Don’t miss Orioles players, John Means & Paul Fry, as they guest host at our Brews and O’s event!

Under-19 Spirit opens national tourney today


BLAINE, Minn. -- The under-19 Baltimore Spirit has proved to be explosive on offense. As with most successful soccer teams, however, a potent attack usually is initiated by an effective defense.

The Spirit, four-time defending Maryland Cup champs, outscored opponents 35-4 in five victories that earned the Baltimoreans their first U.S. Youth Soccer Region I crown.

"We play good team defense. That helps the offense," said striker Bryan Bugarin, whose seven goals in regional play were one fewer than those by midfielder Mike Henning. "Offense comes natural for us. We're naturally an attacking team."

The first Baltimore-area team in any age group to advance to the national tournament in seven years, the Spirit opens play in the Snickers USYS National Championships today with a McGuire Cup semifinal against the Salsa of Riverside, Calif., at the National Sports Center at 3 p.m. The other semifinal matches Vardar III of Livonia, Mich., against Countryside Lightning of Clearwater, Fla., at 6 p.m.

The championship match is scheduled for Sunday at 8:30 p.m., preceded by the third-place game at 5 p.m.

The Spirit is a mature side. Of its 16 players, 11 have completed TTC two years of college and five are sophomores, giving the squad )) more collegiate experience than any team ever in the nationals.

The Salsa, in comparison, has no college players.

"We'll be more fit and more physical than the other teams," said midfielder Matt Nesbitt.

Nesbitt agreed the Spirit's success starts in the back. "We try to get numbers behind the ball," said the son of coach Dave Nesbitt. Opponents "shouldn't be able to go down the middle. They're going to have to go over the top or on the outside. We should always have at least eight players behind the ball."

Also helping the Spirit is the close-knit nature of the team on which many players have been friends and teammates since adolescent days. For example, six team members graduated from Calvert Hall; four of those now play for UMBC.

On the Spirit are three Baltimore scholastic players of the year: Bugarin (1991), J. J. Kremer (1992) and Shane Dougherty (1993). They are an aggressive lot.

"Most of us, we've been on this team since we were little, even before high school. That helps," said sweeper Mike Barger. "We like running. We make it hard [for the opposition]. We're all over you all the time, never give you a chance to do anything."


Player, High school, College

Anthony Adams, Calvert Hall, UMBC

Fred Addison, Centreville (Va.), George Washington

Josh Baer, Centennial, James Madison

Jeremy Baker, Calvert Hall, Richmond

Mike Barger, Calvert Hall, Loyola

Bryan Bugarin, Calvert Hall, UMBC

Shane Dougherty, Fallston, Maryland

Chris Eatough, Fallston, Clemson

Daniel Gaertner, Atholton, Mount St. Mary's

Mike Henning, Towson, Randolph-Macon

Todd Hicks, Bowie, Towson State

J. J. Kremer, Calvert Hall, UMBC

Matt Nesbitt, Wilde Lake, George Washington

C. J. Norton, Rockville, UMBC

Russell Payne, Atholton, Maryland

Jorge Stecco, Calvert Hall, UMBC

Head coach: Dave Nesbitt

Assistant coach: Josh Flyr

Manager: Gerry Kremer

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad