Drew White can still hear the whistle, the one signaling a U.S. Youth Soccer National Championship for him and his EastSide United FC Liverpool teammates.
“They were just pounding us with the ball, nonstop for the last 10 minutes,” said the Camas High School senior. “The most incredible feeling was when that final whistle blew. I just turned around and knelt down at the 18, and then embraced my teammates.
“There’s nothing like winning a national championship,” White added. “I just wanted to enjoy the moment.”
EastSide United Liverpool Red, a club team from Gresham, Ore., defeated Shattuck-St. Mary’s of Minnesota for the U-18 national championship July 25, at Overland Park, Kan. White held down the fort on defense, as the left outside back.
“My job was to not let their main forward in on the attack. They did not score on us the entire game. We did our job,” White said. “Our coach said, ‘defense wins championships.’ That just proves it, right there. We only allowed two goals the entire tournament.”
Four other soccer players from Clark County joined White on EastSide. Mikhail Doholis, a junior at Union High School in Camas, nailed the decisive goal in the championship game. He led all scorers at nationals with three goals.
Midfielders Sujinda Dangvan and Steven Hughes from Vancouver contributed on offense. Dangvan graduated from Mountain View High School in 2009. He is about to start his sophomore season at Western Washington University. After graduating from Columbia River High School this year, Hughes will be joining Dangvan at Western Washington.
Although an injury kept him out of action during the national tournament, Camas High School graduate Connor Valenter helped EastSide capture the Region 4 championship in New Mexico in June.
“We all come from different schools in the area, and we play against each other all of the time,” White said. “It’s fun to be on the same team because they’re all good players.”
EastSide lost to Shattuck-St. Mary’s in the first game, before beating all three regional champions to bring home the national title. Doholis delivered two goals, and Richard Carrillo added one, to lead Liverpool to a 3-1 victory over 91 TUSA Gold. Liverpool then beat YMS Xplosion 3-0 in the semifinals, on goals by Tyler Pummel, Steven Evans and Hughes. EastSide and Shattuck-St. Mary’s met again in the championship game.
“We were excited when we got to play them in the finals. We knew we were ready,” White said. “In big games like that, you get so focused that you can’t hear all of the noise. Everybody was just so pumped up. It felt like a different energy.”
The win was breathtaking for White. He said about a 100 fans from Clark County were in attendance. When the players arrived home at about 10:30 p.m. that same night, more people waited to greet them at the Portland airport.
“Everybody was so tired, and half asleep, when we got off the plane. To have like 50 for 60 people waiting for us was amazing,” White said. “It was all of the people who have always been there for you, your friends and your family. It was a cool experience I’ll never forget.”
White recently agreed to play soccer at the University of Washington, where he will reunite with Papermaker alums Brent Richards and Quinton Beasley.
“I’ve worked my tail off on my grades to get to the college I wanted to go to,” White said. “I’m looking forward to playing soccer all of the time, and enjoying my last year of high school around my friends.”
In the meantime, White will be a part of the Seattle Sounders Academy. The only downside is he will not be able to play football for the Papermakers this fall. He will have to wait until high school soccer in the spring to play in the new Doc Harris Stadium.
“The kickoff for that first football game is going to be incredible,” White said. “I’m sad about not being able to play football, but I guess it’s a sacrifice I have to make.
“I just want to continue playing soccer every day,” he said. “I feel like I’m on the right path now. I just want to keep going.”