall record to 2-1-1.
Kendall SC is tied with South Carolina United Academy (2-0, 4-0) on top of the division.
"We were disappointed with our previous weekend in Richmond. I felt for a lot of our boys, it was new to them. They didn't realize what it takes to get a good result at this level in these games," coach Luichi Gonzalez said.
"These families sacrifice a lot for these kids to be a part of this league, and we make it work. But as far as their play, it's just a matter of them being young," Gonzalez said. "Now they realize that they didn't take advantage of that first weekend. But I think that this weekend, they've sent a message in our conference."
Gomez, Hernandez-Ysasi, Andres Alfonso and Reynaldo Madiedo played well defensively in front of goalies Damien Lewis and Francisco Tomasino.
"We knew that we had a good team, one that was good enough to compete and win the conference," Gomez said. "We just had to go in and go after every ball and every play and play as if the game was zero-zero."
Against the Fire, Punyed converted a free kick for a 1-0 lead in the 32nd minute before Spivack converted a pass from Diego in the 60th.
"Concorde came in and they were confident because of the results from the last weekend," Gomez said. "But we played our game. We touched the ball, and the hard training that we put in finally paid off."
That intensity carried over into the United game, where Lujan converted off of a pass from Torres in just the third minute.
Lujan then found Punyed to make it 2-0 in the 28th minute. Lujan scored, yet again, for a 3-0 lead off an assist from Hernandez-Ysasi in the 51st.
"We knew that we hadn't had a good weekend, and we knew after the game with Concorde that we needed to stay humble and to play just as hard in the next game. We didn't come out cocky," Alfonso said.
"It was chemistry, and our chemistry isn't just about coming out and playing hard, he said. "We talk about what happens with each other throughout the day. So that builds up the chemistry between us. So that's were we got to know each other better and we came out and played like a family."
This past weekend's top Academy goal scorers
3, James Carlin, South Carolina United Battery, in 6-3 win over IMG Soccer Academy
2, Ricardo Castro, Weston SC, in 5-2 win over Birmingham United
2, Ismail Longo, Weston SC, in 5-2 win over Birmingham United
2, Sergio Lugan, Kendall SC, in 3-0 win over Birmingham United
2, Mario Ortiz, LA Galaxy, in 3-2 loss to Chivas
2, Jorge Ruiz, Chivas, in 3-2 win over LA Galaxy
2, Rhys Williams, Weston SC, in 3-3 tie with Concorde Fire
3, Robert Casner, Pateadores, in 4-2 win over Strikers FC
3, Kevin Hardy, Georgia United, in 3-3 tie with IMG Soccer Academy
3, Danny Jensen, Weston SC, in 4-0 win over Birmingham United
2, Dominique Dismuke, Seattle Sounders, in 2-0 win over Crossfire Premier
2, Nestor Jaramillo, South Carolina United, in 4-0 win over Clearwater Chargers