Featuring Balanced Attack, Competitive Spirit PFC Porto U-12 Boys Wins N.J. Soccer Title
SPOILS OF VICTORY: Members of the Princeton Football Club (PFC) Porto U-12 boys team show off the trophy and medals they earned for winning the New Jersey Youth Soccer State President’s Cup earlier this month. The PFC team edged Cinnaminson SC Union 2-1 in overtime in the championship game on November 3 at the Capelli Sports Complex in Tinton Falls. By winning the New Jersey title, PFC qualified to compete in the East Regional, which will be held next June in Barboursville and Charleston, W. Va. Pictured in the front row, from left, are Nishanth Balaji, Mario Radzicki, Quinn Shannon, Gus Shapiro, Siddarth Goyal, and Logan Miller. In the back row, from left, are Coach Yordan Hristov, Aaron Thyrum, Vidur Jain, Trey McFadden, Billy Crawshaw, Declan Hughes, Christian Tharney, Ivan Marinov, and Aahil Sikkander.
By Bill Alden
Yordan Hristov sensed that his PFC Porto U-12 boys’ soccer team was poised for a championship run this fall.
Hardened by losing in the state quarterfinals last spring as the bounces didn’t go the club’s way, Hristov saw a greater resolve in his players.
“I felt going into this season that we have something special going on,” said PFC Porto head coach Hristov.
“We are more prepared a little more mature and smarter. We have a little bit more determination and we all have a better understanding and the experience of the past.”
Posting an undefeated record in regular season league play, PFC Porto displayed that determination in the playoffs, raising the level of play as it rolled to the championship game.
Along the way, the squad topped Hazlet United 2-0, the Montgomery Travelers Lions 5-1, and the Scotch Plains Fanwood Blue 7-2 to qualify for the semis. PFC Porto then defeated the Stafford SC Blaze 5-2 in the semis to make the final.
In the New Jersey Youth Soccer State President’s Cup championship game held on November 3 at the Capelli Sports Complex in Tinton Falls, the Porto side edged Cinnaminson SC Union 2-1 in overtime. By winning the state title, PFC qualified to compete in the East Regional, which will be held next June in Barboursville and Charleston, W. Va.
In reflecting on his squad’s title run, Hristov cited offensive balance as a key factor in its success.
“It was such a team effort for most of these games, especially when the score was over a couple of goals,” said Hristov.
“We don’t have the same goal scorer over and over again. We have people scoring goals across the board. That is one of the things, we don’t have a superstar on this team. Everyone is really good.”
Sharpening the team’s finishing touch was a major point of emphasis coming into the fall.
“In the past we struggled to score goals; that was the primary focus at the end of last year and the beginning of this year,” said Hristov.
“I was working hard with the players and they were really committed to finish what we have started. We are a team that creates a lot of chances and sometimes we didn’t finish in the past just because of the lack of composure or whatever in front of the goal.”
As it marched through the playoffs, Porto utilized that opportunistic approach to seize momentum from the opening whistle.
“I was very pleased with how the team was able to start games,” said Hristov.
“Throughout the whole competition, we were the team that usually scored the first goal. We started on fire; we had a lot of energy going right from the first whistle. You can see in one game after another, how they believe in themselves a little more and get a little more inspired about it.”
Ivan Marinov was on fire for PFC in the title game as he tallied both goals for Porto in the victory.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game, we saw them in the semifinals,” said Hristov.
“It was one of those situations where we score early but in that game it wasn’t so easy. We scored the goal and the players start to believe a little more. That was an important goal but then they score on a free kick. In the second overtime period, we started the way we started the entire season. We had fire and we squeezed them hard. We put them in their half and we had combinations. Ivan had three or four chances before he got that winning goal.”
In the end, the team’s work ethic and character made the difference. “They are very hardworking, they are very coachable, and they are very committed,” said Hristov.
“They have shown the patience in training seasons and games. We have had good seasons and bad seasons, it hasn’t always been wonderful and beautiful. With all of that experience, they understand what it takes. They are very competitive, they hate losing.”
In addition to their competitive desire, the Porto players have developed a flair to their play.
“The most important thing of all that we always talk about when we go through a game or a training session is you have to learn to play the right way,” added Hristov.
“Everything else will come with it; they have really adapted to that idea. They have really worked hard to do the right things, whatever the outcome is. It is team oriented, ball movement, quick pace, combinations, patience in the final third without just rushing and kicking the ball to somebody. It is more of a creative type of game, just focused on the ball movement, patience and the build up and looking for the right opportunities.”
In Hristov’s view, the state title is further evidence that PFC is doing things the right way.
“In the last couple of years we have really gotten the ball rolling in terms of success and creating the right environment for the players to grow,” said Hristov, noting the club has produced two state semifinalists, two finalists, two state cup champions, one regional and one national champion in recent years.
“This is an incredible achievement for the Porto players and entire Princeton FC family. Having yet another team from our club to represent New Jersey in the Regionals in West Virginia is a great recognition of our organization and our program’s player development model.”