Osan American’s boys have evolved from Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference also-rans into Class A title contenders this week.

With a starting lineup that includes seven freshmen, the Cougars were 4-16-1 during the regular season but are 4-0-1 in Far East tournament action and a surprise semifinalist after beating defending champion E.J. King 1-0 in Tuesday’s quarterfinals.

"We’re a really young team," coach Duke Allen said. "It was a learning season, we didn’t do well in KAIAC, but we’re coming together."

The Cobras had their chances to tie after Derek Becker’s 24th goal put the Cougars up in the first half, but they could never cash in.

"They outhustled us," Allen said. "They had a lot of chances. They were extremely aggressive."

Rain forces changesFor the first time in 11 years of Far East soccer tournaments, an entire day of play was scratched due to rain.

That occurred Tuesday at Yokota High School, host of the Girls Class AA tournament. Heavy rain fell overnight Monday into midday Tuesday, rendering Yokota High’s Bonk Field and the neighboring middle school field unplayable.

"That scared me. I didn’t want to put them out there and get them hurt," said tournament director and Yokota athletics director Bonnie Seeley.

She, along with a couple of coaches and tournament organizers, examined the fields early Tuesday morning and made the decision to call off 13 scheduled pool-play matches. They will not be rescheduled, Seeley said.

The tournament’s 11 teams were seeded into the three-day single-elimination playoff round based on Monday’s pool games, regular-season records, head-to-head play and last year’s tournament results.

Bonk was completely unplayable, while the middle school field could have stood perhaps a match or two before "it would become a mess, too," Seeley said. "It’s in the best interest of the players’ safety and the fields that we do this," she said.

"I would have done the same thing" if he were in Seeley’s shoes, Kadena coach Hoa Nguyen said. "For the safety of the girls, I totally agreed. Somebody could get hurt."

Nile C. Kinnick coach Nico Hindie was one of the coaches who examined the field. "There was no way," he said. "Puddles, puddles everywhere. The ground was really soft. A great potential for injury. Had everybody seen the fields, they would have agreed."

Meanwhile, the Class A tournaments resumed with wet fields and shortened pool-play matches

At Iwakuni’s Penny Lake Field, leftover puddles from Monday’s daylong rains greeted participants, so organizers pushed as much water as they could off the field, and play resumed with the seven pool-play matches shortened to 25-minute halves.

"We made it," tournament director Mark Lange said. "We’re caught up, the fields are drying, nobody got hurt and we didn’t lose a match."

In some spots, balls continued to splash to a halt in puddles, and a few players slipped and slid.

"It’s so annoying," Daegu American striker Nikki Calisto said. "You try to control the ball, but it’s under water. Some parts are better than others. It feels good when you run through it."

Potential Final Four preview?A handful of observers called Tuesday’s Kadena-Yokota and Kubasaki-Christian Academy In Japan pool-play matches a preview of the Boys Class AA tournament semifinals.

The two matches had all the trappings of same, with Okinawa’s powers edging their Kanto Plain brethren by twin 1-0 scores.

"There’s a good chance we may see each other again, the way those teams have been playing in this tournament, a cut above the others," Kadena coach Tom McKinney said.

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.

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