While both of the Arizona teams at the US Youth Soccer National Championships just missed out on opportunities to bring home a national title, both Scottsdale Blackhawks 00 Girls and Tuzos Academy 02 Boys had individual players that were honored by being named to the Best XI Team for their age groups.
Emily Chiao, Blackhawks, was named to the U-17 Girls Best XI Team for her performance. Chiao, a recent Stanford University commit, helped her team finish group play with just two goals conceded. Blackhawks advanced to the National Championships through a berth in the National League where they went 7-0-0. Chiao scored three goals in this competition.
Jason Villalba, Tuzos, was named to the U-15 Boys Best XI after he helped his team advance to the title match. Villalba finished tied for second place in goals with four. Tuzos advanced to the National Championships by winning their age group in the Far West Regional League Championships. Villalba led all goal scorers at this competition with nine.
AYSA had a chance to catch up with these two players and spoke to them about their experience at the National Championships.
AYSA: Overall thoughts on playing at the US Youth Soccer National Championships. What was it like?
Chiao: The U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships was an amazing experience. From the perfect soccer field complex to the team luncheon. Everything in this event was set up for players to succeed. It was a professional atmosphere playing on the biggest stage in youth soccer. Being the only girls’ team from Arizona, we not only represented our club, but also our state.
Villalba: It was the experience of a lifetime. I could not have made it here without my fellow teammates and the support of my parents.
AYSA: Did anything surprise you at the National Championships?
Chiao: I was surprised at the magnitude of each game, and the importance of each goal in the tournament. Advancing to the knockout stages was decided by the difference of one goal. Otherwise, I was not surprised by anything else because my coach, Paul Taylor, prepared us very well for this event. Training in the heat of Arizona summer definitely gave us an advantage in Texas.
Villalba: The National Championships was a surprising event due to the amount of players that came together and the amount of people that came out to watch every game.
AYSA: What was the pace of play like?
Chiao: The pace of play was extremely fast. Every game brought phenomenal competition, and every team that qualified for the National Championships deserves to be there. We had to fight for results. It is an accomplishment in itself to make it to the National Championships considering only eight teams in the U-17 girl’s age group were competing for the National Title.
Villalba: The team played a lot of through ball because they had the height advantage on us.
AYSA: Thoughts on being named to the Best XI team for your age group
Chiao: Being named to the National Championship Best XI Team is such an honor. I am so thankful for my club, Scottsdale Blackhawks, my coach, Paul Taylor, and my parents for supporting me throughout this journey. I am very grateful for my team and US Youth Soccer for this incredible experience.
Villalba: Being on the Best XI Team is a dream come true because I worked really hard to get here and I can definitely say it’s an honor.
Click Here to see the entire 2017 National Championship Best XI