Pateadores' roller-coaster of a season finished with a national championship, a conclusion that was nearly unthinkable just two months ago.
Jose Villareal (Lawndale/Leuzinger HS) scored two superb goals, with an 81st-minute winner, to lead the Mission Viejo-based club to a 2-1 triumph over FC Dallas in Friday's U-17/18 title game at the U.S. Soccer Development Academy finals in Milwaukee.
The victory was Pateadores' 14th in its last 16 matches and completed a turnaround after forfeits in May dropped the club from first to sixth place -- and virtually out of the playoff race -- in the SoCal Division, the toughest in the Development Academy.
Former UCLA coach Todd Saldaña and his assistant, former U.S. national team captain Thomas Dooley, turned Pateadores' top academy side into a winner after it went winless in divisional play the previous season. The Orange Countians needed a late thrust after forfeiting 16 points acquired in 11 games with two ineligible players -- both had junior college experience -- in what the club called an administrative error.
They won eight of nine to climb back into a tie for the top spot, survived qualifying in Frisco, Texas, to reach the USSDA finals, and went 3-0-1 in Milwaukee to claim the title.
Villareal bent a free kick from 25 yards around the wall and into the left corner to provide Pateadores a ninth-minute lead Friday at Marquette University, and he wrapped up the win by taking a pass from Irvin Parra-Anaya off his chest, turning and firing inside the left post from 18 yards.
Bryan Leyva, a Mexican forward who is signed to FC Dallas' professional team, scored in the 62nd minute for the Hoops, who were down to 10 men after Danny Garcia received his second yellow card in the 58th.
The Galaxy will look to make it a So Cal sweep Saturday night when they face PA Classics, from Manheim, Pa., in the U-15/16 title game.