The message from coach Steve Boone for his Flathead Valley United 2003 boys premier soccer team this weekend regarding the Montana State Cup is simple.
“Stay loose,” he said of what he’ll tell his players.
“Be competitive like you are and have fun.”
That has been the magic formula so to speak for the United 2003 this spring season in Montana Youth Soccer Association play as the determined and hard-working group has compiled an impressive 10-1 record. That mark should also label them as one of the favorites to capture the State Cup in their age group when play opens today and ends Sunday at Kidsports Complex.
United 2003 lost their first game on the state schedule back in early April 4-0 to the Missoula Strikers in Missoula, but have bounced back with nothing but victories since then.
“The first game of season, we hadn’t been on grass, they had and were ahead of us a little bit,” Boone said.
“Since then, everything has been neutralized.”
Boone, 67, has been coaching for 25 years. He has won State Cup titles with older Flathead teams over the years, but is enjoying his first year with the 2003 players. His U18 team were back-to-back champs two of the last three years in Cup play.
“I was looking for a change,” he said.
“I wanted to pick up a younger group and work with them for a few years. I like this group.”
The 2003 boys are led by striker Tyler Petek, midfielder Zane Elliott and keeper Hudson Magone.
“He’s been relentless,” Boone said of Petek.
“The defense is superb, led by Magone. He probably has a half-dozen shutouts. We’ve been a high-scoring team and tough-defensive team. That’s a great combination.”
The United 2003 suffered two losses in tournament play earlier this season in Boise, Idaho, but last weekend went 4-0 at the Three Blind Refs tournament at Kidsports Complex.
“We played up an age group to get stiffer competition,” Boone said.
“The championship game was with the 2002 boys from Flathead Valley United. We won in a shootout, won with eight players participating in shootout. It was satisfying to win it, pleasing to see the boys play at that level.
“We have a lot of resiliency, a competitive spirit, a refuse to lose approach,” he continued.
“We have come from behind a couple times, have a don’t lose attitude. It’s pretty gratifying to see that.”
The Cup signals the end of the season for most teams, but Boone’s players, along with Flathead Valley United 2004 boys premier and Flathead Valley Untied 2001 girls premier will head to Salt Lake City next week for the President’s Cup.
Montana State Cup tournament director Jill Marlow said 97 teams — U13 to U18 age groups, boys and girls — will be in Kalispell for this event.
In addition to Kalispell and Whitefish, teams will be competing from Bozeman, Missoula, Billings, Helena, Livingston, Butte, Hamilton/Stevensville, Plains, Laurel, Great Falls and Polson.
Play starts 10 a.m. today and 8 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Pool play is held the first two days with the top two teams advancing to Sunday’s championship round.
Play will be held on the seven fields at Kidsports and the four at Glacier on the final two days. All the action today is at Kidsports.
The last time Kalispell hosted the Cup was 2005.