18 years after he scored two goals to help Vereinigung Erzgebirge to an Over-30 national title, Mike Serban and his daughter, Caroline, are playing for a US Youth Soccer National Presidents Cup.
By Dillon Friday, Communications Manager, Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer
Mike Serban didn't initially think about the coincidence. As head coach of Vereinigung Erzgebirge (VE) United, he had guided the Under-18 girls team through a grueling five-games-in-three-days run to the US Youth Soccer Eastern Presidents Cup championship. A win in the final clinched a trip to nationals for VE--a fitting end for Serban, whether he realized it or not.
"A couple of buddies of mine who were on the team mentioned it," Serban said earlier this week. "My wife brought it up. I didn't think of it until she brought it up."
In 2000, Serban was part of the VE team that won the U.S. Adult Soccer Association Over-30 National Championship. He scored twice in a 4-2 victory over Datagraphic of Atlanta in the final. His wife Dorothy was pregnant with Caroline at the time. Now, 18 years later, Caroline is a forward/winger for VE United.
"I thought it was special because my dad got to experience it, and now I'm getting to experience it," said Caroline. "It's been a great ride."
That ride continues Thursday as VE United will be one of seven Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer teams traveling to Westfield, Indiana for the 2018 US Youth Soccer National Presidents Cup (July 12-15). The elder Serban is using his own experience to help his team enjoy the journey.
"What I'm trying to stress is to take it all in, feel good about their success so far and have fun with it," Serban said. "Not everyone gets to go to a national championship."
"He as a coach and as my dad, he's made us realize how special it actually is," said Caroline. "You think of it as just a soccer game, but it's definitely more. It's an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience."
VE's path to nationals began in November, when the girls got together following their respective high school seasons. They had "knocked on the door" according to Serban in terms of previous Presidents Cup success--VE United finished runner up in 2015. They finally got their breakthrough in 2018.
"As the season went on, we realized we could make it this far," said Caroline. "I think we progressed a great amount."
VE cruised through the Eastern Pennsylvania Presidents Cup, outscoring opponents 20-2 as they went 4-0. They capped that run with a 5-0 win in the state final over Waynesboro Dynamite.
The US Youth Soccer Eastern Presidents Cup in Barboursville, West Virginia, on the other hand, proved to be a challenge. Three consecutive one-goal wins in the group (3-2, 2-1, 1-0) and 5-1 win over Stafford Soccer Revolution (VA) set up a rematch with Waynesboro in the regional final.
"It's always tough trying to beat a team two times in a row," Serban said. "It wasn't easy. It was a good game."
Waynesboro led 2-1 late into the match before VE answered with two goals in the last half hour of play. They sweated out a 3-2 victory.
"The whole season we worked really hard as a team," said Caroline. "We deserve to go to nationals."
"What she takes and what the team takes from it, is if you put in the work, great things are going to happen," said Serban. "It think it's a life lesson. You count on each other."
The players will be counting on their coach in particular. After all, he's been through this before, even if it came from a different perspective.
"You get a little more nervous as a coach--you're tasked with a lot more," said Serban. "But it's equally as exciting."
He called having Caroline there with him this time around "surreal." It's a shared experience with her and her teammates.
"When I won it, it was very gratifying but it was just me," Serban said. "It's more rewarding here. I'm pulling the team together. This is my way of giving back to the game."
In that national final in 2000, VE had the luxury of playing a home game. The match took place at the United German Hungarians Club in Feasterville-Trevose, a short drive from VE's base in Warminster. Serban's father attended the game. After his two-goal performance, Serban told a reporter from the Intelligencer "look over there at my dad. He's bawling his eyes out. I think that says at all."
Rest assured if VE United takes home the trophy on Sunday there will be a similar scene.
To follow VE United and the rest of Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer's trip to the US Youth Soccer National Presidents Cup click here.
Mike Serban (kneeling fourth from right) and daughter Caroline (kneeling with trophy) will look to add to the family's trophy case at the US Youth Soccer National Presidents Cup this weekend.