This is the last of 10 stories about the best Long Beach youth sports teams we’ve seen over the last decade. We took nominations from the community and released the top 10 in no particular order.
It’s apropos that we finish this list with the oldest team we’ve honored.
Beach FC won three national championships in 2014, and the U18 girls’ squad capped their club careers with the title. Players like Wilson High alum Sami Reinhard knew she wanted one more season with her friends and high school teammates.
“I was supposed to be at college playing soccer (at Nebraska) that summer because I had graduated high school already,” Reinhard said. “We all wanted to play together one last time… I’m not taking anything away from Wilson or Nebraska, but that Beach FC team has a very special place in my heart, and I think it’s because the way it started was so awkward and tense.”
The squad was actually made up of two rival teams who had played each other for years. The group from Long Beach was joined by a similarly talented group from South Bay.
“It was not a good relationship,” Reinhard said. “I remember our first practice we were literally at the midfield line. Our (Long Beach) team was on one side and the other team was on the other side. That’s how split we were. But it became very clear very quickly that we were really good and that we all wanted to win. I think that was the one thing from the very beginning we all had in common was we all just were there to win.”
It took Beach FC founder and head coach Mauricio Ingrassia two seasons to get this team to buy in and sacrifice for each other. Ingrassia stayed coaching this U18 team because he saw the potential.
“Beach FC is on the national map and it’s a good feeling,” Ingrassia said after the 2-0 victory in the national championship final in Maryland.
Ingrassia took over the Long Beach Soccer Club in 2008 when he also arrived at Long Beach State as the newest women’s soccer coach. He rebranded the club and changed its culture by opening up the geographic area that spans from Long Beach to the Torrance and Redondo Beach. Beach FC now has more than 95 girls’ and boys’ soccer teams at all age levels.
“When I started this club I wanted to organize the local talent around quality coaching, quality facilities and quality community people,” Ingrassia said. “You don’t have to drive to South Orange County to be a good soccer player … saving gas and drive time that could be spent with family or studies… We want to be the club for good players from Long Beach to the South Bay. Too many kids were driving past Long Beach.”
One of the reasons Beach FC has been so successful over the last 12 years is because Ingrassia puts a premium on player development.
“We’re trying to do the right thing, and that’s develop players, not to win,” he said. “The old (club) system is all about winning and where you finish.”
Overall talent also helped Beach FC dominate local competition while preparing for the national championship. Reinhard and fellow Wilson High alum Katie Pratt-Thompson were the core of the Long Beach group, and future LBSU leading scorer Ashley Gonzalez was an offensive force from out of town.
In 2013, this same group won five games over three weekends by a combined score of 20-2 to take the Cal South National Cup.
Reinhard has since graduated from Nebraska and is currently working to become a paramedic.
“That time with Beach FC was the journey of a lifetime,” Reinhard said. “The payoff was the ultimate payoff.”
This is the ninth of 10 stories about the best Long Beach youth sports teams we’ve seen over the last decade. We’ve taken nominations from the community and will release the top 10 in no particular order. Come back next week to read about other club squads that made this historic list.