CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan -- It had to be in the back of their minds.
Sure, they were sitting pretty after strutting unscathed into the championship round of the Far East Regional Soccer Tournament on Camp Foster Nov. 4. And, sure, just one day prior, they effortlessly side-stepped Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, 5-0, in the semi-final round. But they had to be uneasy. After all, 3rd Marine Logistics Group had been here before.
Since winning this tournament in 2001, 3rd MLG has reached the championship game twice, losing both times. In last year's final, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing blanked them, 2-0. To prevent a third championship game defeat in the last four years, 3rd MLG would have to go through Marine Corps Base.
Though 3rd MLG's opponent was different this time around, the result was the same. And it didn't take long to shake their fragile confidence.
In the game's sixth minute, Alvaro Soto-Barcenas netted a goal, and midway through the second half Arnold Kusero added insurance as MCB shut out 3rd MLG, 2-0, to claim the tourney title.
MCB survived a five-team field, featuring four teams from Okinawa and one squad from MCAS Iwakuni, but limped into the championship game after stumbling once in round-robin play before dodging a bullet in the semi-final round with a 2-1 victory over 3rd Marine Division/Expeditionary Force. It took Carlos Fogarthy's penalty kick to secure the win, advancing MCB into the championship game.
In the title game, MCB seized momentum early when Soto-Barcenas broke through 3rd MLG's defense to score the game's first goal.
As the end of the first half approached, 3rd MLG was handed a golden opportunity and threatened to tie the score. After a controversial call in the box, 3rd MLG was awarded a penalty kick. But the shot sailed high, nicking the top of the goalpost, sending MCB to the locker room with a 1-0 edge.
MCB padded its lead in the 59th minute with Kusero's header off a corner-kick, sealing the fate of 3rd MLG.
3rd Marine Division/Expeditionary Force finished third overall followed by MCAS Iwakuni and U.S. Naval Hospital Camp Lester.
U.S. Naval Hospital was forced to forfeit its single-elimination playoff match with MCAS Iwakuni during a second half 2-2 tie because of a roster discrepancy and an ineligible player.
Juan Pacheco-Morales from MCB was named tournament MVP while MCB's Wilson Rodriguez was selected as All-Tournament Coach.