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By Steve Breazeale
The 2013 U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships is regarded as the most talent-laden and prestigious event on the club team circuit. It’s the Holy Grail of club soccer in the United States.
This year, four San Clemente natives, playing for the Mission Viejo-based West Coast Futbol Club, found themselves besting the field and emerging with first-place hardware.
Gage Zerboni still hasn’t fully realized the run he and his teammates on the club’s U18 team just made in Overland Park, Kan. After claiming the U18 title over Raiders FC Premier in penalty kicks on July 28, the former San Clemente High soccer player and UCLA-bound forward is still in awe of the feat his team accomplished.
“It still hasn’t sunk in. Honestly, it’s completely unreal to think a small-town team could go out and win this tournament,” Zerboni said. “It really hasn’t sunk in how much glory we had and how much success we had.”
Zerboni has been with many of the teammates on the U18 team since they were 10 years old, which he said made the victory even sweeter.
Rising seniors Alek Cucuk and Dylan Struthers were a part of the victorious West Coast Futbol U17 team.
Struthers scored twice in the tournament, including the title-clinching goal in overtime as West Coast Futbol defeated CUP Gold 1-0 on July 28.
“I got the ball at the corner of the box and I chipped the keeper back post,” Struthers said. “It wasn’t the nicest goal of my life but it was the greatest feeling of my life. You can’t get any better than that, it was kind of indescribable.”
San Clemente’s Trent Shaw was with the U17 team throughout the season but did not travel to play in the national championships.
By winning the tournament, Zerboni, Struthers and Cucuk capped off what was an impressive season. All three were part of the San Clemente boys soccer team that captured the CIF-SS Division 1 title and made a run to the CIF SoCal State Regional title game. The U.S Youth Soccer National Championship win was the icing on the cake.
“The year could not have been any better. It’s a complete year for me as a soccer player,” Cucuk said. “It means you did everything possible as a soccer player and that makes me proud.”