June 15, 2022

Utilizing Technical Skill, Team Unity to Raise Level of Play, PFC Barcelona Wins NJ President’s Cup, Headed to Regional

HEADS OF STATE: Members of Princeton FC’s Barcelona 2006 team celebrate after they won the New Jersey Youth Soccer President’s Cup last month. PFC defeated the Clifton Stallion Turf Boys 3-1 in the final at Marlboro. The squad will now compete in the U.S. Youth Soccer (USYS) Regionals in Barboursville, W.Va., starting on June 17. The team includes Jacob Battoglia, Azariah Breitman, Zach Brunell, Brian Donis, Paras Goswami, Connor Hewitt, Izayah Huynh, Kyle Ingersoll, Zeb Jerdonek, Matthew Kim, Chris Lee, Ashwin Lobo, Felipe Matar Grandi, Nick Matese, Francis Savard, Archie Smith, Brandon Urias, Calvin Hopkins, and Liam Kennedy. (Photo provided courtesy of PFC)

By Bill Alden

While the Princeton FC’s Barcelona 2006 team was thrilled to win the U.S. Club State Cup last year, it turned its eyes to another prize this season.

The squad was determined to raise its level of play to win the New Jersey Youth Soccer President’s Cup.

“It was nice to win the state cup but they knew that this is a little bit higher competition and they can progress,” said PFC Barcelona head coach Milen Nikolov.

The squad, which is comprised of players from Princeton High and Montgomery High with some of them having been playing together since the U8 level, showed its competitive fire as it produced a stirring run to earn the President’s Cup.

PFC Barcelona started the competition by falling behind Escuela FC 2006 B 1-0 but rallied to a 3-1 win with goals by Kyle Ingersoll, Archie Smith, and Azariah Breitman. In its second round contest, PFC visited Cherry Hill FC Premier Barca and yielded a goal early in the second half to go down 1-0. Once again, PFC Barcelona battled back as Brandon Urias, Felipe Matar Grandi, and Nick Matese found the back of the net to prevail 3-1. In the third round, PFC Barcelona topped the NJ Santos Rush 2006 B Black squad 2-0 as Urias tallied both goals in the victory.

“Those come from behind wins really helped the boys build their confidence especially the second one, the Cherry Hill game,” said Nikolov. “That was exciting.”

Before it headed into the semifinals of that competition, PFC suffered a rare setback as it lost to Ironbound 2-0 in 2OTs in the State Cup, a loss which only increased its hunger for victory when it hit the pitch to go for the President’s Cup.

“That was their first loss for the year; I think it was a good thing if you can say that,” said Nikolov. “I said to them after that game just next week when you go into the semifinal and hopefully the final, just remember that game, that feeling you have right now.”

In the semis on May 21 in Jackson, PFC edged NLSA 1-0 on a goal by Zeb Jerdonek with four minutes left in regulation. A day later in Marlboro, PFC Barcelona defeated the Clifton Stallion Turf Boys 3-1 as Urias, Francis Savard, and Matthew Kim each scored.

It was a great feeling for the squad to achieve its goal of winning the President’s Cup.

“I think that they were very excited, knowing that they are going to West Virginia,” said Nikolov, noting that Matar Grandi, Smith, and Urias sparked the offense in the tourney while the defense was spearheaded by Kim, Matese, and Izayah Huynh along with the goalie tandem of Calvin Hopkins and Zach Brunell.

“This is a step up for them. The competition got stronger as they progressed. The semifinal against NLSA was the toughest game.”

In reflecting on the team’s success, Nikolov attributed it to camaraderie as much as skill.

“I think No. 1 is that they are really tight group of players,” said Nikolov. “They are very good technical players. They have a good understanding of each other. They have been playing together for so long which is very important on and off the field.”

Looking ahead to the regional competition, which is slated for June 17-21, Nikolov believes that PFC Barcelona can make a deep run if can keep at full strength through the tournament.

“The No. 1 thing for me is for them to stay healthy, to have no injuries, and keep them fresh,” said Nikolov. “If we want to go all the way, this is five consecutive days.”