Monday, November 30, 2009

Preps: Tigers appear to have turned corner

After picking up Coach Bob Bauman the 500th win of his career, Jesuit appears to have turned a corner in its season. The Tigers defeated Sarasota Riverview 3-0 and Bradenton Manatee 4-1 last week in the Sarasota High School Tournament before the final against Palmetto was postponed due to an unplayable field.

Bauman said he would be looking into rescheduling the final, and that he was pleased with the way his side had performed in the other two games of the tournament.

“Both (Sarasota Riverview and Manatee) were unbeaten, both teams had a lot of veteran players, and we played very well,” Bauman said. “We had guys really step up, Brett Durrance had a really good tournament, I think he had three goals in a couple of games, Stephen Gathman had three in a couple of games, so we really have things rolling pretty well.”

The Tigers face three district games against Spoto, Jefferson and Blake before they host the High School Invitational over the holiday period.

Preps: Sickles, Plant top first coaches' polls

The opening Hillsborough County Coaches' Poll has been released, with Sickles leading the way in the boy’s edition and Plant on top of the girls poll.

Sickles has opened the season 5-0-2, most recently defeating Clearwater and tying Palm Harbor and Countryside at the High School Challenge held in Clearwater last week.

Plant lost in a shootout to Poll No.2 Newsome in the Lady Wildcat Invitational in the first week of the season, but has been dominant since then, defeating Wharton 6-0 and Brandon 8-0 in its last two outings.

The poll is being coordinated by Wharton High coaches Scott Ware and Dens Vukorep, with each high school coach in Hillsborough County able to submit a top 10 list. Here are the complete top 10s


1. Sickles, 5-0-2
2. Tampa Prep, 3-0-0
3. Gaither, 4-0-0
4. East Bay, 5-0-0
5. Plant City 3-0-1
6. Berkeley Prep, 4-1-0
7. King, 3-2-0
8. Newsome, 2-1-2
9. Plant, 3-1-1
10. Steinbrenner, 3-0-0


1. Plant, 7-1-0
2. Newsome, 7-0-1
3. Tampa Prep, 7-2-1
4. Bloomingdale, 3-1-0
5. Berkeley Prep, 4-3-1
6. Freedom, 5-2-1
7. East Bay, 4-1-0
8. Steinbrenner, 3-0-1
9. Gaither, 1-2-1
10. Alonso, 3-4-1

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Youth: East Lake takes Disney title

LAKE BUENA VISTA – Goals from Danielle Gottwik and Riley Narum gave the East Lake Arsenal a 2-1 victory against the Richmond Kickers in the girls under-14 Showcase division of the Disney Junior Soccer Showcase on Sunday afternoon at the Wide World of Sports complex.

“I think that we played better and better each game,” Arsenal coach Diego Viera said. “We’re very proud of this, it’s very important to us.”

East Lake conceded only one goal in the tournament, having defeated the Atlanta Fire in the semifinals earlier in the day 1-0 on a goal by Alex Pallo. Viera said he hoped the victory would give his side more confidence in the future.

“Two years ago, we won Region C and the President’s Cup, then last year we won State cup,” Viera said. “Obviously when you win, things are going better, and the team is gaining in confidence. We’ll see what happens in the future.

The Brandon Flames also advanced to the final of the boys under-13 Predator division, but there were unable to hold a half time lead to the Norcross Fury, losing 2-1 after over time. Flames coach John Clare wasn’t too downbeat after the game, though.

“Overall, it was a good weekend,” Clare said. “I think we accomplished what we wanted to do, played some good opposition”

Jacob Goodall had given Brandon the lead in the 21st minute on a free kick that he curled beautifully into the left corner of the goal. Ben Skinner then tied the game for Norcross. Thomas Traynham then gave Norcross the lad early in the first overtime period. Clare said he hoped his side learnt from their experience.

“If we don’t learn how to win those tough games, then you’re just another team,” Clare said. “I didn’t think (any of the teams we faced) were better that were. Technically, physically, they were about the same as theirs , but they had than mental toughness at the end of the game.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Youth: East Lake, Brandon advance at Disney

LAKE BUENA VISTA – The East Lake Arsenal advanced to the semifinals of the Disney Junior Soccer Showcase’s girls under-14 showcase division with a 1-0 victory against Solar FC from Texas in its final pool game on Saturday morning at the Wide World of Sports Complex.

East Lake, which won the Florida State Cup in the spring, also defeated the Braddock Road Elite from Virginia and ASA Xtreme Elite from Georgia, building their success on a tight defensive unit that held all three opponents scoreless. While led by goalkeeper Rachel Taylor, and anchored by defender Gina Davis, East Lake coach Diego Viera said the side’s defensive record was a tribute to the work all 11 players on the field put in to defending as a unit.

“Gina Davis is a great defender, and it’s a lot of help,” Viera said, “but I think that our first defender is our center forward. It’s teamwork, everybody goes and I get to see in the effort on the field if they are able to be on this team. I can’t have any complaints about that part, so I’m more than happy with the team that I have, and I’m looking forward to seeing the semifinals tomorrow.”

The Brandon Flames also advanced into the boys under-13 Predator division semifinals, going 2-0-1 in pool play to advance. After a pair of victories on the opening day, the Flames drew 2-2 with Birmingham United on Saturday, and will play West Pines United in Sunday’s semifinals.

“Today, we didn’t play particularly well, but the first two games I was particularly pleased with the way that we used our combination play between the forwards and midfielders,” Flames coach John Clare said. “We were able to control the game a lot more, get our backs forward better, that pleased me the most, and the obviously the work-rate, the guys played with a high work-rate and won every 50/50 ball.”

West Pines have appeared very strong so far, a 4-1 win against Tampa’s Fusion Futbol its narrowest margin of victory. Clare believe his side will need to be very disciplined and try to create chances on the counter-attack in order to advance to the final.

“The most important thing is to keep it tight in the back,” Clare said. “We definitely need to keep the midfield compact as we go forward and defend, not get stretched, because they’ve got good, skillful players that if they isolate us 1-on-1 a lot, they’ve got pretty good passing. If we can keep them from getting a good rhythm, disrupt their play, and get the ball up to our forwards to allow them to create some chances for us, that’s going to be the key.”

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Youth: Bostic becomes third Charger headed to South Florida

Javon Bostic has become the latest member of the Clearwater Chargers under-18 Academy team to commit to South Florida, according to Chargers coach Peter Mannino.

Mannino said that Bostic, who plays high school soccer for East Lake, had informed him of his decision on Monday.

A defender, Bostic will join Chargers teammates Ben Sweat and T.J. Roehn with the Bulls next season. Earlier this year, he was named to the U.S. Development Academy’s South Region Under-16 First XI.

MLS: Zimmerman selected by Union in expansion draft

Former Wharton High standout Nick Zimmerman was one of 10 players selected by the Philadelphia Union in the MLS expansion draft on Wednesday afternoon.

