Nomads are one game away from third title in fours years. (July 23, 1999)

July 23, 1999

By Kevin Keeley Gannett News Service

ORLANDO, Fla. (Friday, July 23, 1999) -- One could say that Miguel Luna and his La Jolla (Calif.) Nomads teammates are a bit greedy. They already have two United States Youth Soccer national championships under their belts, but they want another.

The Nomads attempt the unprecedented feat of winning their third national title in four years Sunday when they square off against the Region III champion Pride of Tulsa, Okla.. The Nomads beat the Pride, 2-1, on Wednesday in group play.

"It's awesome," Luna said of playing for his third national title with Nomads. "We come back from college for the summer, and get to play with our boys."

After La Jolla fell behind the Pride early in the tournament opener, he bent a free kick from 20 yards around the Pride wall and into the upper right corner of the net, knotting the score at a goal apiece. Luna then assisted on the game-winner, as he played a beautiful cross to Daniel Markman, who drilled it home the goal to send Nomads to the win.

The seasoned Nomads squad has since cruised through round-robin play, defeating Carpathia (Mich.) Kickers, 4-1, on Wednesday, and topping Princeton (N.J.) Union, 2-0, on Friday, to conclude the first round with a 3-0 record.

After Sunday's final, he will turn his focus to his University of Portland team, where he will start his junior year next month. Nomads goalkeeper Curtis Spiteri, who plays on the U-18 national team, will join him at Portland this year.

Luna, who also has national team experience, with the U-20s, said college ball has helped him raise his game to a new level. "College soccer is a totally different game," he said. "Everything is a lot faster, and all the players are bigger and quicker. I think it's more realistic to the pro game. The college game gets you ready for the next level. I think it would be hard to go straight out of club to the pros."

Like former Portland teammate Steve Cherundolo, who now plays with Hanover '86 in Germany's second Division, he likely has a professional career ahead of him.

"Right now I want to win the next game," Luna said. "I'm there at Portland to win a national championship. I'm not looking much beyond that."

His heart still lies with the Nomads, an elite southern California club team for several years. "This is where my roots come from," Luna said of his six years with the club. "Nomads is where I learned to play soccer, and not just be out there playing rec ball. That's where it started for everyone here."

Under-19 boys

La Jolla (Calif.) Nomads 2, Princeton (N.J.) Union 0

The Nomads defeated their final opponent Tulsa Pride 2-1 in round-robin play Tuesday, the tournament's first day. "We are very confident going into the final on Sunday," Nomads coach David Armstrong said. "This team has a lot of character, and it is going to take a very good performance by the Pride to beat this team."

The Nomads (3-0) scored their first goal against Princeton (0-3) in the 21st minute when Shane Walton, who rejoined the team late last night after being released from Notre Dame football training camp, fired a 23-yard blast that beat the Union keeper.

In the 39th minute, Brandon McNeil made it 2-0.

Tulsa (Okla.) Pride 4, Carpathia Kickers (Sterling Heights, Mich.) 1

The Pride (2-1) is looking to become the first Oklahoma boys team to win a national title when it faces La Jolla Nomads for the McGuire Cup Sunday. "We are very confident going into the match against the Nomads," said Pride head coach Steve Earle. "Confidence breeds success and we are playing with tremendous confidence right now."

The Pride is also playing with a sense of determination after dedicating their season to teammate Aaron Stopper, who passed away earlier in the year. The team carries his number (5) patched onto their uniforms. "Every game we play for Aaron," said Clint Hill.

The Pride lost to the Nomads in their first game at nationals Tuesday 2-1.

Tulsa advanced with a must-win over Carpithia (1-2) Pat Tanner put the Pride ahead in the 54th minute when he poked in a goal after the ball bounced to him off a save by the Kickers' goalkeeper. Five minutes later, teammate Kenny Bundy headed home another goal for a 2-0 advantage.

Salvatore Piranie started a Kickers comeback with a goal in the 65th minute, but the Pride secured the berth with late goals in the 87th and 90th minutes by Hill and Kenny Bundy, respectively.