It was a busy but productive summer for the PA Rush boys soccer team.
The program finished as the national runner-up at the US Youth Soccer Presidents Cup championships held in Greensboro, N.C., in July.
The boys 2007 (year of birth) team fell in the final game to Roadrunners from Bakersfield, Calif., 2-1, in the sixth round of penalty kicks.
“For me, the best part was the realization that we could actually do it, that we could get to nationals,” said Harry Bates, a forward. “That whole experience really built up our confidence. It was really awesome when we won the semifinal game and got to the final.”
The Bucks County-based Rush reached the national tournament by winning their regional tournament and punched a ticket to regionals by winning states.
“We played FC Pittsburgh in the regional finals, who we lost to in the second game of the regional tournament,” Rush coach T.J. Rodriguez said. “We got our revenge and beat them, 1-0. We beat the team from Virginia Beach to get to the final game and that was a good win. We went up 3-0 in the first 17 minutes and ended up winning that game, 5-2.
“I was so proud of the way they played, especially against Virginia Beach and Pittsburgh.”
The next tournament was nationals.
“It was déjà vu of regionals,” he said. “We ended up tying the first game because we let some things get away from us, we made some mistakes, and then we lost to the Roadrunners. That one got away from us pretty early. It was really hot, the kids were frustrated and it was the first time the whole spring season where there was some kind of adversity toward each other.
“But we played a team from Texas, they were very athletic, very feisty but we got up on them, 2-1, and we ended up winning that one and we went straight to the finals. We wanted to get our revenge against the Roadrunners and it was a hard fought, evenly matched game. It really could have gone either way. We missed a penalty kick early on, which kind of put us down for 10 or 15 minutes.
“It went to double overtime and we lost in sudden death penalty kicks. I was more than happy just to get to nationals so I wasn’t expecting to get this far so it was a great experience.”
The players enjoyed the trip.
“It was so much fun,” said team captain Evan Rumford, the center back. “Winning states and regionals was great, and getting to nationals was the best. At the beginning of the season, I could see it in us. I could see that we could do well at states, so it was really great to get past that level. I’m really looking forward to seeing what we can do next season.”
For some, it was an opportunity to step up in big situations.
“For me, the big moment was scoring in the game that got us to finals,” said left wing Sardor Kurbanov. “This was the first time I got to regionals and it was a lot of fun. We really came together as a team and it was great playing teams we never saw before. I like to see how other states play. I think we learned a lot and that’s going to help us.”