Zimmerman, 22, was drafted in the third round of the MLS draft by the New York Red Bulls earlier this year, and appeared in seven games for the Red Bulls in the 2009 season. He was one of 12 players left unprotected by the side for the expansion draft.
Zimmerman was one of four players with local ties to be left unprotected by his club, but the only one selected. FC Dallas' Anthony Wallace and Blake Wagner, both local products were available, as was the L.A. Galaxy's Yohance Marshall, who attended South Florida. Former Plant standout Bobby Boswell and former Hillsborough County United standout Jeremy Hall were both one of the 11 players protected by the Houston Dynamo and New York Red Bulls respectively.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Preps: Hurst's goal allows Buccaneers to edge out Terrapins

TAMPA – As dominant as Berkeley Prep was on Tuesday night against a shorthanded Tampa Prep squad, it took a moment of good fortune to give the Buccaneers a 1-0 victory.

With the Buccaneers sustaining pressure in the Terrapins’ end, the ball came to Rebecca Hurst in the 28th minute just outside the penalty area, Hurst opened up onto her right foot, and fired a shot that took a deflection of a challenging Terrapin defender, redirecting the shot just underneath the crossbar on the right side of the goal leaving Terrapins goalkeeper Jordan Hatton unable to recover.

“It pays to be lucky every once in a while, doesn’t it?” Berkeley coach Ken Roberts said. “I thought we had a couple of other nice opportunities, but we weren’t finishing, and weren’t getting the shots that we wanted to.”

That was in part thanks to a strong defensive effort by Tampa Prep’s defense, which, led by Amber Miller, made it difficult for the Buccaneers to create clear scoring opportunities. Terrapins coach Cindy Schofield said that under the circumstances, she was very happy with her side’s performance.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our team,” Schofield said. “We fought for one another, missing some key players, we only had 12 players after (Lauren) Knocke went down, and I was so proud of our players. I walk away with it as a victory for us.”

The Terrapins (6-2-1) were already without standout forward Colby Maffei, who is currently attending the Olympic Development Program Thanksgiving Interregional in Boca Raton, and lost Knocke when she went down in the first half. But the Terrapins were, for the most-part, able to play a compact shape that restricted the Buccaneers in the final third of the field.

Also hindering the Bucs’ progress were the conditions, with the heavy rains that came down earlier in the afternoon causing a heavy pitch that had some standing water, causing a drag on the ball as the Buccaneers (4-3-1) tried to pass and move quickly. Roberts was pleased with some of the moves the Bucs made, though including a chance created by the recently returned Taylor Batye, whose cross from the left was headed just wide by Samantha Newhaller.

“(Assistant coach) Jen (Martin) has been preaching to be patient, that we don’t need to go forward every time,” Roberts said. “We’ve been playing so many matches against teams that play high-pressure that started getting a bit of a go-go-go attitude instead of putting our foot on the ball, knock it back, knock it around.”

Now all that remains is for Berkeley to find a little better scoring touch in front of net.

“I thought we controlled the flow of the game, but we’re not finding that final pass in the box right now,” Roberts said. “We’re just missing that last pass right now, but it’ll be there. We’re playing some good matches and playing some tough competition. We’ve started to figure out a defensive scheme, we’re not flat at the back anymore, and I think ND (Ubezonu) is doing a nice job patrolling the back end, and we’re using the outside back to protect the wings better, so it’s nice.”

Youth: Washington earns redemption, RSL boys earn Super-Y title

TAMPA – Penalty shootouts usually lead to a pair of emotions: Joy for the winners, and disappointment for the losers.

For RSL Florida’s Raeshaun Washington, the biggest emotion was a sense of redemption.

Washington’s low shot into the right corner of the net gave RSL Florida's boys under-15 side a 5-3 shootout victory against Mountain WFC from Vancouver, B.C. in a shootout after the two sides had played to a 1-1 tie through regulation and overtime at the Ed Radice Sports Complex on Tuesday afternoon.

“I started off real, real tough,” Washington said. “I was struggling throughout the game, but then I managed to put the ball in the net. It’s the way it’s supposed to be.”

Washington’s error in the 30th minute, losing possession to Mountain's Mike Jasinski who proceded to move in on goal and tie the game, proved a pivotal moment in the game. After RSL had held control over the contest, taking the lead when Nathan Dalton seized upon an opportunity in the 18th minute after Rheese Wiltshire’s centering pass had been deflected to a defender, the equalizer, and the first goal RSL had conceded all tournament, appeared to throw the team out of its rhythm.

That continued into the second half, where tired legs and minds started to play a role. Neither side was able to create any real opening, a low free kick by RSL's Jean Cenoble just before full time flashing through the 6-yard box and behind for a goal kick.

After 20 minutes of overtime went scoreless, the game went to a shootout. There, RSL’s Zach Higgins, Travis Jehs, Jacob Frahm and Kody Thomas each scored, and Kody Parker’s save on Mountain’s third shot of the shootout left the game on Washington’s foot. After a false start caused by a lightning warning siren, the referee, who had begun to take the teams off the field, was told by tournament officials to complete the shootout, and Washington, undeterred by the brief delay, slotted his shot home.

“That says a lot about his character,” RSL coach Steve Wolf said. “He knew he made that mistake, and good players know when they make a mistake they’ll admit it, they’ll take responsibility for it, and they’ll move on, and that’s what Raeshaun did today. He had a great tournament.”

Washington’s shot at redemption, though, wouldn’t have come about if not for a brilliant save by Parker, who read the shooter perfectly, taking off to his left before the ball had been struck to push it aside.

“I was watching him, and he was looking in the opposite corner, and whenever somebody does that, I always dive the other way,” Parker said. “He was looking the other way, so I just went for it.”

The title is the first Super-Y championship in RSL's history, and Wolf said he was very proud of the way his side had battled through, playing their fifth game in as many days.

“Extremely proud,” Wolf said. “I think when you get to this stage in this type of tournament where you’ve played five games over a stretch of four or five days, I think it’s more about the heart and the mind. The legs are gone, it’s all about your mind and your heart, and your willingness to get through it and to win.”

Mountain coach Andrea Agnolani said he was also proud of his side.

“I think overall it was a good game,” Agnolani said. “Everybody had to give out whatever they had left in their engine, and it was a fair game in the end. After the goal was scored, we had a great chance at the end of the first half, but then in the second half, neither team had any close chances to capitalize, so a fair game, and then the penalty shots are just a lottery.”

A lottery to which Washington held the winning ticket. Already having won the Sparta Cup and Region III Premier League this season, Washington said this title, in addition to the others, meant a great deal to him and his teammates after they had come close but fallen short in previous events.

“We usually are used to silver,” Washington said. “Now we have the gold, and it’s a big thing for us. We had a monkey on our back, and it just finally came off.”

Youth: Cleveland rallies to defeat RSL girls in Super-Y Final

TAMPA – Soccer coaches often say the most important time in any game is the five minutes following a goal.

That proved to be the case in the girls under-17 final of the United Soccer League’s Super-Y North American Finals as the Cleveland Internationals got goals from Kate Allen and Megan Gallagher to rally from a goal down to defeat RSL Florida 2-1 on Tuesday morning.

After Cleveland had the better of the first half, RSL came out sharply to start the second. Zoe Lombard had a cross that shot through the 6-yard area, but Connor Zwetsch wasn’t able to get a decisive touch as the ball went through for a goal kick. Zwetsch also had a pair of chances, one that forced a save from the Internationals goalkeeper and another that she sent wide after stealing possession from a defender.

Zwetsch did finally break the deadlock in the 65th minute, picking the ball up in midfield before beating three defenders on a run into the left side of the penalty area and flicking the ball past the advancing goalkeeper with the outside of her right foot.

