Soccer player's trip to Spain isn't in vain

Courtesy of Philip Denkabe
Los Altos resident Mwinso Denkabe controls the ball in a game during his id² National Selection Team’s recent trip to Spain.

The United States isn’t known as an international power in men’s soccer, but Los Altos resident Mwinso Denkabe and the rest of US Club Soccer’s id² National Selection Team recently served notice that America is making strides in the sport.

The squad of 14- and 15-year-old boys capped last month’s successful tour of Spain by becoming the first U.S. team to reach the quarterfinals of the Mediterranean International Cup.

“We did really well,” said Mwinso, an eighth-grader at Egan Junior High. “It was pretty exciting.”

The Americans went 5-1 in the tournament, losing only to FC Internazionale Milano of Italy in a game decided by penalty kicks after the teams played to a scoreless draw.

“It wasn’t good,” Mwinso said of losing 4-2 on PKs, “but everybody was happy we reached the quarterfinals in such a big tournament.”

His team didn’t allow a goal in the tourney or in the friendly game it played at the start of the 10-day tour of Spain. That makes this group the first in the eight-year history of the National Selection International Tour to accomplish this feat.

Mwinso and his 17 teammates – selected for the tour after attending one of four regional camps in December – didn’t have much time to play together prior to the trip. They arrived in New Jersey April 6 for two days of training before heading to Spain.

“We all became friends pretty quickly,” said Mwinso, who played forward and as an attacking midfielder for the team, “and the coaches were nice and helpful.”

The day after flying to Barcelona, the squad scrimmaged Girona and won 6-0. Mwinso notched a goal and two assists in the game.

The team traveled to Costa Brava the next day for the Mediterranean International Cup. In their opener April 12, the Americans triumphed 3-0 over CDAFB Tegueste (Canary Islands). They played two games the following day, routing Shangwen-Nama (China) and Hapoel Ramat Gan (Israel) 7-0 and 4-0, respectively. Mwinso scored two goals and recorded a couple of assists against Shangwen-Nama.

After dominating the group stage of the tourney, the U.S. advanced to the knockout stage the following day. Mwinso scored his team’s second goal in a 4-0 victory over UD Perfeccionamiento Global (Spain), and the Americans returned to the field later that day to edge Club Gimnastic de Manresa (Spain) 1-0.

Although they lost in the quarters the next day, the Americans left Spain on a high note.

“We watched (professional soccer team FC) Barcelona play a game in the stadium that night, which was really fun,” Mwinso said, “and the next day we went to the beach and had fun.”

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