The nationally No. 1-ranked Palo Alto 93 Blue has some work to do if the local 18U boys' soccer team has any plans of playing for the championship of the US Youth Soccer National Championship Series on Sunday in Phoenix, Ariz.
Palo Alto opened play in the four-team, round-robin tournament with a 2-1 loss to defending champion and national No. 2 Alpharetta Rush (Ga.) on Wednesday, despite a last-minute first half goal and a sustained attack in the second half.
Alpharetta Rush scored its first goal at 11:10 on a short corner play and scored its second at 29:50 on a steal and a breakaway.
At the 46:00 mark, Palo Alto was awarded a free kick from 30 yards out and Riley Hanley from Mountain View High scored on a direct kick that beat the keeper cleanly, shortly before the first half ended.
To start the second half, Palo Alto shifted to a 4-5-1 to slow down the speedy Georgians and mount an attack up the middle. The tactic worked as Palo Alto carried the run of play and had five good scoring chances, but could not score again.
Palo Alto will play the YMS Thunder of Yardley (Pa.) on Thursday night at 8 p.m. The Thunder won its opening match, 2-1, over Kansas City on a late goal.
Palo Alto's offensive attack will be strengthened as Juan Gamez returns to the lineup after sitting out Wednesday's opener because of a red card he received in the regional championship.
The top two teams from the round-robin stage will advance to Sunday morning's title match.
The Palo Alto 93 Blue has played together since 2002. This is their first trip to nationals. Palo Alto had to win the Northern California State Championship and the Far West Regional Championship to qualify for the trip to Phoenix.
The players are recent high school graduates so this will be their last time playing together as a team.
Team members include Trevor Assaf (Crystal Springs), Cameron McElfresh (Gunn), Andrew Wohl (Gunn), Mackenzie Kelley (Mountain View), Sam Hayward (Gunn), Mark Raftrey (Palo Alto), Zach Hummel (Palo Alto), Miguel Vazquez (Half Moon Bay), Yotam Kasznik (Gunn), Daniel Tirosh (Gunn), Juan Gamez (Mission, SF), Grahame Fitz (Summit Prep), Ian Leung (St. Francis), Evan Coutre (St. Francis), Jose Mendoza (UNLV), Alexander Beloff (Carlmont), Ricky Minno (Palo Alto) and Hanley.
The Menlo Park Legends will close out their home season on Thursday after losing only their first home game of the season on Wednesday, 5-3 to the San Francisco Seagulls at Menlo College.
Menlo Park (25-17) will host Pro Player Baseball of Sacramento on Thursday (4:30 p.m.) at Menlo.
The Legends fell to the Seagulls despite a pinch-hit solo home run by player-manager David Klein in the bottom of the ninth inning. A triple by Grant Nelson and a sacrifice fly by Chris Hoo gave Menlo Park its first run.
Menlo Park lost two of three games to the host Santa Barbara Foresters last weekend. Santa Barbara is ranked No. 2 in the nation.