“They left a gap open, so I just took the gap and took on the two people in front of me,” Zwetsch said. “I had a good angle, so I just found my around them and tapped it in with the outside of my foot.”

But then, as the RSL players were expecting, Cleveland upped its game. As RSL struggled to find a way out fron its own half, the Internationals we able to build a five-minute spell of pressure. That pressure culminated in a turning shot from 25 yards by Allen that flew into the top left corner of the net.

“I was going to shoot with my left foot,” Allen said. “But then I turned and I had an open shot, so just thought I’d hit it, I was looking far post and luckily it went in.”

As RSL’s opener had spurred on Cleveland, the equalizer led to RSL increasing its intensity, and Niki Carter had a shot well saved as she and her teammates pushed to retake the lead.

RSL’s Jessica Giblin then came inches away from restoring the advantage as she fired a free kick from 30 yards out that came back off the underside of the crossbar and away to safety.

“I thought it looked good,” Giblin said. “It was up in the corner, and I could only hope for the best.”

That near-miss took on even greater meaning shortly after, as Gallagher rose to head home a corner from the left that clipped the underside of the crossbar before dropping into the goal. RSL coach Jim Cote said after the game that he told his team that sometimes, it just wasn’t going to be, and the differences between Giblin’s near-miss and Gallagher’s goal only amplified that sentiment.

“It’s a game of inches,” Cote said. “I’m proud of the girls, I thought Amy Werdine was special all weekend, and obviously Connor showed her worth, and Jordan Johnson, every girl contributed, we got big boosts from kids that normally don’t give us that, (Jessica Jagielski) was fantastic this weekend, and again, they were all fantastic. Hats off to the Internationals, they were great, we’re a little disappointed, but proud as well.”

Allen said after the Internationals had been eliminated in group play a season ago, to return and earn the title was a very special feeling.

“Considering we didn’t do so well last year, to come back left us hungry to win this one,” Allen said. “It’s huge for us, considering what we’ve gone through this past season. We’ve grown a lot as a team, and to come back from last year and win this was really big for us. It feels good.”

Monday, November 23, 2009

Blast from the past: New league to be named NASL

The NASL could be making a comeback.

The group of nine teams, including the Tampa Bay Rowdies, announced on Monday that the new league they are planning on forming will be named the North American Soccer League, a nod to the predecessor of Major League Soccer that was formed in 1968 before folding in 1984.

“By becoming the NASL, we are paying respect to the players, coaches and leaders who were pioneers for men’s professional soccer in North America, many of whom remain involved and committed to the growth of our game in various capacities throughout the U.S. and Canada,” Selby Wellman, principal owner of the Carolina RailHawks and newly appointed president of NASL, LLC said in a press release. “For that, we honor and thank them with a new era for the NASL.

“Further, by going with NASL, we’re obligated to operate our league at a high standard befitting a name that means so much to the soccer community throughout North America. Our intention is to offer an elite brand of soccer and outstanding experience for our partners and fans, something the old NASL did very well during its day. We will do the same in the new NASL.”

The group of nine teams has submitted an application to the United States Soccer Federation to be sanctioned as a Division II Men’s Outdoor Professional League. The next step for the league would appear to be the search, and appointment of a new commissioner.

The newly-monikered league has stated that it intends to begin play in April, 2010.

Youth: RSL boys cruise into Super-Y Final

TAMPA – A pair of first half goals by Kody Thomas, and a fourth straight shutout, moved RSL Florida’s boys under-15 team into the final of the United Soccer League’s Super-Y North American Finals after a 3-0 victory against the Westchester Flames on Monday afternoon.

In a far better performance than in its final group game, RSL controlled the flow of the game from the outset, and took the lead in the 25th minute when Nathan Dalton picked up the ball outside the penalty area after a clearance, and angled a cross from the left to the far post where Thomas was on hand to head home.

Thomas then doubled RSL’s advantage in the 33rd minute, working a quick give and go with Travis Jehs before his shot from the left side of the penalty area deflected off a defender into the net.

RSL put the game out of reach 11 minutes into the second half when Rheese Wiltshire’s corner from the left was flicked in at the near post by Jean Cenoble.

“First half we came out a lot better than yesterday,” RSL coach Steve Wolf said. “I think we knew something was on the line and we had a sense of urgency. A little more disciplined in our shape, and we did the business.”

While the Flames did manufacture some chances, a looping shot that went off the top of the crossbar the closest they came to pulling a goal back, RSL’s defense remained solid. Wolf said he was pleased with the performances of center backs Winston Lightbody and Raeshaun Washington, and the way the team was defending as a whole.

“I think defending as a team in the modern game is so important,” Wolf said. “When you can keep a game tight and you can rely on your defense, because there’s going to be days when you’re not on to finish, but if you know that you can keep a team at bay, it says volumes about the team.”

RSL will face Mountain WFC from Vancouver, B.C. on Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. at the Ed Radice Sports Complex, and Wolf said he hoped the players would embrace the opportunity they have in front of them.

“I told them, ‘don’t take this for granted, because you never know when you’ll get this chance again,’ ” Wolf said. “It’s the chance of a lifetime, it’s all about trying to create a moment and create memories by winning the championship.”

Youth: RSL girls rally, advance to Super-Y Final

LAND O’ LAKES – RSL Florida’s girls under-17 team rallied from a two-goal deficit, scoring twice in the final five minutes to earn a 3-2 victory against the Fort Wayne Fever and advance to the final of the United Soccer League’s Super-Y North American Finals on Monday afternoon.

RSL trailed 2-0 early in the second half, but got back into the game on the hour-mark. Connor Zwetsch’s pass towards the top of the penalty area was picked up by Jessica Giblin, who ran at her defender. Giblin lost possession briefly, but regained it and turned to her right, where Thea Linkfield was on hand to shoot low into the right corner of the net.

The goal appeared to energize RSL, as the mid-eighties temperature appeared to begin to take a toll on the Indiana-based squad, and Giblin, Zoe Lombard and Linkfield each had chances shortly after to tie the game.

Fort Wayne did have an opportunity to restore its two-goal advantage with just over 10 minutes to play as Jordan Pawlick knifed through the RSL defense, but in alone she shot wide of the target.

That miss would come back to haunt Fort Wayne in the 86th minute when Jessica Jagielski sent an angled pass into the penalty area looking for Linkfield. Linkfield wasn’t able to get to the ball first, but the pressure she placed on the retreating defender caused a miscommunication between the defender and her goalkeeper, and the defender redirected the pass into her own net.

Linkfield then found the game-winner in the 89th minute, flicking a long clearance to Niki Carter before making a run forward. Carter took the ball, and sent it back to Linkfield, who ran into the left side of the penalty area and shot low into the right corner to complete the comeback.

“Thea and Zoe, the work they did up front for the first 25 minutes was incredible,” RSL coach Jim Cote said. “Then here at the end with Thea, who was relentless, and Niki and those girls just battling. None of those goals were pretty, but the crossed the line, so we’ll take it.”

Fort Wayne had taken the lead in the 29th minute as Marlee Disher capitalized when RSL goalkeeper Jordan Hatton mishandled a header back to her by Amy Werdine, Disher stealing the ball and finishing into an empty net. The Fever then doubled their lead in the 52th minute as Pawlick scored in a sharp first-time finish after a good through-ball had set her up. Cote, though, thought the warm conditions would take a toll on the Fort Wayne players and was proved correct as RSL carried most of the game from the 60th minute.

