Central Maine players contributue to championship

The only thing that didn’t go according to plan for the Seacoast United boys under-19 soccer team over the weekend was a return trip home from Indiana.

“We had a nine-hour delay,” said Cole Smith of Oakland, who will be a senior at Messalonskee in the fall. “We were supposed to leave at 9:10 (Monday night), but we didn’t leave until 6 in the morning. It’s ok. We made due.”

The sting of the travel delay was overwhelmed by winning the U.S. Club Soccer National Cup XVI championship earlier in the day. On Monday in Westfield, Indiana, Seacoast United beat the Eastern FC Spurs of New York 3-1 for the Topsham-based program’s second-ever national championship. A U-17 boys team won a national title last year.

“We knew we’d be contenders,” Seacoast United head coach Adrian Dubois said.

One of only six teams to qualify for the national championship tournament, Seacoast United went 3-0-0 in pool play to advance to the national finals. The team featured five players from central Maine schools. In addition to Smith, Jack Moore of Messalonskee, Hayden Elwell of Maranacook and Jake Warn and Mike Wildes from Winslow were also on the 16-man roster for the National Cup.

“I think people underestimate kids coming from central Maine,” said Elwell, who was the Kennebec Journal Boys Soccer Player of the Year in 2016. “There’s talent all over the state that people don’t really see. Maine has a lot better players than people would think.”

The squad finished second in a New England tournament held in Massachusetts three weeks ago, and Dubois said that performance instilled confidence in the players.

Training for the season began in early December, and the team played more than two dozen games over the course of the winter, spring and summer months.

“We knew we could win,” said Dubois, who is also the head coach of the men’s soccer program at St. Joseph’s College. “We have a really good team. … You have to give a lot of credit to this particular group of boys for playing together and buying into my philosophies and game strategy. It’s a tight group.”

Seacoast outscored the opposition 9-2 over the course of the national tournament, which began Friday and finished on Monday. Smith, who is a midfielder for Messalonskee, took great pride in playing an outside back role for a group that only conceded twice across four matches.

“In our third game, we went up pretty early and pretty much knew that we had a strong chance of going through (to the finals),” Smith said. “We just had to hold things down defensively against a pretty physical team. It feels pretty good.”

Smith said it’s hard to to be surprised that the team won the national title, even though it had high expectations.

“We wanted to keep it going for Seacoast,” Smith said. “I was somewhat surprised. Obviously, we wanted to win, but it’s a hard thing to just expect that you’re going to just go and win a national championship.”

“Over the whole weekend, we’re there to win, but we’re also there to have fun,” Elwell said. “Watching a couple other games, there were kids yelling at their own teammates when they make mistakes, and it feels to me like this team is probably the best team to play on. With the friendships we have, the characters we have on the team, we have fun together on and off the field.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

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Twitter: @TBarrettGWC