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Turlock soccer team returns from Portugal with memories for a lifetime
TSP Portugal trip
The Turlock Sports Park 2007 Boys (U16 team) pose for a team photo ahead of one of their five games at the 2023 IBERCup international youth soccer tournament in Cascais, Portugal last week (Photo contributed).

Five matches and just one loss for the Turlock Sports Park 2007 Boys (U16 team) over the course of a week at the international IBERCup tournament in Cascais, Portugal earlier this month. And though the team didn’t arrive home with any medals, they returned to Turlock with countless memories.

The squad started their journey in the IBERCup by stringing together two straight wins against Portugal’s Atlético CP 3-0 and FC Alverca 2-1. In their third game, they played to a draw with Portugal’s Efbo 0-0 before earning a win over the Arsenal 72 Portuguese team by a 1-0 score.

In the club’s fifth game in the quarterfinal round, they lost to Malahide United of Ireland by a 2-0 score, though head coach Fred Rasuli and TSP director Broc Hamilton feel as if the match was refereed in favor of the Irish club.

“[It] felt one-sided, with 17 fouls called, two yellow cards and 16 free kicks awarded to our opponents,” Rasuli said.

TSP goal scorers for the tournament were Diego Lopez, Davian Evelo Lizarraga, Alan Santiago Alvarez (2), Carlos Javier Fernandez Garibay and Tanka Kenzan Yang Tahte.  And despite bowing out of the tournament, Rasuli had some positive takeaways to share.

“We are stronger than ever. We played some of our best games. We are a deeper rooted family because of this. We outplayed formations and tactics not seen before in the US. We played at a very high level of intensity and passion,” he said.

Additionally, the TSP 2007 Boys are now internationally ranked at 1452nd youth club in the world. Of the 2007 age range and group stage, their coaching staff is now ranked second in IBERCup competition.

“We did what most thought was the impossible several years ago. We are now looking towards the future with experience very few have experienced,” Rasuli continued. “[Our players] are heroes to many young players and siblings that were watching.”

While the team travelled to Portugal on a mission to win the tournament, they still had time to be tourists for a few hours, visiting landmarks and attending a S.L. Benfica professional soccer game.

Amid the success on the pitch and the awe of experiencing European soccer up close, Rasuli was most grateful for having the players experience the Portuguese culture and interact with the people.

“Most importantly, we were amongst the people of Portugal, who made us feel at home and welcomed us with open arms.”