LUMBERTON — Playing among some of the best youth soccer teams in the country, Lumberton soccer players Will Osman and Rene Altamirano learned a lot that they feel could be beneficial when playing for the Pirates this fall.
Altamirano scored 21 goals and eight assists last season and Osman anchored a defense that allowed an average of 2 goals per game for the Pirates, and this summer they were a part of the Fayetteville Force under-16 team that made it to the 2016 National Presidents Cup title game before falling to Indiana by a 1-0 decision.
“I think it will help us prepare (for the high school season) because of the experience of the players we played against and the players we played with,” Altamirano said. “It was very fun, very competitive and had a lot of great players.”
The Fayetteville Force reeled off five wins to take the U.S. Youth Soccer Region III President Cup championship and qualify for the national tournament that was held in Tulsa, Okla from July 14 to 17. While at the National Presidents Cup, it went 2-0-1 in pool play to make the championship game.
“It was just a great experience overall just traveling across the U.S. and getting to play different players from different regions,” Osman said.
Along with the silver medals that the team brought home, Altamirano also received some additional hardware for being named Top 18 from the event. He was one of five other players from the Fayetteville Force that received the nod.
“It means a lot because I always try my best, I try to always give it all I got and it was a blessing to get Top 18,” Altamirano said.
From the start of the Region III tournament to the national title game, the Fayetteville Force were stingy on defense with five goals allowed through nine matches. After the three contests in pool play in Oklahoma, it had held its three opponents scoreless.
“Our defense was pretty good,” Altamirano said. “They were fast and strong and it was hard to get through us. Our whole team was good, they always hustled, they never gave up and every ball they lost they went and gave chase for it.
“The only team that could break us down was Indiana, which that was the one that we played in nationals. Region III was pretty easy for us.”
Going along with its tough defense was the drive and passion for the game that stood out to Osman, and was a reason he believes the team full of players from several different high schools was able to gel together.
“To get on the Fayetteville Force (team) you’ve need to have some sort of push for soccer and everybody on our team had that,” he said, “which kind of leveled everything out and made it greater to play with these guys.”
Osman has played with the Fayetteville Force for five years and Altamirano has played for two years.
Both players are stepping into bigger leadership roles this year for Lumberton with Osman becoming a senior and Altamirano. An experience like this is something that they believe will make them better leaders and on and off the field.
“We’re going to try and push the guys so they can comprehend the game better,” Osman said. “It was different overall because you get to experience different people and the way they play differently.
“How we played over the tournament is definitely going to change how we play school soccer.”
Will Osman, left, fight for possession against an opponent.
Rene Altamirano dribbles past a defender.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.