Lehigh Valley United 97’s run in the U.S. Youth Soccer national championships ended Saturday morning, with a loss to Santa Barbara SC in the semifinals of the U18 boys division in Frisco, Texas.
Santa Barbara looked dangerous from the opening whistle, with Sahid Conte creating pressure down the left flank but Lehigh goalkeeper William Smith did well to deny some early chances. In the 17th minute however, Conte snuck behind the defense and tapped home a goal to put the California club in the lead.
The Group B winners would double their lead before halftime on a Dennis Cole goal that came off a perfectly weighted through ball. Cole was able to catch up to it before getting past Smith to score on an empty net.
Santa Barbara made it 3-0 in the 51st minute on a Juan Pablo Alvarez curling left-footed free kick that beat a diving Smith.
Down three goals, Lehigh Valley’s climb back got even steeper when star forward Evan Vare was shown a second yellow in the 75th minute, after running through a heavy touch and taking out a Santa Barbara defender.
Lehigh Valley did pull a goal back in the 82nd minute with Travis Keil setting up Steven Gaber for a one-time finish in the box after some fancy footwork from Ibrahim Tounkara, but Rodney Michael responded just four minutes later to put the game out of reach.
Santa Barbara SC will play FC Golden State in the final Sunday morning.
While LVU loss eliminated the last local team from the boys competition, the U17 Explosion girls team from Bucks County club Yardley-Makefield Soccer won their semifinal 1-0 on Saturday morning to advance to the national title match against Beach FC on Sunday morning.
The match will be streamed live on U.S. Youth Soccer’s YouTube channel at 9:40 AM Eastern Time.