“I said at the beginning of the tournament, on day one, you’re never going to be out of a game here,” Cote said. “You play in this arena, and the heat, and all these teams are coming from the colder climate, so you’re never going to be out of a game.

“You could see late in the first half their kids were getting tired, and were asking to come off, so I knew if I kept rotating the (players), which is why it’s important to have 18 here who can play, that someone is going to make a difference.”

RSL will face the Cleveland Internationals in the final on Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. at the Ed Radice Sports Complex. RSL defeated Cleveland 3-2 in group play at last year’s championship, but the Internationals were impressive in a 5-0 semifinal with against Seacoast.

“They’re very deep, so we’re going to have our hands full,” Cote said. “We took one away from them last year, and I’m sure they’ll want to get one back on us.”

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Colleges: Zips dominate, eliminate Bulls from NCAA Tournament

While having held a national ranking as high as No.3 during the regular season, South Florida got a glimpse of how far as a side they still had to get to reach No.1 on Sunday afternoon.

Top-ranked Akron dominated the No.16 Bulls for the full 90 minutes as Anthony Ampaipitakwong scored twice in the first half to give the Zips a 2-0 victory in the second round of the NCAA Division I Tournament at Lee Jackson Field.

"The one thing that I will take away from this game is the total team effort that our team plays with," Zips coach Caleb Porter said. "It seems as though it is always different guys scoring goals and stepping up. I feel good about the fact that this team will find ways to win using different players at different times."

Ampaipitakwong struck first in the 25th minute as he bent a free kick from just outside the penalty area into the top left corner of the net, and then rifled a shot into the right corner of the net eight minutes later to double the Zips advantage.

The Bulls had an early chance when Andre Mittoo had his effort saved, but that would be the only shot South Florida would manage as Akron’s pressure continually disrupted the Bulls rhythm.

"I thought we defended well," Porter said. "Coming into the game we wanted to disrupt their rhythm with pressure. I thought we were able to stop a very explosive, attacking team. South Florida likes to keep possession of the ball and control the game, but we were able to prevent them from doing that tonight."

Akron (21-0-0) is trying to become the first Division I side to win the NCAA championship with a perfect record in 35 years. South Florida (14-4-3), which faltered a little down the stretch after opening the season 13-1-1, will now look to build for the future. With only three senior starters, Jorge Mora, Francisco Aristeguieta and Zak Boggs graduating, the Bulls appear they will have a strong side returning for the spring season, and next fall.

Youth: RSL boys out of sync, but still earn victory

TAMPA – RSL Florida’s boys under-15 team didn’t perform as sharply as in its opening two games, but a late second half goal by Taylor Cook proved enough to send them into the semifinals of the United Soccer League’s Super-Y North American Finals with a 1-0 victory against the Alliance Academy on Sunday afternoon.

After a scrappy game, RSL appeared to move into a higher gear late in the second half. That pressure culminated when Jarrett Link picked the ball up in midfield and pushed forward. Link had the ball knocked away from him just outside the penalty area, but the ball came to Enrique Barboto, who slid an angled pass to his left to Cook, who shot low into the right corner of the net.

RSL goalkeeper Cody Parker made a pair of good saves to preserve the lead as RSL completed group play with three wins from three games.

“We didn’t play well at all, but when you’re in a tournament, you get the result, and we move on, and that’s the main thing, we move on to tomorrow,” RSL coach Steve Wolf said. “Hopefully we’ll have a better performance tomorrow.”

RSL will play the Westchester Flames in the semifinals, kicking off at 3 p.m. at the Ed Radice Sports Complex. Wolf believes if his side can regain the offensive rhythm it had in its first two games which allowed it to control possession and the pace of the game, it should result in a stronger performance.

“I think the main thing tomorrow is to try and find the rhythm that we had in the two previous games,” Wolf said. “Try to develop a rhythm. Today, there was really no rhythm. We had a bit of a rhythm through the midfield, but we gave away the ball too cheaply, our central midfielders did, and we didn’t do that the first two games.”

Youth: RSL girls underwhelming in final group game

LAND O’ LAKES – RSL Florida’s girls under-17 team completed pool play with their third win out of three on Sunday afternoon, but did so in an underwhelming performance that saw them concede a pair of goals in the first 15 minutes before a late flurry gave them a 5-3 victory against the MPS Renegades.

The Renegades took the lead in the sixth minute, a lifted ball from the midfield finding Scout Benson, who lifted her shot over an advancing goalkeeper. RSL Florida answered a minute later, Thea Linkfield breaking through on the left to shoot home, but MPS retook the lead in the 13th minute, Stephanie Ribeiro driving a low shot from the right side of the penalty area into the bottom left corner of the net.

At that point, RSL coach Jim Cote had seen enough, and in order to liven his team up, withdrew a player, putting his side at a 10-on-11 disadvantage.

“I said when we started to play soccer, we would put another player on. ‘Til then, we were just playing with 10,” Cote said. “If you’re going to walk around, what does it matter if we have 11 or seven? And that’s what we were doing, for the first 25 minutes we were walking around, that just because we had the RSL shirt on the other team were going to walk away and hand us the match.”

The players appeared to get the message quickly, and despite being a player short began to take control of the game. Jessica Giblin had a pair of shots well saved, and then five minutes for the break Ellen Moore tied the game after Zoe Lombard made a run down the right and centered, Linkfield’s initial shot was blocked but Moore came in on the right to knock home the rebound.

Giblin then hit the post early in the second half, but while RSl continued to have the better of the play, it wasn’t until 12 minutes remained that they took the lead for good. Moore stole the ball in midfield, and slid a pass through to Niki Carter on the right. Carter crossed the ball through the six-yard box, and Jessica Jagielski was at the far post to put home the finish.

RSL made it 4-2 in the 82nd minute, Taylor Batye winning possession, this time on the left, and her quick pass through released Lombard for a low shot to finish. Jagielski then scored her second a minute later, capitalizing after Lombard’s shot had been partially blocked, and while MPS pulled a goal back with three minutes to play, Isabelle DeSouza scoring from a corner after her initial shot had been tipped over the crossbar, RSL closed out the victory.

Cote was full of praise for Jagielski, who brought excellent energy to the team off the bench.

“We knew that when you play a team like that that sit in and are condensed, you need to be able to get flank play, you need to be able to have quality service,” Cote said. “Thea was getting it down the left side, we weren’t really getting it down the right, and (Jessica) came in and gave us a huge boost. She had three or four serves that should have been goals, and then she tucked away a couple and got an assist on one. She was the difference in the game today.”

RSL will face the Fort Wayne Fever in Monday’s semifinals. The Fever finished second in Group C, and advanced as the wild card after a pair of wins in three games, scoring 11 goals in the process. Cote expected his side to be sharper with the tournament entering the knock-out stage.

“We’re just looking forward to the opportunity of playing whoever we play,” Cote said. “At this point, there’s going to be four good teams left, and now you’ve got to take care of your business.”

Youth: HCU closes Super-Y on solid note

LAND O’ LAKES – Hillsborough County United’s boys under-16 team capped pool play with a second straight victory to take second place in Pool B at the United Soccer League’s Super-Y North American Finals. HCU defeated Parsippany 2-0 on a pair of first half goals.

