Andres Barahona hoped to engineer his second upset in Mar Vista Park soccer finals Saturday with his nervy energy and treacherous left foot, but ultimately his team, Aston Villa, fell to the superior firepower of Chelsea.
Andres,15, blazed twice down the left with feints and burst of speed to pass four and five defenders to slot home. But he was playing a game of keep-up in the “sweepers division,” age 13 to 15, against an onslaught of goals. Chelsea took the championship 6-3.
“We played pretty hard,” Andres said. “The penalties weren’t penalties. I wanted to win, but we couldn’t win.”
Last week, 3rd-placed Aston Villa upset 2nd-place Norwich to bid for a surprise championship Saturday. But Chelsea, a team full of forwards, was too lethal in front of the net.
The Blues’ deadshot aim was unusual for parks leagues, where all kinds of clumsiness and lack of definition prevail among the lot of mostly beginners.
Some 650 kids aged 5-15 played in Mar Vista’s 9 divisions in spring league, said Soccer Director Kiswani Dumas, better known as simply “Kiwi.” With the largest park soccer program on the Westside, Mar Vista has produced stars for European soccer, he said. One kid has a contract for a Turkish team, he added.
“Our soccer program is growing every season,” Kiwi said. “We hope to have 1,000 kids next season.”
Sign ups, boys and girls, start on July 1 for fall soccer, which initiates Sept. 12. For $130, kids get a uniform, a trophy, training and a lot of competitive fun.
Mar Vista Park’s turf field, installed eight years ago, has been the field of dreams, where kids can learn soccer and soar. They learn teamwork, discipline and hard work. They can experience the exhilaration of victory and the crush of defeat.
In Saturday’s final, Chelsea, the highest scoring team among the older kids’ division, started what they do best early when Flynn Roe, 13, turned a free kick in past the goalie after only a few minutes after the starting whistle. It was a smart goal, uncharacteristically classy for parks soccer.
But Aston Villa responded quickly. Andres, of Honduran descent and with the Latino flair for el futbol, tore down the left flank, ghosting past four defenders, to fire home and tie up a game that promised to be highly competitive and highly entertaining.
Then for Chelsea, Hosea Ashcraft, 13, fought off three defenders to shoot clinically past a hapless Aston Villa goalie.
Before the first half was over, referees cited a defender’s handball, and Daniel Garcia, 15, the league’s highest goal-scorer, blasted a blistering penalty kick for Chelsea, making it 3-1.
In the second half, it was Aston Villa who opened scoring. Again the always-dangerous Andres blazed down the left flank and slotted home.
Chelsea responded almost immediately. Midfielder Daniel, who was Andres’ equal in domination, whipped in a cross from the right that Samuel Mikhail, 15, turned smartly in. It was impossible for the keeper to bat away.
Down 4-2, Aston Villa refused to let this game slip out of hand. From the feet of Andres came a through-ball that Donovan Brizuela sprinted on to fire from the left for another score, keeping the game within reach at 4-3.
If only Chelsea could cancel out the constant threat of Andres, they could win. Seeing the need, Flynn offered himself to coach to track and defend against Andres. He promised coach that he wouldn’t be beat by the fleet-footed youth.
“Ok, go ahead,” Coach Mario Ortiz told him. Andres didn’t make any more key plays.
All season, Chelsea had been a scoring machine, and Saturday’s game proved no different. A through-ball left Samuel in a one-on-one face-off with the goalie. He fired low, a shot that shanked the goalie’s shins and glided into goal.
Another defensive handball in the area gave Chelsea its second penalty kick, which Daniel didn’t miss with a rocket fired from the spot. The game ended 6-3.
With about 15 goals this season, Daniel was named the most valuable player.
“He covers all the midfield,” Coach Ortiz said. “He can shoot. He can pass.”
After taking possession of the field, the boys — and girls — in blue retreated to the park picnic tables for their banquet. Coach Ortiz handed out medals and praised each player as they munched sub sandwiches, chips and cupcakes.
After clashing against the tiny titans of soccer, the kids fell to playing Clash of Clans on their phones, trading strategies.
As the sun fell, another soccer season receded into glorious memories.