CARROLLTON, Texas -- FC Dallas Youth '97B went into halftime of the Copa ESPN Boys Under-14 final tied with defending champions Inocentes Jr and needing a little encouragement during the 10-minute break.
Midfielder Weston McKennie -- the shortest player on the field -- motivated the team right before they hit the field, yelling, “I believe in FCD!”
McKennie helped his on the field, as well, scoring the only goal in the second half to give FC Dallas a 2-1 victory over to claim the championship.
“I got it from a march whenever we were marching for an FC Dallas game,” McKennie said about the chant. “I kind of learned it from there. We have to march from a restaurant all the way to the FC Dallas stadium [Pizza Hut Park] and there’s a guy chanting it, so I kind of remembered it.”
McKennie’s blast came from outside the penalty box, bending the ball into the top left corner. As natural as McKennie looked on the attack, it’s not something he’s accustomed to.
“I’m really the assister,” McKennie said. “But as a midfielder, whenever you have to take the shot to get it done you have to do it.”
A starting spot in the finals wasn’t forecasted for the MVP of the tournament. FC Dallas captain Adam Gutierrez suffered an ankle injury in the first match that sidelined him for the rest of the weekend. McKennie filled in and FC Dallas didn’t miss a beat, going a perfect 5-0 during the tournament and allowing only one goal.
“I think what worked really well was our commitment from the boys,” FC Dallas manager Jessie Suarez said. “They really stuck it out. We had a lot of injuries throughout the weekend, and the boys’ heart and passion really stuck out.”
Along with the accolades of winning the Copa ESPN championship, FC Dallas will receive an all-expenses paid trip to Orlando, Fla., to participate in the Disney Cup International on July 11-16 at Disney World.
And as much as McKennie enjoys jumping on his favorite ride -- Mount Everest -- he’s looking forward to the international competition during his fourth trip to Disney World.
“It’s very exciting. It’s shocking because I’ve never played in an International Cup, so it’s going to be a great experience.”
BOYS UNDER-16 FINAL
When Atlas and Kicks FC '96BC were paired in the semifinals, tournament officials elected to change the format to avoid further escalation from their first match -- a 1-1 draw that was called early by the referees due to the unsportsmanlike play.
But both teams won their semifinals matches to meet in the final, where Atlas won 1-0 to claim the Under-16 championship. And the physical play grew heated once again.
“It’s sad that the game had to end up like that, but the players were all tempered up,” Atlas manager Miguel Bega said through a translator. “At least we kept our cool and won the game.”
The referee didn’t hand out a card in the first half, but reaching for his back pocket became second nature in the second half. Eight yellow cards were issued after halftime, and four players were ejected with red cards in the tightly-contested battle.
“We’re two aggressive teams and when two aggressive teams go at each other, they get problems,” said midfielder Ismael Gurrusqueta, who scored the lone goal of a beautiful header off a corner kick.
The teams will meet up once more in a friendly at Pizza Hut Park at the conclusion of an FC Dallas game.