Coach Jonattan DeLeon helps Myrtle Beach team make big turnaround on soccer pitch
The Beach United Football Club's Boys Under-17 team, the Mundial, wrapped up a perfect 10-0 record and the regular-season championship of the PMSL II Soccer league on Saturday.
The Mundial used an inspired second half to claim a 4-1 victory over Liverpool FCA, symbolic of the turnaround the team has made in recent years. Tied 1-all at halftime with their undefeated and untied season on the line, coach Jonattan DeLeon lit the fuse.
"It was closer than we wanted early but we had possession, and that was one of my goals with this team: If we control the ball we control the game," said DeLeon. "But you have to be able to finish and that's what I told the guys: We've got to finish and score some goals."
The Mundial scored three unanswered goals in the second half to clinch a perfect season and cap a reversal over fortunes since DeLeon joined the squad in 2012. He served as an assistant under BUFC director of coaching Thuba Nkomazana before taking over the team with assistant Sunnie McGonigal, and the chemistry has sparked a worst-to-first turnaround.
"The first year we only won three games, and last year we finished third," DeLeon recalled. "We just practiced hard and went back to the basics - receiving the ball, playing unselfishly, putting pressure on the opponent. The guys worked really hard and I am proud of them."
DeLeon is also the proud father of 3-year-old Jonah, who many may see running around the practice fields and playing soccer with anyone willing to join him. The elder DeLeon came to the US in hopes of playing college soccer, but student-visa issues and his need to work prevented him from reaching his goal.
Instead, he got married, had Jonah and adopted a dozen more young men on the soccer pitch. The change in game plan appears to be paying off for everyone involved, and for the BUFC extended family. He got to see more than just his own son grow over the past three years.
"Playing soccer never really worked out for me here but I still love being involved with it," said DeLeon, who played briefly for the Rochester (NY) Rhinos and Wilmington (NC) Hammerheads. "My wife tried to get me to coach and I am glad she did. I enjoy it and the kids help me a lot. They say, 'You help me a lot' and it's so rewarding. I say, 'No, you help me.'"
The Myrtle Beach based Mundial team will compete in the South Carolina Youth Soccer State Cup in December.