HCU took the lead midway through the first half as Nick Patterson scored his fourth goal in three games, flicking Daniel Barboto’s corner from the left at the near post and into the right corner of the net.

Parsippany almost answered from a free kick from 30 yards out, Hayden Harr’s curling shot going just over the crossbar, but HCU then added its second as Tevin Gage combined well with J.T. Thompson down the right, allowing Thompson to drive a low shot into the left corner of the net to make the score 2-0.

“We’ve kind of sent J.T. back to right back, and he gives a presence going forward,” HCU coach Eric Sims said. “When you can play a player like Tevin and J.T. on the same side, you know it’s a dangerous combination. Those guys work well together, and they’ve very good 1-on-1 and getting down the flank, and that’s what we try to do, get people isolated on the outside and let those guys do what they’re good at.”

HCU goalkeeper Brian Paulluck had to make a pair of good saves to keep Parsippany off the scoreboard as Dan Maldonado had his close-range header saved and Mauricio Gomez was denied when he was put in on the left. HCU’s Jordan See also had a chance to extend his side’s lead as he broke on a long run, only to put his shot wide.

HCU will play in both the Raleigh Showcase and Disney Showcase in December, and Sims said he hoped the team learned some things they can carry forward to those tournaments this weekend.

“We look forward to that,” Sims said. “We definitely want to get our players good exposure, but we want to do well as a collective unit, so we’re looking forward to it.”

College Matchday: No.16 South Florida at No.1 Akron

WHEN: Sunday, 4 p.m., Lee Jackson Field

NEED TO KNOW: South Florida will look to spring a major surprise as it takes on NCAA Division I Tournament No.1 seed Akron in the second round. The Zips are the only perfect team in the nation, entering the game with a record of 20-0-0, and have been dominant all season with six players having scored double-digit points. They are led in that by forward Teal Burnbury, who has scored 16 goals on the season, while Darlington Nagbe has added 12.

The Zips have also been tight defensively, with goalkeeper David Meves holding a 0.36 goals against average having recorded 12 shutouts this season.

The Bulls fell 3-1 to the Zips in preseason, and will likely need to play their best game of the season in order to advance. What they will likely be unable to do is go behind early, as they did against Stetson on Thursday night in the opening round before rallying for a 2-1 victory. Sebastian Thuriere and Bernardo Anor had the goals then for the Bulls, giving them both a team-high six on the season.

However, Bulls goalkeeper Jeff Attinella will likely be the key player for the Bulls on Sunday. The Zips have averaged 17.4 shots per game, and 2.65 goals per game, meaning the man named the Big East Goalkeeper of the Year will need to be on top of his game to give the Bulls a chance to steal a road victory.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Colleges: Spartans hopes for Final Four return dashed

The University of Tampa’s bid for back-to-back Division II Tournament Final Four appearances came to an end on Saturday night as the No.10 Spartans fell to No.9 Lees-McRae 1-0 in Banner Elk, N.C.

The goal came on the first real attack of the night, as Bobcats midfielder Jamie Bladen fired a shot from 30 yards out that caught the underside of the crossbar and went into the net in the second minute.

“I don’t look for it, but if it is a chance to shoot I am confident I can hit the target and test the keeper,” Bladen said. “It is a team game. I might have scored the goal, but it is a team game. We are glad we made it to the final four, but our goal is to win it (the NCAA Tournament).”

The Spartans had difficulty countering the early strike as the Bobcats defense did well to restrict the Spartans scoring opportunities. Pascal Milien and Lister Warren only had one shot apiece, and the Spartans only forced Lees-McRae goalkeeper Sean Paradise into a pair of saves on the night.

Spartans coach Adrian Bush said he as the Spartans squad was disappointed, but gave the Bobcats credit for an outstanding defensive performance.

“I give Lees-McRae a lot of credit, and I think they are a fantastic team and very well coached,” Bush said. “I think it was a game played in the middle third and outside of Bladen’s shot for the goal, I think both teams defended very well. I think (Lees-McRae) will represent the South very well in the Final Four, and we have nothing to be ashamed of on our side. Hopefully they will come back with a championship.”

The Spartans will see five starters graduate from the side this season, with Pascal Milien, Dan Ingvarsson, Kyle Williams, Ryan Thompson and Zach Fraser moving on. Bush said he was grateful to have had those five players be a part of the Spartans program.

“My heart goes out to this senior class as I know they gave our program and university their heart and soul for four years,” Bush said. “All of them are great soccer players but to see their growth as people off the field is something I feel blessed to be a part of.”

The Bobcats will now come to Tampa, and face Lewis on Dec. 3 in the Final Four. The other two teams headed to Tampa will be decided on Sunday as Le Moyne faces Southern (N.H.) in one Elite Eight contest and defending Division II champion Cal-State Dominguez Hills facing Fort Lewis in the other.

Youth: RSL boys cruise into Super-Y semifinals

RSL Florida’s boys under-15 team cruised into the semifinals of the United Soccer League’s Super-Y North American Finals with a 4-0 victory against the MPS Crusaders at the Ed Radice Sports Complex on Saturday afternoon.

As in its opening victory, RSL was able to control the tempo of the game in midfield, using its wide players to create chances against the Crusaders. RSL coach Steve Wolf said he was very happy with the way the side had played.

“I think what I was happy with was our possession,” Wolf said. “We kept the ball well, and it opened up things so we can go forward. We kept the ball well in the midfield, and that opened up the flanks for us to penetrate.”

In addition to the way they possessed the ball, RSL was also also to use it’s strength to its advantage, Wolf saying that often his players were able to overpower their opponents with not only their speed but their strength.

Kody Thomas, Rheese Wiltshire, Travis Jehs and Jarrett Link all scored for RSL, and Wolf said the priority for the side now is to maintain its momentum into Monday’s semifinals with a positive performance against the Alliance Academy on Sunday afternoon.

“We don’t want to let off (Sunday),” Wolf said. “We want to keep the momentum and keep playing the way we have to play. Worry about ourselves and just try to get better with each and every game. It’s very important.”

Youth: RSL girls move into Super-Y semifinals

LAND O’ LAKES – RSL Florida's girls under-17 side moved into the semifinals of the United Soccer League’s Super-Y North American Finals as a strong opening 25 minutes led to a 3-0 victory against the West Michigan Fire on Saturday afternoon at the Land O’ Lakes Recreation Center.

RSL was the sharper side to open the game, controlling possession well, cleaning up loose passes from the Fire while getting to 50/50 challenges quicker. The last of those factors also led to numerous free kicks going RSL’s way, as the Fire were often late in the challenge. That appeared to cause frustration among the Fire’s players and coaches, which was only exacerbated when RSL was awarded a penalty in the 19th minute when Thea Linkfield was pushed down from behind in the penalty area. Jordan Johnson stepped up and side-footed her shot into the right corner to give RSL the lead.

The goal, though, seemed to refocus the Fire, and they began to play better, gaining more possession and starting to develop their own rhythm. But a turnover in midfield gave RSL a chance to counter-attack, and Jessica Giblin’s ball forward allowed Niki Carter to use her pace to get behind the Fire defense and shoot home into the left corner of the net in the 36th minute.

RSL coach Jim Cote said he was very pleased with the way central midfielders Johnson, Giblin and Amy Werdine had controlled the game from the outset.

