The Team Evanston U14 Premier Boys team won the US Youth Soccer National Presidents Cup in Greenville, SC on July 13, beating Montgomery Arsenal (PA) in tie-breaking penalty kicks (PKs) to win the prestigious national tournament title.

It was the culmination of a long journey for the Team Evanston Boys U14 Premier team. They advanced to the national stage by winning the US Youth Soccer Region II Presidents Cup on June 14th, going 3-0 against a Fort Wayne, Indiana, team, 3-0 against a Louisville, Kentucky, team, and 7-0 against a Port Washington, Wisconsin, team. This took them to the finals, where they beat a team from Columbus, Ohio, 2-0. During the Regional tournament, Team Evanston outscored its opponents 15-0 in their four games, with teammates Rudy Bieglmeier and Jonathan Meneses each scoring 4 goals and goalkeeper Simon Jillson and his defenders registering 4 straight shutouts.

Team Evanston then ventured to Greenville, South Carolina, where they played against winners of each of the other three regions for the national championship over the July 10-13 weekend. There, the team tied Montgomery Arsenal, from suburban Philadelphia, 0-0. Team Evanston had several chances but Arsenal’s goalkeeper, voted top goalkeeper in the U14 division, turned each opportunity away.

In their second game, Team Evanston went behind 0-3 to a team from Laredo, Texas, but made some tactical changes and started a comeback in the 47th minute, when Jonathan Chavez scored off a corner kick, followed by Deniz Gundogdu stealing the ball from Laredo Heat’s goalkeeper and drilling it into the open net. The game tying goal was delivered by Jonathan Meneses with less than 10 minutes to play. Team Evanston continued the pressure and had great chances to pull out the victory, but ultimately were turned away and the game resulted in a 3-3 tie.

Team Evanston then beat a team from Oxnard California 1-0 to advance to the championship game where they again played Arsenal. Both teams remained tied through regular time and through the two 10-minute extra time periods, despite Team Evanston applying a tremendous amount of pressure on the Arsenal defense and goalkeeper.

With the game locked at 0-0 after 90 minutes of play and in intensifying heat, the game moved to penalty kicks to decide the game winner and ultimately the national champion. Team Evanston’s goalkeeper Simon Jillson, with his 6 foot, two-inch frame, intimidated the Arsenal players, forcing two misses and stopping the fourth shooter.

All three of Team Evanston’s shooters, Nathan Pollack, Deniz Gundogdu and Jonathan Menesesburied their shots to secure the victory, with Johnathan Meneses ultimately being voted MVP of the tournament by the opposing three teams’ coaches.

“As a coach, I don’t like it when the game is decided by PKs [penalty kicks],” said Issac Moushi, coach of the U14 squad, “but I had confidence in all of my players. The players went wild when Simon stopped their fourth shooter to secure the national title.

“It’s a great feeling to be national champions,” said Coach Moushi. “The players didn’t know what to expect when they got here, but once the games began, they blocked the competition and played the game the way they were trained.” While the run to the championship title unveiled individual talent, Coach Moushi said it was an all-team effort. “I thought the entire defending line played very well,” he said, “and Mateo Blair and Issac Diop were key players at controlling the midfield. Jonathan Meneses created many chances up front, including scoring the only goal in our third game to advance us into the championship game on Sunday.”

Team Evanston’s Boys U14 Premier team members are Rudy Bieglmeier, Mateo Blair, Jonathan Chavez, Isaac Diop, Noah Dolan, Deniz Gundogdu, Simon Jillson, Niko Kapetan, Jonathan Meneses, Luis Molina, Nathan Pollack, Zach Rogers, Reed Schaefer, Colin Thompson and Aidan Tobin.