Mid America Premier’s U10 Red Team, the top-rated youth soccer squad in the Midwest region, gutted out a huge win in the Muscatine Soccer Club Fall Classic Tournament last weekend, taking home the first place gold and upping their 2017-2018 season record to a blistering 8-0.

Playing up against teams stocked with 11-12 year olds, the Mid America squad, made up of 8-9 year olds, toughed out two tremendous wins on Saturday against the toughest competition in the tournament. In both games, a 2-1 nail-biter and a hard-fought 2-0 triumph, defense was key, as the Mid America players came up huge on numerous stops against competition that was big – literally and figuratively.

The strategy by coach Jason De La Cruz to emphasize defense and stack a number of typically offensive players in the defensive zone gave the team a burst of speed, tenacity and aggression that offset the superior size and heft of the older competition.

On Sunday, the team showed up bright and early for a 9:30 semi-final contest to determine if they’d get to play for the gold. It was no contest, as Mid America trounced their older competitor, pouring it on in an 8-1 romp, setting the stage for Sunday afternoon’s final.

In the title game, Mid America likewise got off to a hot start, ripping out to a 3-0 lead. But the competition proved why they’d made it to the title game, with three quick strikes to knot the score at 3-3 at half.

The team’s starters, with their backs against the wall, responded in classic fashion with just 25 minutes standing between them and yet another trophy for their mantles. Flying about the field in frenzied abandon, their defense shut down the potent opposing offense, leading to breakaway opportunities that resulted in two hard-fought sprint out goals for Lawson Zulu for a 5-3 lead.

Their opponents weren’t ready to surrender though, and with 10 minutes left, they managed to chip away at the lead with a hard-earned score of their own to bring it to 5-4.

But once more, Mid America showed their mettle.

A tough-as-nails defensive stop by Cooper Barnes led to a sharp pass to Zulu who lofted it ahead to striker Elijah De La Cruz, who bolted towards the goal and launched a shot, only to have it deflected out of bounds on a hard stop by the opposing team’s goalie. That set up a corner kick with a little more than five minutes left and Mid America holding tough to their 5-4 lead.

Jonas Cortez lined up the corner. Faking a long drive into the goal box, he instead lined an outlet pass to Jackson Leary on the right wing. With the defense closing in, Leary launched his own pass into the box to De La Cruz curving on the left towards the far post, who took the pass and ripped it into the goal for an insurmountable 6-4 lead. The Mid America defense held tough, as they had all weekend, and that 6-4 tally ended up being the final score, leaving Mid America 4-0 on the weekend and the proud winners of their first tourney of the season in a higher divisional level.

Mid America Red (8-0) begins league play in Illowa League this weekend.



Sean Leary is an author, director, artist, musician, producer and entrepreneur who has been writing professionally since debuting at age 11 in the pages of the Comics Buyers Guide. An honors graduate of the University of Southern California masters program, he has written over 50 books including the best-sellers The Arimathean, Every Number is Lucky to Someone and We Are All Characters.