Local team competes with elite soccer programs

Dakota REV girls U16s just miss out on trip to Sweden

The Dakota REV Rampage poses with its trophy and medals after finishing second in the girls vElite Under-16 division at the USA Cup Weekend tournament. Photo submitted

Dakota REV Soccer Club’s Under-16 girls Premier team is accustomed to traveling, but last weekend found itself one victory from a once-in-a-lifetime journey.

The local team reached the championship game in the Puma vElite Group, held during the July 13-15 USA Cup Weekend tournament at the National Sports Center in Blaine. The event, billed by USA Cup officials as a “tournament within a tournament,” features several of the top domestic boys and girls club teams at the U16 level.

In the girls division, the Dakota REV Rampage played the So Cal Blues of California for the championship – and an expenses-paid trip to Sweden to train with one of the world’s top women’s club teams.

The Blues won 1-0, depriving the Rampage of the international trip but perhaps sparing it from a major logistical headache. The trip to Umea, Sweden, to train with the Umea IK club was likely to take place in September, in the middle of the Minnesota high school season. All of the Rampage players also play high school soccer.

Rampage coach Tobbe Thorsell said the players had to submit passport information before the tournament, but beyond that, the team was taking a cross-that-bridge-when-we-come-to-it approach to the potential schedule conflict.

The California team won the championship and the overseas trip.

“We got medals and a lot of great memories,” Thorsell said. “And that’s fine.”

La Roca Premier of Utah defeated Minnesota Thunder Academy 3-2 in the boys vElite division and will travel to England to train with Newcastle United, an English Premier League team.

The vElite bracket at the USA Cup started in 2008 with a boys division. A girls division was added in 2011. The Rampage was the first Minnesota team to compete in the vElite girls tournament. Several of the teams in the girls bracket were selected by Puma, the event’s title sponsor, and others were invited by USA Cup officials.

The Rampage got an invitation because “our girls have played in the USA Cup since they were 9 and have won it just about every year,” said Thorsell, who also is Dakota REV’s director of soccer operations and an assistant coach for the Concordia University women’s team. “We’ve had success playing against other good teams.”

The team won its division in the USA Cup five years in a row. Earlier this year, they reached the semifinals of a national tournament in Las Vegas and went undefeated at a college showcase in Omaha, Neb.

Most of the Rampage players come from the Dakota REV core area of Rosemount, Eagan and Apple Valley. Elise Abbott, Kathryn Eaton, Brianna Lindstrom, Kellie McGahn, Chandler Peterson, Emily Sutliff and Paige Wilberding attend Eastview High School. Kaylie Hanson goes to Rosemount High, Julia Lam attends Apple Valley and Leah Schmidt is an Eagan student. Alexis Joyce and Lauren Sherry attend Lakeville North (Joyce did not play in last weekend’s tournament because she was attending a hockey camp). The team also has two White Bear Lake players (Jamie Rademacher and Rebekah Thom), one from Minnetonka (Emily Graupmann), one from Cretin-Derham Hall (Molly Johnston) and one from Owatonna (Katlin Ptacek).

Thorsell became the team’s coach this season. Previously the Rampage was coached by Nels Dokken, Dakota REV’s player development director, and Thorsell said Dokken had much to do with molding the players into the kind of team they have become.

After going 1-1-1 in pool play in the vElite tournament, the Rampage rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat Sereno 96 White of Arizona 3-2 in the semifinals.

“The teams we played in that tournament are very good at possessing the ball,” Thorsell said. “They were better at it than the teams we see in Minnesota, and Minnesota has some very good teams.

“We play a very high-pressure style, and that might have forced the teams we played to adjust. That tournament also was the first time all season we’ve been completely healthy, and that was a big help.”

Dakota REV will hold tryouts for its 2013 season teams later this summer, but it’s expected most of the Rampage players will stay together and play at the U17 level. The club actually could have two girls U17 Premier teams next year if its U16 Classic 1 squad wins the state championship later this month and earns a promotion.

“There’s a lot of talent at that age level,” Thorsell said.

More USA Cup results

Several other teams with local ties had strong performances during the USA Cup Weekend tournament. The Dakota REV Revenge reached the championship in the girls U14A division before losing to the Centennial Cougars 2-1. The Eagan Wave won its first four games in the girls U16A tourney to reach the final, where it lost to the Caledon Wildcats of Canada 2-1. The Lakeville Force went 4-1 in the girls U16B tourney, losing only to the Lakehead Express of Canada in the championship game.

The Dakota REV Rebels (women’s U19), Valley United Fusion (boys U17A) and Eagan Wave (girls U13A) reached the semifinals in their tournaments.

The weeklong USA Cup youth tourney – a separate event from the weekend tournament – runs through Saturday.