“I said to them at halftime that the first 25 minutes were fantastic,” Cote said. “The intensity was high, we were doubling down, triping down on players, team soccer defending was what we needed to do, that’s what I said we had to do before the game.”

Cote said he was also very pleased with the way his side defended, limiting the Fire’s opportunities as they had against Princeton on Friday.

“The back four I thought was fantastic,” Cote said. “It’s the same thing as yesterday, we didn’t give away a lot of chances, and that’s the thing I try to preach to them, that defending is everything and they’ve got to beat all 11 to score, and I think we’ve done a good job of that over the first two days.”

A similar pattern emerged in the second half, as the Fire frustrations led to first their head coach being sent from the sidelines, and then a pair of players being shown two yellow cards, which led to their ejections and the game ending 11-on-9. Between the two sendings off, Zoe Lombard scored RSL’s third, running onto a long ball and flicking her header past an advancing goalkeeper into the vacant net.

RSL will advance as the winner of Group B regardless of its result against the currently winless MPS Renegades on Sunday, and will play Monday at 1 p.m. in the tournament semifinals. Cote said he thought the way the team had performed so far was indicative of the bond the players shared.

“I think they’re excited to see each other again,” Cote said. “I think the excitement of getting the group back together again and realizing what a special group we have, although they’ve had a wonderful year, the energy level to play with each other is certainly there.”

Youth: HCU bounces back, but cannot advance

LAND O’ LAKES – Nick Patterson scored in the second minute to give Hillsborough County United’s boys under-16 team a 1-0 victory against Super Nova FC from Harrisburg, Pa., but Coastal WFC’s victory over Parsippany in the other group game means that HCU cannot advance to Monday’s semifinals of the United Soccer League's Super-Y North American Finals.

It was, however, a far better performance from HCU, who took the lead when Patterson took one touch to control a centering pass from the right by Chase Goodwin at the top of the penalty area, and then fired home a right-footed shot into the bottom right corner of the net.

HCU almost immediately gave up their lead when goalkeeper Brian Paullack was caught in possession by Nova’s Cody Hess, but HCU was able to clear the danger, and Paullack more than made up for his mistake with an excellent diving stop to turn a shot from Nova’s Connor McAliney just around his right post.

As the game wore on, though, HCU controlled the tempo and possession far better than it had in its opening defeat to Coastal, Tyler Hartlage proving critical in the midfield, and almost doubling HCU’s lead just before halftime when his shot went just over the crossbar after a good run from midfield.

In warm conditions, Nova’s players gradually wore down in the second half, a chance by McAliney that was denied by Paullack their best chance to get back on level terms. HCU’s Tevin Gage also had a chance well saved, but as the game wore on HCU took control as it wore out Nova’s players with good ball control and passing through the defense and midfield.

“I think they got the jitters out yesterday, (today we) just relaxed and played,” HCU coach Eric Sims said. “We played like we should have played yesterday. Yesterday I think we played scared to lose instead of trying to win, today we played a much better game, possessed the ball, much more to our style. We did a good job today.”

HCU could tied Coastal with six points were it to defeat Parsippany, and Super Nova defeat Coastal, but Coastal would still advance thanks to their victory over HCU in the opening game of the tournament on Friday.

College Matchday: No.10 Tampa at No.9 Lees-McRae

WHEN: Saturday, 7 p.m., Banner Elk, N.C.

NEED TO KNOW: The University of Tampa will try to return to the NCAA Division II Final Four for the second consecutive season as the Spartans travel to face Lees-McRae.

The Bobcats are led by Berin Boracic, who was named the Southeast Region Player of the Year on Tuesday after scoring 15 goals and adding eight assists this season. The Bobcats also saw defenders Luke Duffy and Dale Parker and goalkeeper Sean Paradise named to the Southeast first team, an indicator of the strength the Bobcats possess at the back.

Tampa’s Pascal Milien will be the key player charged with breaking down that defense for the Spartans. Milien has been spectacular this season, scoring 12 goals and adding seven assists, using his speed and skill to break down opposing defenses. He has been ably assisted by Lister Warren, who has added 11 goals, and Greg O’Connor, who has recorded seven assists. Also with seven assists is Dan Ingvarsson, who will likely play a critical role in trying to close down Boracic, and also in creating chances for the Spartans from set pieces.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Rowdies join breakway group, USL fires back

The Tampa Bay Rowdies were one of two teams on Friday that joined the breakaway group led by six former USL-1 clubs on Friday that will form a new professional league, bringing to total number of clubs in the group to nine.

The Rowdies and Baltimore Crystal Palace, which competed in the USL-2 last season, join USL franchises the Atlanta Silverbacks, Carolina Railhawks, Miami FC, Minnesota Thunder, Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps and new club St. Louis Soccer United, which has submitted an application to the United States Soccer Federation for sanctioning as a Division II Men’s Outdoor Professional League.

“With this new league, which consists of some of the most established teams in North American soccer, we are excited about our team and collective future and the opportunity to make a significant impact on the beautiful game,” Andrew Nestor, owner and president of the Tampa Bay Rowdies said in a press release issued by the league.

The USL Team Owners Association group formed its own league in response to a disagreement over the manner of the organization of the USL. NuRock Soccer Holdings bought the league from Nike on August 31, continuing the private ownership of the league. The Team Owners Association’s members have been working to make the USL more in line with other professional leagues where ownership is held by the owners of the respective teams, not a third-party.

While currently considered a third-party, NuRock does hold USL interests, with a Premier Development League side in Atlanta, and the option to buy two USL franchises in Atlanta and Birmingham, Ala.

The USL responded with a statement late on Friday night which appeared to be a return salvo in what could become a legal battle that would likely be a struggle for both sides.

The USL statement reads: “Both the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Crystal Palace Baltimore have contractual commitments to USL to play in the 2010 USL First Division (USL-1) season. USL will pursue all actions to protect its interests and those of the USL-1 teams from any breach of contract caused by Tampa and Baltimore.

“USL further believes TOA is tortuously interfering with USL-1 team owners that are contractually obligated to participate in the 2010 season. TOA has made several misleading statements in a variety of press releases to taint the reputation of USL and its long history of developing the sport of soccer in the United States and Canada. USL will vigorously defend its legal interests against the TOA’s tortuous interference in contractual relationships with its team owners.”

Youth: Higgins lifts RSL boys to victory

Zach Higgins first-half header proved enough to give RSL Florida’s boys under-15 side a 1-0 victory against the TSF Academy from New Jersey in its opening game of the United Soccer League’s Super-Y North American Finals at the Ed Radice Sports Complex on Friday afternoon.

Higgins rose to head home Travis Jehs’ corner kick from just outside the six-yard box, and RSL was able to control the tempo for the rest of the game with a display of ball possession that impressed RSL coach Steve Wolf.

“I was happy with the way we possessed the ball,” Wolf said. “I thought we possessed the ball well through midfield and kept the ball.”

RSL will face MPS Crusaders in its second game of pool play needing a victory to extend its chances of reaching the semifinals. With only the group winner advancing from each of the four-team groups, victories are at a premium for every team.

“I told them to enjoy it tonight, but tomorrow we have to be hungry to play another game,” Wolf said. “We start at zero again tomorrow, and do it all over again.”

