Arizona, USA – Justin Meram, the greatest offensive player in the history of the ACCAC takes his team to victory once more. Chaldeans are known for their incredible soccer skills and the hot dry desert air must have made Justin Meram’s DNA tingle.
The Yavapai College sophomore star dominated the conference and helped advance the undefeated Roughriders to another Soccer Nationals.
Meram, a 6-foot-1 attacker who arrived in Prescott by way of Eisenhower High School in Shelby Township, Mich., mesmerized the team his soccer ability.
The soccer sensation sets a record of 49 goals in a career. This year alone he has 28 goals and 17 assists, tied for the single-season program record. Meram led the conference in assists and tied for the lead in goals in conference play with teammate Francis Khamis with 21. The unstoppable Meram received the ACCAC and Region 1 Player of the Year awards. He's one of only five players in the nation with over 28 goals in 2008, and his 20 assists are the most among the top five scorers.
In the regional finals match against North Idaho this past week, Meram recorded his 28th of the season to cap the scoring as the Roughriders emptied the bench. He notched three assists, giving him 20 on the season to sit alone atop that list in school history as he closes in on the career record as well.
Yavapai coach Mike Pantalione was Co-Coach of the Year in the conference and region with Pima's Dave Cosgrove, South Mountain¹s Mark Wilson and Scottsdale's Adam Berry.
The 20-0 'Riders have been No. 1 in the nation from the start. Teams have tried to back it in against the Roughriders and shorten the game to no avail, so maybe it was worth a different approach. But you do so at your own risk when facing the potent YC attack, and that attack piled it on in a 6-1 victory to advance to the national tournament.
"Coming into the game, (coach) Mike (Pantalione) told us they were going to play a flat-four back," Yavapai sophomore Francis Khamis said. "And if they try to attack us, let them attack us. We have enough players to stop them."
In the seventh minute, North Idaho turned it over on a goal kick and the 'Riders came down with Justin Meram setting up Khamis at the top of the box with plenty of time to beat NIC goalkeeper Cesar Lira.
A minute later, the Cardinals were able to crack the Yavapai defense for the first time in four games, getting in tight for a goal by Nick Loyd on a set up by Orlando Ferguson.
But YC kept coming and Meram assisted on another Khamis goal in the 19th minute on a laser of a shot. Khamis completed the first-half hat trick in the 28th minute with a diving header at the near post on a corner kick off the foot of Jeff Bendawald.
Meram who is up to 49 career goals also recorded his 28th of the season to cap the scoring as the Roughriders emptied the bench. He notched three assists, giving him 20 on the season to sit alone atop that list in school history as he closes in on the career record as well.
The pair is the focus of every opponent. North Idaho coach Scott Moorcroft kept saying each of their names in the halftime discussion.
They even factored into the goal neither of them scored on.
Goalkeeper Sam Hayden booted it deep and Khamis headed it on to Chilo Rivera. Rivera one-touched it to Meram who worked it to Kyle Woodson who scored his first goal of the year.
"Me and Justin always go back and forth as far as scoring," Khamis said. "But playing with him is nice. He makes it easy for me, I make it easy for him. It goes both ways."
They have now combined for 100 goals in two seasons.
"Francis Khamis," Meram said "Unbelievable. Me and him just broke the record ... four goals ... he stepped it up.
"We have our differences, but when we come together on the field, me and him talked and we try to put that stuff behind us. Today it worked, I got three assists and he got four goals and we're both smiling."
The sophomores got together after the game as they closed out their careers in Prescott to head to the program's 18th national tournament in 19 years, beginning Nov. 20 in Phoenix.
"Sophomores have played a major role in this program in the last two years," Pantalione said. "They were all on the field when we won a national championship last year. This was their last match at Ken Lindley Field in their two-year career and they went out in style."
Both look to add on to another big number in search of a seventh national championship.
"No. 1 seed, home crowd," Meram said. "Nothing better."