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Eastside FC Boys 94 Red Win US Youth Soccer National League, Clinch National Championships Berth

Eight months ago, Dan Strom's Eastside FC Boys 94 Red won US Youth Soccer Washington State Championships and Far West Regional titles, before seeing their season end just one step shy of their ultimate goal — a chance to play in the US Youth Soccer National Championships Final.

As the team met after the game, Strom told them to keep their heads up — they'd be back.

Last month, Strom's words became reality, as the Eastside FC Boys 94 Red rolled through an elite field in the US Youth Soccer National League Under-17 division to claim the National League crown and an automatic berth at the 2012 US Youth Soccer National Championships in July.

It's only the beginning.

"I think if you come in one year, it's tough to win [the National League] because you don't understand that every game requires you to play your best and be effective," says Strom. "This year, we're a much better defending group, a much more balanced team, and we've learned how to win close games."

Strom's words are an understatement — in their run through the National League, the Eastside FC boys weren't just better defensively, they were perfect, allowing zero goals in six games (all against teams ranked in the top-20 nationally) to become just the fourth team ever to complete National League play with a clean sheet.

That stellar defense was offset by 17 goals of their own, including two each from Beau Blanchard and Jordan Morris (who has committed to Stanford) and another by Madison Heck in a 5-0 win over North Carolina's 94 HFC Red that clinched the National League crown.

Their title guarantees the team a berth at the US Youth Soccer National Championships, July 23-29 in South Carolina, where they will face the winners of the four US Youth Soccer Regional Championships and another National League team for the prestigious National Championship trophy. Strom says his team is motivated by a second chance at the illustrious crown.

"It is quite an honor to return after our third-place finish last year with a chance to try again," he says. "Very few players get the chance to play on that stage once, let alone two years running. I believe the boys will relish that opportunity."

With US Youth Soccer Washington State Championships and National League titles already under their belts in 2012, the Eastside FC boys will break for the high school season before beginning the run-up to Nationals at the Far West Regionals in June.

Despite having their place in the National Championship decided, Strom says the boys will have plenty of motivation to defend their 2011 Far West Regional crown and ensure that they head to Nationals with plenty of momentum.

"We haven't lost a game all year," he notes. "It's a great group of players. Great personality [and] character, and they train consistently. I'm a fortunate coach to be able to work with this level of players. Clearly, every team wants to win a national title. We're excited, very excited."

For complete results from the 2012 US Youth Soccer National League, click here!

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