Youth: Linkfield gives RSL girls opening victory

LAND O’ LAKES – Thea Linkfield scored in the 84th minute to give RSL Florida’s girls under-17 side a 2-1 victory against Princeton in its opening game of the United Soccer League’s Super-Y North American Finals at the Land O’ Lakes Recreation Center on Friday afternoon.

After numerous missed chances to take the lead in the second half, Linkfield latched onto a pass by Colleen Lynch, and then drove a low shot into the right corner of the net to put RSL ahead. The victory, though, was almost grabbed away in the final minute, when RSL goalkeeper Brittany Bennett was unable to hold a shot by Princeton's Emma Carp, and Amanda Redding put home the rebound. But Redding was ruled to be offside when Carp’s shot was taken, wiping out the goal and preserving a vital three points for RSL.

RSL had taken the lead in the 25th minute, Linkfield finding Jessica Giblin, who sent a through-ball to Connor Zwetsch, who broke through the Princeton defense and shot home from 15 yards out. Princeton hit back from the penalty spot five minutes later, though, Capr shooting low to the right to tie the game.

RSL then had a pair of chances before halftime to take the lead, but Giblin and Amy Werdine were both denied. Werdine then shot wide in the second half before Nicci Carter and Linkfield had opportunities saved and Giblin shot wide after beating Princeton’s offside trap.

It wasn’t all one-way traffic, though, as Bennett made a pair of good saves to keep the game tied before Linkfield’s winner.

RSL will face West Michigan Fire Juniors, which defeated the MPS Renegades 5-3 in their opening game, on Saturday afternoon. Victory there would put RSL in a strong position to make Monday’s semifinals.

“The game tomorrow is probably the deciding factor in who goes out of our group,” RSL coach Jim Cote said. “Overall, it was a good performance by Connor (Zwetsch), Amy Werdine was good, and our goalkeeper played well at the end when we needed a couple of saves.”

Youth: HCU loses lead, game in Super-Y Finals opener

LAND O’ LAKES – Hillsborough County United's boys under-16 side couldn’t hold a two-goal halftime lead, and saw their hopes for a title take a serious hit as they fell 3-2 to Coastal WFC from Vancouver, Canada in their opening game of the United Soccer League’s Super-Y North American Finals at the Land O’ Lakes Recreation Center on Friday.

HCU had taken the lead into the break with a pair of goals four minutes apart by Nick Patterson. Patterson, who had earlier hit the crossbar, opened the scoring in the 36th minute as he beat his defender in a challenge on the left side of the penalty area after a through-ball by Jake Peterson, and shot home into the right corner of the net.

Peterson almost added a second a minute later, stealing possession from a defender, but his shot went over the cross bar. He made up for that miss right before halftime, though, firing home from the edge of the penalty area after losing his marker on another long through-ball from the HCU midfield.

Despite being up 2-0, HCU coach Eric Sims was not happy with the way his side was playing, giving away possession cheaply in midfield, failing to control possession in an effort to make Coastal work harder to chase the ball and win possession back. Coastal made HCU pay for that slackness early in the second half, as Coastal picked up the ball in midfield on a giveaway, and quickly went on the attack. Isaac Jacobson’s run from midfield beat the offside trap, and he finished well to make the score 2-1.

After Patterson had seen a tame free kick easily saved as he tried to restore HCU’s two-goal advantage, Coastal struck again in the 55th minute, Caleb Clarke starting and finishing a well-worked move to make the score 2-2.

HCU goalkeeper John Nardozzi did well to deny Coastal twice as it threatened to take the lead, saving from Clarke and Declan Rodriguez, but he was unable to deny Isaacson his second in the 78th minute as Isaacson knifed through the HCU defense to finish left-footed.

Isaacson said the high pressure his side applied in the second half was important to turning the game around.

“Throughout the season we’ve been a high-scoring team, and the more we press, the more we score,” Isaacson said. “We’re not a very selfish team, we like to create each other goals, and that’s how we scored all our goals today, not in 1-on-1 battles.”

Sims said he felt this was the most important game for HCU in the opening round, and acknowledged that his side would need a break or two to go his side’s way if they were to advance, but he expected his side to give their all in their remaining two pool play games.

“I told them at the beginning that I thought this was the game that we needed to win,” Sims said. ”If we wanted to win the tournament, we needed to win this game. I don’t really know much about the other teams, but I don’t imagine that they’re going to beat that team, but you never know, soccer’s a funny game, so we’ll come out tomorrow and try to put together a win.”

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Colleges: Bulls rally from early deficit, defeat Hatters

No.16 South Florida shook off its early rust to come from an early deficit to move into the second round of the NCAA Division I Tournament with a 2-1 victory against Stetson on Thursday night at the USF Soccer Stadium.

The Atlantic-Sun champion Hatters shocked the Bulls in the eighth minute as Fredrik Brustad scored from 10 yards out to cap a counter-attack, but from then on the Bulls settled down and dominated play. South Florida tied the game in the 14 minute, Javed Mohammed’s corner from the right bending into the far post for Sebastian Thuriere to head home powerfully.

South Florida continued to carry the play for the remainder of the half, Stetson goalkeeper making an outstanding save to deny Bernardo Anor in the 21st minute, but Anor would give the Bulls the lead just under two minutes before the break, Mohammed again providing the cross from the left for the Venezuelan standout to head home from eight yards out.

Stetson came into the game a little more in the second half, but Bulls goalkeeper Jeff Attinella held the Hatters at bay for the final 45 minutes, allowing the Bulls to move on.
South Florida will now face No.1-ranked Akron on Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. The Zips went a perfect 20-0-0 through the regular season, and defeated the Bulls 3-1 when they faced each other in the preseason.

Youth: Experience crucial for HCU under-16s at Super-Y

Hillsborough County United's boys under-16s will try for a third time to win a United Soccer League Super-Y North American Finals title when they open play Friday at the Land O' Lakes Recreation Center against the Coastal WFC from Vancouver, Canada.

HCU was eliminated from the tournament in the semifinals last season, and had reached the final as an under-13 squad. HCU coach Eric Sims is hoping experience will pay off for his side.

"These guys have been in this tournament before, have experienced playing in matches like this, so you would think that experience would help them," Sims said. "I've seen them mature, definitely, especially from a work-rate standpoint, they just see the value of working hard and playing as hard as they can while they're playing. I think with them being in the tournament in years past, and getting to extended play, will hopefully give them experience to do well this year."

HCU is led going forward by Nick Patterson and Kofi Forkuoh, who combined to score 19 of the side's 39 goals during the Southeast Division season. The side is also strong defensively, with goalkeeper John Nardozzi and defenders Josh Santos and Charlie Delmar. The most important thing, though, is going to be getting off to a good start in the opening game against a Coastal team that dominated its division, winning 11 of 12 games, while only allowing six goals.

"You definitely want to start off by getting three points," Sims said. "If you don't do that, only getting a point or getting no points in the first game, you put yourself in a big hole where you don't control your own destiny. If you come in and get three points in that opening game, it's a good start, and it's a good confidence booster, but you also control what your team does."

Youth: RSL Girls confident entering Super-Y Finals

After the disappointment of being eliminated on goal difference in the opening round last season, RSL Florida’s girls under-17 team is looking forward to making one final attempt to win a championship at the United Soccer League’s Super-Y North American Finals, which begin on Friday afternoon.

