Fifteen boys from the Vardar Soccer Club will be making a special trip to China this summer representing the United States in the 2012 World Final of the Manchester United Premier Cup. The MUPC is the largest international youth football tournament in the world involving over 6,000 teams from over 40 countries.
To qualify for the world tournament, the Vardar squad won six games and tied one over the course of the MUPC U.S. event held May 26-28 at the Nike headquarters in Beaverton, OR. In the championship game, Vardar faced Real So Cal and came away with a 1-0 win on a goal scored by Clarkston resident Jimmy Todd. In addition to winning the tournament trophy, the Vardar boys earned the all-expenses paid trip to China for the World Final to be held July 20-23 in Shanghai.
Vardar started the U.S. event with a 2-1 win over San Diego Surf on goals scored by Travis Harrington of Macomb Twp. In a second qualifying game Vardar outscored St. Louis Scott Gallagher 3-0 with two goals by Nash Popovic of Rochester Hills and one by Todd. Game three pitted Vardar against Sockers FC with a 0-0 outcome. A fourth qualifying game had Vardar come out ahead of the Clearwater Chargers 2-0 with goals scored Popovic and AJ Shaw of Lake Orion. Then in the Quarterfinal, Vardar faced the Nomads from Southern California and came out ahead with a 2-0 win from goals scored by Jake Rosen of Livonia and Tommy Dokho of Royal Oak. In the semi-final Popovic scored two more goals to give Vardar the edge over the Fullerton Rangers 2-1. For his prolific scoring, Popovic won the MUPC Golden Boot Award (six goals total). This is the second year in a row that Popovic has earned the Golden Boot.
On the defensive end, Jake Townsley of Sterling Heights started in goal and earned four shut-outs giving up only one goal in five games. Following a minor injury to Townsley, Pearce Skinner of Grand Blanc, came into goal and played the semi-final and final giving up only one goal and earning the final shut-out.
“We had solid goal-keeping for sure,” said Morris Lupenec, Vardar Director of Coaching, “but our overall defensive effort was great too. Before the tournament even started I had a good feeling with this core of kids. They have great team chemistry and worked hard throughout . I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
The Vardar squad also included: Connor McDevitt of Rochester Hills, Giuseppe Vitale of Washington, Michael Wetungu of Rochester Hills, Willie Maddox of Troy, Zack Castle of Pleasant Ridge, Duncan Holman of Bay City and Mitch Guitar of Troy. Lupenec of Rochester Hills and Eric Pogue of Royal Oak coached the team.