The Black Bear United Under-16 boys team has players from 11 different high schools in eastern Maine.
But former Husson University men’s soccer coach Seth Brown was able to mesh them into a cohesive unit that captured the State Cup recently with a 2-1 overtime win over Odyssey from Portland.
What made the feat even more noteworthy was the fact Black Bear United had to play the game’s final 50 minutes with 10 men after a red card was issued to a United player.
That triumph has earned them a trip to the U.S. Soccer Region 1 championships July 1-6 in Barboursville, W. Va.
“That was an exciting game,” said Brown. “This team is very technical and very athletic. I’ve been with this group for two years now and they really understand the system. We have some very talented players and it is a very versatile group. I think we can go to the regional and win a game.”
Striker Sam Predham said, “I feel great about [our chances to win a game]. I don’t think a Maine team in our age group has ever won a game in the regionals. We can be the first team to do it.”
Predham is a primary reason the team beat Odyssey as he scored both goals.
“The overtime goal was the biggest goal of my career, by far,” said Predham, who will be a junior at Camden Hills High School in the fall.
He said the key to the team’s success is “great camaraderie.” He also said they always play hard and go into every game with a confident swagger.
Glenburn’s Ricky Jones, who will be a junior at John Bapst Memorial High School in Bangor, said Brown deserves a lot of credit.
“He’s a great coach. He works us hard in practice,” said midfielder Jones. “We’re always trying to improve our game.”
“He prepares us well,” agreed Levant’s Stephen Berenyi, a midfielder who will be a senior at Orrington’s Calvary Chapel.
The team played in a tournament in Needham, Mass., last weekend and went 1-0-2 as it began preparing for the regional.
“It was a good trip. We played a lot of guys. We tried different things. We tried some different shapes,” said Brown. “We played a 3-5-2 [formation] and played it very well.”
“It showed us what we need to work on,” said Jones. “We need to get more fit. We’re going to have hot weather [in the regionals] and we’ve go to be ready for it. And we have to work on our transition from defense to offense.”
“We have to focus on improving our speed of play and defensive heading,” said Brown.
Predham is one of four players from Camden Hills High School.
The other three are Wyatt LaFreniere, Malcolm Steele and Andrew Flanagan.
There are three players from Belfast in Tyler Baker, Windham Veevaert and Yanni Rakis; two apiece from Winslow (twins Finn and Pierce Ducker), Waterville (Abu Mannocchi, Jacob French) and John Bapst (Jones, Joe Ross) and one apiece from Mt. Blue of Farmington (Colton Hall), Hampden Academy (Cameron Libbey), Mount View of Thorndike (Zoli Kertesz), Messalonskee of Oakland (Jarrod Simpson), Calvary Chapel (Berenyi) and Bangor High (Alex Shi).
Brown said several of the players have been teammates since they were on the Under-12 team. The team is the result of a merger of players from the former Waterville-based Terriers organization and Black Bear United.
Baker has supplied the team with top-notch goalkeeping and they have seven players who can play in the back and provide quality and depth.
Brown also likes to see his backs get involved in the attack.
Pierce Ducker and Veevaert anchor the back line, and Berenyi, Hall and Jones are the midfield catalysts with Predham, Flanagan and Mannocchi providing them with three dangerous strikers.
The team trains twice a week at the indoor facility Field4Kids in Bangor during the winter months and practice at a variety of outdoor fields during the spring and summer, including Point Lookout in Northport and Unity College.
“These players are very, very committed,” said Brown.