Chaffee County United Soccer wrapped up it’s 2019 season, which included an elite-level win for the club’s U15 girls team at Farmington, N.M.’s Socctoberfest tournament on the first weekend of November.
The girls beat the Layton Strikers of Utah 4-0 to win the tournament, hosted by the Four Corners Youth Soccer League.
Earlier in the bracket, the Chaffee County team beat the GSL All-Stars, the 17th ranked team in New Mexico, 9-0.
“It was awesome, it was so sweet. The girls played out of their minds. It was so cool to see. Everything came together,” said coach Scott McFarland.
The win, a highlight in an undefeated season, is especially impressive to McFarland considering how far the team has come in just three years.
“When we first started three years ago, we were ranked 178th out of 186 teams, so we were pretty bad. Our newest ranking is going to be around 40,” McFarland said. “We are now approaching being one of the top teams in the Centennial League.”
Chaffee County United Soccer is a sanctioned team through Colorado Soccer and U.S. Soccer. The girls team has 10 players from Salida, 4 from Buena Vista and one from Fairplay.
Practicing three nights a week during its season beginning in August, once in BV, once in Salida and once in a location that rotates between the two, the kids do homework on the way to practice and train in spite of inclement weather.
“We had lost a couple players to volleyball, so I was worried that we weren’t going to be as good as we were the year before, but it turned out that we were even better,” McFarland said. “Girls stepped up, girls went to camp over the summer, spent a lot of time on the ball, worked really hard. When we got together for Team Camp I was like, ‘Wow, you girls are way better than I thought you would be!’
McFarland always knew that his team would someday be good, “but I never knew it was going to happen as fast as it did … This year we climbed it about 20 spots ranking-wise. Teams that we used to play really close, like 2-1, 2-0, we were beating 7-0.”
How does he account for this? In a word: “Commitment,” McFarland said.
“I can think back to last spring,” McFarland said. “There was a day, down in Salida it didn’t snow, but my parents up in BV said, ‘Oh, it snowed up here,’ and it was 25 degrees.
“I thought, well, we’re supposed to train in BV, it’s too late to try and switch it around, so we’re just going to drive to BV and make the most of it. It was about 25 degrees with 2.5 inches on the ground. At the time I had 15 girls on my roster and 13 of them showed up. That’s commitment. That’s the difference maker, right?”
Having a fresh coating of snow limits how much you can practice, but the team nevertheless did drills, ball handling work, conditioning, and wrapped things up with a 45-minute pickup game of 7v7 with McFarland playing as well.
“We played for 45 minutes in the snow. We just played,” McFarland said. “It was super fun. Girls sliding around in the snow and Dixie’s out there with her shorts on. It was wild. But I believe it’s that, and the support from the parents, and all the little things that help a team.”
McFarland said that the U13 Boys team has that same spirit.
“The U-13 boys have a really special team. Who knows where they could take this team,” he said.
At Farmington, the boys beat the Farmington United Cobras 6-0, the Bloomfield Youth Outlaws (of Bloomfield, N.M.) 4-1, the Pagosa Youth Rangers 6-0 and tied the Zuni Youth Soccer Thundersticks (of Zuni, N.M.) 2-2.
In larger clubs, more kids try out than there are spaces on the team, meaning there have to be cuts, but McFarland sees the benefit in a smaller league.
“The benefit for our boys and our girls is that they stick together,” he said. “We get to play 12 seasons together, and that’s a huge advantage. Most clubs don’t get that, they’re shuffling kids in, shuffling kids out … We train together, we live together, we go to school together, we trust each other, and that shows on the pitch.”
At Farmington, the teams got to see all of that dedication pay off.
“The atmosphere at this tournament, when I had all the medals, and I was putting the medals around the girls necks, every single time, the girls were cheering, like ‘Grace! Yeah, Grace!’ Then it’d calm back down a bit, then I’d get the next medal and put it on the next person and they would do the same thing, ‘Yeah! Dixie! Yeah!”
“I’ve never had that before. It just showed how they knew they earned it,” he said.