Jose Ocampo stands only 5 foot, 6 inches and weights 140 pounds, but there is much more to the Crossfire Premier defender than initially meets the eye.
The same can be said of Ocampo's Premier backlinemates Rafael Sanchez, David Gebert and Uche Ugwoaba, who collectively have been neutralizing the giants of the under-17/18 U.S. Soccer Development Academy lately.
"That back four has been intact for a lot of the season, and all four of them have been playing well," said Premier coach Bernie James, who rotates goalies Mike Arguello and Ian Clark. "I think that we're fortunate that that defensive back four has been together for most of the games."
During last Thursday's 4-0 shutout victory over first-place Vancouver Whitecaps, Crossfire put the clamps on Vancouver's 6-foot-1, 175-pound goal-scorer Caleb Clarke. The 18-year-old entered the game with an Academy-best 21 goals, which included two against Crossfire in Vancouver's 3-0 win in the previous meeting.
"We were just ready at all times and we just kept tight on him. We didn't allow him any space, and whenever he got on the ball, we just had someone there who was ready to go against him," said Ocampo, crediting Ugwoaba for his play against Clarke.
"Our center back, Uche, he was just always on the guy. [Clarke] tended to slide a little more to the right side, toward Uche, and Uche was just on him very tight and just didn't allow him any space."
Although the Whitecaps still lead the Northwest Division with a mark of 9-2-2 and an overall record of 16-5-3 in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, the loss to the
Crossfire Premier ended their run of eight straight victories.
In the match, Crossfire also shut down Whitecaps players such as right winger Yassin Essa (13 goals), forward Carlos Marquez (eight) and left wingers Spencer De Boice and Sebastian Cabrera, who have scored six goals apiece.
Meanwhile, Gebert converted his sixth goal of the season, midfielder Conner Pichette came up with his third, and Sanchez and forward Jacob Hallgrimson, their second goals during the win over the Whitecaps.
Crossfire forward Hamza Haddadi has 14 goals on the season, midfielder Carlos Aceves-Dela Cruz has seven, midfielder Ian Adam has six, and midfielder Jonathan Alvarez, two.
"As a team, we don't have the most skill if you were to compare us to the other teams," said Ocampo, whose team is in fourth place in the Northwest Division. "But we've just come out lately and given it all of the energy that we've had for the full time during the games."
Crossfire extended its win streak to four matches, which includes triumphs over Chivas USA and the LA Galaxy, the top two teams in the SoCal Division.
"Those three teams -- LA Galaxy, Chivas and Vancouver, they're three of the top teams in the nation," Ocampo said. "All of those victories have just pumped us up and give us a lot of confidence. So we're doing well, right now, and we feel like we can take on anyone."