Knocks out the UK in Sudden Death Penalty Kick Thriller
Photos by: Kristi Citron
Figueira Da Foz, Portugal— On Friday, June 22, 2018, sixteen teams from six countries converged on the beautiful beaches of Portugal, making history at the first annual Madjer International Youth Beach Soccer Cup. The competition, named after João Victor Saraiva, better known as “Madjer”, who plays for the Portuguese National Beach Soccer Team, is recognized as one of the greatest players of the sport.
The tournament featured competitive divisions for boys U16 and U18, each containing 8 teams. Oceanside’s own SoCal Legacy, with 19 championship victories and a cumulative record of 94-9-3 made the long journey to Lisbon, and then the subsequent 2-hour bus ride to the event site, to represent the US in the U18 division. Multiple teams from the UK, Italy, El Salvador, Spain and Portugal also came to represent their countries.
The Americans arrived a few days prior to the event, to acclimate to the 8-hour time zone difference and the sand, which was notably deeper than the Oceanside Harbor where they typically practice. “The depth and density of the sand played a factor in this tournament for us,” said Legacy’s head coach Steve Citron, “it cut our speed down by at least 30% and drained our energy levels rapidly during each match.” The team would make history even before the tournament began with some first-ever Madjer Cup friendly matches played against El Salvador and the UK on Wednesday and Thursday respectively, prior to the official start of the competition on Friday.
The first Madjer Cup friendly would commence with the Warriors, playing out of Selecta de Playa beach soccer club in El Salvador, establishing a 2-goal lead in the first period against the Americans. They would continue to build on that with another goal in the second period, all the while holding Legacy scoreless during the first full 24 minutes of play. “Their strategy and tactical execution was phenomenal,” said Citron, “It took us two periods to figure out how to effectively defend against many of the things they were doing, because we had never experienced this type of tactical play in the USA.” As the third period commenced, the boys from Oceanside were at a 3-goal deficit with only 12 minutes to play, but the Americans managed to hold off the crafty Warriors and found the net three times, pulling off the equalizer in the waning minutes of the final period on a flick-up volley from Mateo Citron. “It was a fantastic match, against one of the best teams we have ever played, and a great learning experience for the players,” said Citron.
Next up were the strong and aggressive players from the Isle of Wight, located in the UK. This high scoring friendly provided a lot of action for both sides as they battled it out, toe-to-toe, but Legacy would end up on top by a score of 7-4 in this final preparation match. “The friendly matches really helped us get fine-tuned and better prepared for the upcoming weekend, providing us with some good insight and experience as we had never played internationally before, unfortunately, we would find that this would come at a cost as the tournament progressed,” added Citron.
The first preliminary matches were scheduled for Friday, followed by two more on Saturday, and then the semi-finals and finals were scheduled for Sunday, June 24th. Legacy’s Friday contest was against Spain, a team from a beach soccer school led by the Spanish legend Ramiro Amarelle. As the game commenced, the Spaniards would struggle to contain the team from Southern California, as the Americans capitalized on the experience gained from the friendly matches and struck first with a tremendous half-field volley by Israel Ramirez to open-up the goal scoring for the USA. Antonio Chavez and Justin Ricketts would combine for a goal apiece and Mateo Citron turned up the heat even higher, scoring the only hat trick in the tournament for team USA, all within a 5-minute time span during the second period. This, combined with an unfortunate own-goal by Spain, provided the necessary ingredients for a 7-1 Legacy victory. “It is always a good thing to start your international debut with a win,” Citron stated.