When Yordan Hristov first got together with the group of players that would go on to comprise the foundation for the current Princeton FC 2002 Boys Boca soccer team, expectations were tempered a bit.
“I took over the team in the fall of 2013 and then we started to build it,” said Hristov, the team’s head coach. “Back then it was a team of 10 players and they played 8v8 and then piece by piece we added some more players to the roster. It took us four to four-and-a-half years to get where we are.”
Where the team is now is as good as it gets. The team won the Mid-Atlantic Regional, which was held in Somerset June 30-July 3. The regional title sent PFC Boca to the US Club National Cup XVII Finals in Aurora, Colorado, where the team came away with a national championship on July 24 with a 3-1 win over FC Cardinals-Mancity ’02 of North Carolina.
“The goal was always to get to the highest possible level with the players we have,” Hristov said. “It was a process. It’s not easy to achieve that kind of success with local players in the short period we had. But we have worked hard to get where we are.”
The core of the team is made up of players who attend Princeton High School. But there also players from the surrounding area that are part of the team as well. There are players on the team who attend Princeton Day School, Lawrenceville, Hightstown and West Windsor-Plainsboro South among other schools.
“We don’t have players from far away,” Hristov said. “We’re pretty much all local players with the addition of a couple from Pennsylvania. They see each other all the time in their high school programs and will face each other in the fall.”
Princeton opened the national tournament against South Dakota United Crew. After a scoreless first half, Boca found the opposition net twice in the second half to win the game 2-0. Jose Rodriguez-Chacon and Ian Pompliano were able to convert and score goals.
Against GPS Charleston South Carolina, who also won their first game, the teams played to a scoreless first half. Immediately after the break, Princeton used a defensive mistake and Herbert Ramirez capitalized for 1-0. In the remaining minutes both teams produced interesting soccer, but Boca kept the lead to win the game.
The third game for Boca was against a team from Indiana - Y16 International 02. Brandon Sagbo scored the first goal after a very good combination with Daniel Ingersoll. After the score became tied at 1-1, Boca responded well and just a few minutes later after a good dribble-penetration Silvio Aparicio was fouled just outside the penalty box, left side of the goal. Ingersoll, the team's free kick specialist from that range and angle, stepped up and placed the ball perfectly in the far side of goal for a 2-1 win.
After winning all three group games PFC Boca booked its place in the final. In the other group the team from North Carolina finished on top.
The Cardinals had a chance to score in the first 20 seconds of the game and only the reaction of Boca's goalkeeper Jared Bell prevented what would have been a very bad start for the Princeton FC boys. Boca recovered quickly and tried to establish control of the game by using their signature style - quick ball movement.
After a scoreless first half, Ingersoll scored with a long-range shot for 1-0 lead. Sagbo scored a few minutes later to take a 2-0 lead. The Cardinals cut the lead to 2-1 before Pompliano scored to make it a 3-1 game and give Boca a national title.
“It started from the regionals,” Hristov said of the team’s success. “We got into that competition and it was our second time trying. Last year we didn’t get this far. I think this year we were a little more motivated and that showed on field. The regional was a great experience and after we won that we believed the sky was the limit.
“Game by game in nationals we saw tough opponents with different styles of play. We played teams from South Dakota, South Carolina, Indiana and then North Carolina. We had never heard about those team or what we were getting into. It was a great experience and we adjusted to what each one was doing on the field.”
The PFC Boca roster at nationals included Xavier Guerreiro, Connor Staples, Aron Szoke, Brandon Sagbo, Jose Rodriguez-Chacon, Silvio Aparicio, Ian Cabrera, Noah LaPoint, Daniel Ingersoll, Herbert Ramirez, Jared Bell, Andres Argueta, Simon Sheppard and Ian Pompliano
“New Jersey is a strong soccer state,” Hristov said. “It comes down to getting the right players and putting them all together and making them believe they can achieve a lot. It is not an overnight thing. We’re not as famous as some of the other programs around. It was a carefully planned process to get here. It is all about the support from the club, the parents and everyone that believes in what we were doing. The players understood this is what it would be.”