First a provincial champion, Tillsonburg's Lucas Deutsch is now a national champion after his North London soccer team won the 2014 National Championships in Prince Edward Island on Monday.
Deutsch, 14, has played five seasons with the North London Soccer Club, first joinging the 1999 team as an underage player, and two years later switching to North London's Elite 2000 to play in his own age group.
The N.L. Elites had promoted from WOYSL L3 to OYSL for the 2014 season where the finished third in a six-team U14 West L1 Division behind Oakville and Brampton, losing just three games in the regular season.
"It was a big jump," said Deutsch, describing the transition from L3 to L1. "It was a lot different, we had to work a lot harder than we wanted to score goals, keep the lead, and keep trying to score."
The pace of the game was quicker, he said, and it was harder to beat players one-on-one.
"You have less time because they were all a lot faster. All the better teams from L3 always go up, so they stand out. They're really tough to get around. Instead of just trying to beat a guy by yourself you have to use your teammates to help you get closer to the goal."
Deutsch played a number of positions on the Elite, including centre mid and right wing. His time on the field varied, but in general he tended to play 45 minutes per game – sometimes more, sometimes less.
The team switched from a 3-5-2 system to a 4-4-2 with an extra player in the back.
"Pass, move, get open, stay open, don't just play through balls to the strikers," he said, describing the midfield priorities.
North London Elite's post season began with an Ontario Cup preliminary round in Thunder Bay (July 25-27). They had a bye in an earlier 12-team tournament-style elmination round (June 6-8), which was open to teams from any level (L6 to L3).
The team flew to Thunder Bay – Deutsch's first time flying to a soccer game – where they played in Group 11 against L3 teams Mississauga Dixie Blue, Markham Lightning and Thunder Bay Chill.
"We won against Thunder Bay 10-1, then won against Mississauga Dixie 10-0," said Deutsch. "Then we tied Markham Lightning 1-1. The only reason we went on was we had a lot of goals. Markham beat Thunder Bay Chill 10-1, and I think they beat Mississauga 9-0. It was a one-goal difference."
Deutsch played a part in North London's game-tying goal against Markham. Going for a head ball, a Markham player kicked too high and caught Deutsch in the head. Deustch took the 30-yard free kick, chipping it into the 18-yard box, and scored... indirectly. It was actually an own goal, kicked in by a Markham player.
Moving on to Ontario Cup quarter-finals, a one-game showdown in London, North London defeated L1 Toronto Mooredale Gold 3-2 on August 9.
"We were down 2-0, and in about the last 10 minutes we scored both of our goals to tie 2-2. Then we went straight into PKs."
Deutsch scored on his attempt as the seventh shooter, striking cleanly into the bottom right corner.
"If I missed, they would have won. But I didn't really know that when I was shooting."
The next Mooredale shooter missed and North London scored to win 3-2.
North London shot through the August 24th semifinals in Waterloo with another 3-2 penalty shootout victory after tying Brampton Blast 0-0 in regulation, clinching it with a penalty shot straight up the middle.
"He knew the goalie from Provincials, so he knew he always dives."
There weren't a lot of scoring opportunities in regulation time, said Lucas' dad Frank Deutsch, a North London assistant coach.
"It wasn't the greatest game for both teams," said Frank, noting there were pre-game player introductions and a national anthem. "It's like they were nervous..."
"No one wanted to make a mistake," Lucas nodded. "No one was really pushing trying to score goals."
"I think I remember one chance in the last five minutes where we almost could have scored," said Frank. "Again, it wasn't a great chance. Both teams were very cautious."
North London advanced to Ontario Cup finals in Oshawa where they played Oakville (Sept. 6) in a live-streamed game (available on the OSA website).
This time it didn't go to penalty shots, North London won 2-0 to claim the provincial title.
"We just played well as a team," said Lucas.
"They (Oakville) started really strong," said Frank. "They took it to us in the first few minutes, then we settled down and played even after that. In the second half the guys got stronger, you could just see them getting better and better and better..."
Lucas was involved in the winning goal, starting the buildup which led to the winner after a series of passes, initially losing the ball but getting it back with a good second effort.
It was his first time lifting the Ontario Cup trophy.
"And I hope not my last," he smiled.
The provincial champs went on to play at the 2014 U14 National Championships in Charlottetown, PEI, Oct. 8-13, where they defeated Coastal FC (British Columbia) 2-1 on Monday. North London's Matthew Paquette scored both goals in the first half for the Elite. BC scored in the 55th minute, but 'Ontario' held on for the 2-1 victory.
North London U14 boys win national championship
The North London Elite 2000 boys under-14 team are Canadian champions.
North London defeated British Columbia 2-1 Monday in Prince Edward Island to win the national championship.
The team got two first-half goals from Mathew Paquette, then rode an outstanding defence to the win. The Elite bring a national championship back to North London for the eighth time in club history.
“It was a week-long journey that none of us will ever forget,” said head coach Bobby Ferreira.
The London squad overcame a number of pressure games, but was full value for the tournament win.
“The boys were solid front-to-back in the championship game,” Ferreira said. “We got stronger and stronger as the first half progressed and were able to capitalize on our chances.”
The B.C. squad, from Fraser Valley, came out with a big push in the second half.
“We made one mistake, which cost us a goal,” Ferreira said. “But the boys were calm and composed. The goal did not faze the boys and they played strongly until the final whistle.”
Ferreira says this championship was earned by his players throughout the year.
“Personally, this is the highest accomplishment for me as a coach, something I will never, ever forget,” he said.
“It’s been three years that I’ve been with this group and it has culminated with this.”