Nearly 10 years have passed since a team from the Three Rivers Soccer Club won a title at the U.S. Youth Soccer Washington State Championships, more popularly known as the State Cup.
The Three Rivers U-18 boys club, coached by Ray Evans, won its first State Cup championship on Sunday at Starfire Soccer Complex in Tukwila, defeating Seattle United 2-1.
Three Rivers forward Bill Landefeld broke a 1-1 tie with eight minutes remaining in regulation, taking advantage of a ricochet off a corner kick. The next eight minutes were tense. The team shifted its formation only slightly but held on for the victory.
"It wasn't technically a great game, but we defended very well," said Evans, a former captain of England's U-18 squad and a veteran of the English Premier and North American Soccer Leagues.
Daniel Pak gave Three Rivers a 1-0 lead in the first half on a penalty kick before Seattle tied it up just before halftime.
"Kudos to these players. They worked hard for it," Evans said. "We had a couple of injured players, but everybody rose to the occasion."
Actually, the club had a chance to win two titles on Sunday, as the U-17 boys club coached by Mike Pardini watched a 2-0 lead dissolve in a 3-2 loss to Eastside FC at Starfire. Chandler Mertens and Jake Zoulek, who both play for Southridge High School, scored first-half goals for Three Rivers.
The club's recent success is a tribute to the re-emergence of the club that had fought to maintain a competitive program for much of the last decade.
But club president Chris Mertens and coaching director Chad Bodnar were at the center of a top-to-bottom restructucturing of the organization that has put Three Rivers back on top.
Before that, the only other Three Rivers club to win a State Cup title was a 2002 team led by former high school standouts Jose Herrera, Rashid Ghbein and Mike Babenko.
"We've worked hard for the club to grow in Tri-Cities to get more kids involved," said Bodnar, a former multi-sport star at Pasco and current men's and women's coach at Walla Walla Community College. "For us to have two teams in the finals is a great thing for Tri-Cities. It shows that the club is really growing."
THREE RIVERS GIRLS GREEN U-18
Bria Caldwell had a goal and an assist to lead the Three Rivers girls U-18 to a 5-1 win over FC Alliance Gold in a Premier-I State league matchup. Erin Huisingh, Kie Johnson and Paige Sorensen added goals for Three Rivers, and goalkeeper Shelby Long recorded 10 saves.