PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The motto is “One Club, One Family” and for the Florida Premier FC U14 boys soccer team, they have chosen to abide by it on and off the field.
“All of my teammates, we have been together for so long so we know each other,” explained Cristian Ortiz. “We are brothers so that is why we have a special bond.”
Ortiz, who moved from New York to Florida with his family about seven years ago, has been with the club since arriving in the Sunshine State. He joined the U7 team and after seven years together, that team is essentially the U14 team. The team has grown with the addition of a handful of new players but the core, which includes Ortiz, has remained intact.
“I see my teammates all of the time. I hang out with them outside of school. I go stay the night with them. It is so fun,” said Ortiz. “They are like my second brothers.”
Nathan Bender, the director of soccer at Florida Premier FC, believes that that is one of the reasons this team has achieved this amount of success. They are the first team from Pasco County to reach the final four stage of the ECNL Boys National Finals.
“We are really excited about that and proud to represent Pasco County in general,” said Bender. “We have been able to keep them together, the core of the team, since they were young, which I think is evident when you watch them play. They are kind of like one organism moving on the field. They understand each other’s movements on attack and on defense and then they also have an incredible brotherhood.”
He added this team has been the “flagship team” for the club after it decided to implement some changes in philosophy and in methodology.
“I think it is great for us to see that, ‘Hey, these methods are successful,’ because there are lots of ups and downs in sports and in life,” said Bender.
The team will fly to St. Louis, Missouri, on Friday morning to compete for a national championship. Bender shared what he is most looking forward to in regards to this journey.
“I think what I am the most excited about is to see how they handle the moment,” he said, “how they handle the adversity and the pressure of this situation because we have tried to prepare them as best we can for this.”
This U14 team has actually previously played the team they are scheduled to face in their first game on Saturday morning, the San Diego Soccer Club. They lost to them by a score of 1-0 about four months ago.
“I am excited to see how do they respond, how do they learn from what we found out the first time we played them, and what we have prepared for and can they execute and play at their best ability,” said Bender, “and we think, if they perform at their best ability, they will win so we are more focused on making sure that we perform and show up and I think the boys will and I am excited to see that.”
“We are like one team. We are all together,” said Ortiz, “so, tomorrow, when we leave, it is game time from then so we just have to focus on that and, whatever happens in St. Louis, we leave in St. Louis.”