The growth of Alternativo Futbol Club is best exemplified by the success the local soccer club’s teams have had over the past year.

This past season, the club sent four of its teams to Nor Cal Premiere’s State Cup tournaments, where more than 1,400 teams compete across 180 divisions ranging from under-9 to under-13. Each age group is divided into skill levels that give teams a chance to compete against others with similar skills.

One of the top teams from AFC, Little Brasil 06, AFC’s U9 girls, won their bracket in the Premiere Elite division, the second highest division in Nor Cal Premiere State Cup play. Little Brasil beat Juventus SC Valenga of Redwood City 2-0 in the Nov. 1 quarterfinals in Sacramento. The weekend of Nov. 14 and 15, Little Brasil beat IR Academy Elite of Sacramento 2-1 and beat California Odyssey of Clovis 2-1 in the championship at Woodward Park in Manteca.

Also winning their bracket were the Atlas 03 U12 girls, winners of their Diamond division bracket. Atlas beat California Magic of Orinda 6-3 on Dec. 5 and beat California Odyssey South of Visalia 8-3 on Dec. 6, both in Ripon. The team then beat DeAnza Force North of Cupertino 5-2 in the championship game Dec. 12 in Modesto.

AFC’s Boca Juniors 03 U12 boys won their Silver bracket championship. The weekend of Dec. 5 and 6 in Ripon, they beat the Stockton Storm FC Rascals 5-1 and FC Elk Grove Elite 5-6. In the championship game, Dec. 13 in Modesto, they beat Lamorinida SC of Moraga 3-1.

Also in State Cup play, AFC’s Tracy Heat 03 U12 boys came in second in their Platinum bracket.

In Nor Cal Premiere Fall League, AFC had five teams take first or second place, including the Blaze 99 U16 girls, who were winners of the top division, State Premiere East, with a 6-2-0 record. They also placed second in the State Premiere Playoffs.

First-place teams also include the Atlas 01 U14 boys (8-0-1), first in their Silver Division, and the Venom 00 U15 girls (7-1-0), first in their Bronze Division. Second-place teams were the Brasil 01 U14 boys in the Gold Division and Tracy Boca Juniors 03 U12 boys in their Bronze Division.

AFC’s director of coaching, Anthony Baratta, said that the club, in Tracy since 1997, started with three teams and has grown to 18 teams, mostly in the past year. The club doubled in size during 2015.

Baratta said he figures the key to AFC’s growth in the past year — and success in future years — is the youth academy designed for under-8 players. Baratta said that players in the U8, U7 and U6 age groups typically need instruction much more than they need game time.

“Our biggest challenge is that there hasn’t been a structured way to instruct kids on how to handle a soccer ball at the younger ages,” he said, adding that instruction about offensive and defensive strategies are effective only after players have learned the fundamentals of possession, passing and dribbling.

“You don’t want to start that development at the under-9 level. If we can get about 18 months of ball handling development in, the kids are much better prepared to learn the game.

“Even at 14, 15, 16 years old, we had kids who couldn’t handle the ball under pressure.”

The club will have tryouts for its U7-13 teams in January, girls teams on Jan. 16 and 17 and boys teams on Jan. 23 and 24, at the Tracy Learning Center at the corner of Holly Drive and Beverly Place.

Contact Sports Editor Bob Brownne at brownne@tracypress.com, or call 209-830-4227.

Sports editor at the Tracy Press

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