ORLANDO, Fla. – Seventeen-year-old Faris Pemi Moumbagna scored the first and last goals of the match as a group of teens from the Soccer Institute at Montverde Academy (SIMA) stunned Argentinian power, 4-3, on Friday.
River Plate fielded a team that included nine players from last year’s Copa Libertadores championship squad. SIMA countered with a lineup of 14- to 18-year-olds.
"It was a tremendous experience for our boys playing against one of the best professional teams in the world," SIMA director Mike Potempa said following the match, which was played at Omni Champions Gate Complex. "Young players are the future and it goes to show that when talented youngsters are trained properly in the right environment, they can compete at the highest levels of the game. In the end, if you are good enough, you are old enough. We must start believing more in young players in this country for they are the future. This result shows what is possible."
A SIMA victory, however, hardly looked possible at halftime.
Although Moumbagna gave SIMA a 1-0 early in the match, River Plate answered with three goals for a 3-1 halftime lead. The goals were scored by three Argentinian Senior National Team members: Nacho Fernandez, Lucas Alario and Enzo Perez.
SIMA’s rally started in the second half with a goal by 15-year-old Kelvin Mulinya. An own goal by River Plate knotted the match at 3. Moumbagna then scored off an assist from Mulinya for the game-winner.
River Plate next competes in the 2018 Copa Libertadores Championship quarterfinals against Guarani of Paraguay on Aug. 8. River Plate won the first meeting in the two-leg quarterfinal 2-0.
SIMA produced 27 NCAA Division I signees in its senior class last year, and more than 150 college signees since the inception of the program in 2010. SIMA has developed 17 professional players who have played in Portugal, France, Norway, Belgium, England, Denmark, Argentina, MLS and USL.