With 23 minutes left in the Livonia (Mich.) Metro Magic Wolves' 4-1 victory over the Bethesda Mustang yesterday, William Bothe grabbed the back of his head with both hands, looked skyward and grimaced.

Alone at the top of the Bethesda penalty area, Bothe had lifted a delicate chip shot over goalkeeper Todd Compton, but also over the crossbar, in an under-16 semifinal of the U.S. National Youth Soccer Championships at Woodbridge High School.

His teammates consoled him. Bothe smiled. It had been, after all, a sparkling morning for the Livonia halfback, who scored three goals to lead the Magic Wolves into Saturday's Niotis Cup championship game against the Clearwater (Fla.) Chargers.

The Chargers defeated FC United of Las Vegas, 1-0, in yesterday's second semifinal. Bethesda, the Eastern Region champion, will play FC United in the consolation game Saturday at 11 a.m.

In last night's girls play, the Arizona Shamrocks edged the Beechmont (Ohio) Blitz, 2-1, and the Willingboro (N.J.) Strikers defeated the Seminole (Fla.) Gators, 4-0. Arizona will play Willingboro for the Masotto Cup Saturday at 4 p.m.

The under-19 semifinals will be held today, with the girls games at 9 and 11 a.m. and the boys matches at 6 and 8 p.m.

Bothe found the goal with a solid header in the eighth minute, with a wicked volley in the 28th minute and with a lunging header in the 44th minute.

"His weapon is tenacity and that creates a lot of opportunities," Magic Wolves Coach John Boots said. "He's fast and aggressive and today it paid off."

The Magic Wolves (33-2-2 in state and regional play) controlled the flow from the start as the Mustang managed to get off only two weak shots in the first half and David Briles's goal with 11:47 left in the match.

Steve Weiger scored Livonia's fourth goal on a long run in the last of the 80 minutes.

"We were lacking today," Mustang forward Mark Jonas said. "We watched tapes of them play and it didn't show us much. We were overconfident and we thought we could walk over them. It took us 30 minutes to get our heads in the game."

By then it was too late. Craig Abraham created the first goal with a throw-in from the left sideline that Bothe headed in from eight yards past goalie Jean-Paul Chretien, who alternates with Compton.

Twenty minutes later, Bothe capitalized on another well-executed throw-in. John Truskowski flicked Travis Roy's long toss into the middle of the penalty area, from which Bothe smacked a one-touch volley into the top of the net.

"The goalie was slow off his {goal} line," Bothe said. "He was hesitant and that was to our advantage."

Bothe's third goal of the game was his most impressive and it virtually ended Bethesda's hopes of getting back into the game in the second half. In the 44th minute, Weiger sprinted free along the right wing and sent a shoulder-high cross to the center of the penalty area. Bothe made a strong run into the box, managed to hold off two Mustang players and connected with a seven-yard header.

"We didn't play with the composure you expect in these games," Mustang Coach Guy Fraiture said. "We were a bit too anxious. It was a clean beat."