“We’ve had a really good summer and fall together,” RSL coach Jim Cote said. “Scored a lot of goals and given up very few, and they’re looking forward to the opportunity.”

Last year, the opening game of the tournament proved critical for RSL as they fell 1-0 to the Cal Odyssey. As with any tournament that features pool play, a positive result in the opening game is going to be critical if the side is to advance. Cote, though is optimistic for his team’s chances, as his players have continued to play well to start the high school season, boosting their confidence ahead of the weekend.

“The high school is great because our kids are scoring a lot of goals, and they have a different level of confidence,” Cote said. “I think we have seven or eight players on our team who are already over the 10-goal mark for their high school teams, and that builds confidence.”

What should also help the team is its familiarity with one another. In previous season’s the sides RSL sent to the Super-Y Finals were often an amalgam of two, or more, teams. This season, all 22 players have been together for close to a year, with 18 of them having played together for two years. While the side will be missing defenders Kara Buono and Linsdey DiLeonardo to injury, Cote believes the team has the depth to where the incoming players won’t miss a beat.

“This group of 22 have played together all year, trained together, know each other inside and out,” Cote said. “18 of the 22 have been together for two years now, so they feel good about themselves, they have a little bit of arrogance about them, not cocky, but arrogance. They feel they’re a good team, and that they can compete with anybody.”

That’s an attitude they’ll need to maintain as they face a tough opening group. With the three group winners and one wild card second placed team advancing to the semifinals, RSL will need to be at its sharpest to move on.

“We open on Friday at 3 against Princeton which, you’re playing out of New York, New Jersey, that northeast region, you’ve got to be pretty good to get out of that, that’s the first task,” Cote said. “Then we get Chicago and then MPS renegades, which I believe lost in the final last year, so we have three good teams in our group, we’re going to have to let the chips fall where they may and get after them.”

College Matchday: Stetson at No.16 South Florida

WHEN: Thursday, 7:30 p.m., USF Soccer Stadium

NEED TO KNOW: After almost a two-week break, South Florida begins the NCAA Division I Tournament with a match against a side it has already defeated this season. The Bulls (13-3-3) won 3-0 against the Hatters at the USF Soccer Stadium in their final preseason game, Jorge Mora, Fernando Gonzalez and Hasani Sinclair scoring for the Bulls that night.

After a slow start to his freshman season, Sinclair now leads the team in points with five goals and five assists for a total of 15. Bernardo Anor and Sebastian Thuriere have also scored five goals apiece for the Bulls, while Javed Mohammed leads the Bulls with nine assists.

The key to the Bulls’ success, however, has been their defensive play, with Big East Goalkeeper of the Year Jeff Attinella leading the way. The former Countryside standout has recorded a 0.76 goals against average for the season, including seven shutouts.

The Hatters (14-3-2) earned their way into the tournament by winning the Atlantic-Sun conference title with a 2-1 victory against Mercer on Saturday. Former Palm Harbor University standout Griffin Gilstrap scored both goals for Stetson in the title game, and he leads the Hatters with 11 goals. The Bulls will also need to keep an eye on Kevin Munz, who has 10 assists on the season.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Preps: Terrapins beat Tigers, but left with food for thought

TAMPA – Tampa Prep continued its undefeated start to the season on Wednesday night, but the manner of the Terrapins 4-3 victory against Jesuit left Coach Doug Smith a little concerned.

“Frankly, we got the win, but I don’t think we played as well as we could play,” Smith said. “I don’t think we controlled the ball like we are capable of doing. We were one-dimensional, going too much over the top, we needed to play more to feet, keep the ball, keep our composure.”

But while Smith may have thought the Terrapins play was one-dimensional, the counter-punching style they were able to utilize paid off for them against the Tigers. Using the speed of front men Wes Sever and Jesuit transfer Burrell Aaron effectively, Sever and Twain Glaser found the net to give the Terrapins a 2-0 halftime lead.

“We were fortunate to get a counter or two, and get a couple of goals,” Smith said. “By no means were we dominating the game when we scored our first two goals, and then I think the game opened up a bit.”

The Terrapins (3-0) added a third early in the second half, but then lost senior center back Travis Simmons after a nasty clash of heads with Jesuit’s Trevor Adams left both players dazed, and unable to continue. Simmons' absence, and the loss of defensive midfielder Brandon Weisz to injury that followed it, disrupted the Terrapins at the back. All three of the Tigers goals came after Simmons left the game, an indicator of how important his quick recovery will be for the Terps.

Tampa Prep's Anthony Baumann scored on a low shot off a free kick from the left corner of the penalty area to make the score 4-1, seemingly putting the game out of reach, but the Tigers were able to pull within a goal late, an injury time penalty giving them hope of pulling out a tie. That disappointed Smith, but he felt that the side would learn from what was their first true test this season.

“I still think as far as the flow of play, we could have done a lot better,” Smith said. “I don’t think, frankly, our guys had been used to that thus far in the season, where they had no time on the ball, and I thought Jesuit, to their credit, did a good job.”

As for Jesuit (1-1-2), the Tigers are now winless in three straight, a pair of ties against Tampa Catholic and Robinson coming before Wednesday’s loss. That fact may be slightly misleading, though, as in all three the Tigers have played well, with an inability to take the chances they are creating the only apparent reason for their struggles.

With an eminently winnable game against Middleton up next for Jesuit, the Tigers should be able to get back on track before they head to Sarasota for the Sarasota High Thanksgiving Invitational, beginning on Monday.

Preps: Knights to face test against powerful Gryphons

Robinson’s boys soccer team has opened the season well, a 2-2 draw with Jesuit on Monday night opening some eyes around the bay area, and the Knights will get another strong test when they host Sickles on Thursday night.

The Gryphons have been dominant in their first three games of the season, winning all three by a combined score of 18-0. Knights coach Ken Thomas said he is looking forward to seeing how his young side fares against an experienced Gryphons squad. Robinson has been an athletic and somewhat physical team in previous seasons, but is now seeing young players with greater playing ability join the program. Thomas thinks the discipline his young players have shown is the principle reason why his side has been able to have the success it has so far.

“We definitely lost six or seven seniors last year that were primarily athletes more than soccer players,” Thomas said. “In the process, we’ve picked up about four or five soccer players to replace the athletes with. I think because of the youth, the younger players coming in are more receptive and more open-minded, which makes them more disciplined, which is really the key to our success so far.”

At the center of the team the Knights have Kody Thomas, who will be a pivotal player in Thursday night’s game. The Knights took a 2-0 lead in the first half against Jesuit before Thomas was ejected for his second yellow card of the game. With Boris Simeunovic leading the Gryphons going forward, and Ben Wiley providing an able accomplice, Thomas will have to play a disciplined game if the Knights are going to have a chance to spring another surprise.

“(Kody) is going to be absolutely huge in tomorrow’s game plan, because it’s no secret (Simeunovic) is an absolute scoring machine for them, you can tell they like the play the ball through him, and (Wiley) likes to get his assists through (Simeunovic),” Ken Thomas said. “Tomorrow night is going to be a true test of Kody’s composure, maybe more than of his soccer skill.”

From the other sideline, Sickles coach Tony Calvo said he is looking forward to the challenge Robinson should pose his side.

“This is a very interesting game for us,” Calvo said. “They tied Jesuit a couple of nights ago, which really shows that Robinson is finally becoming a team. I know they’ve had a lot of young players in the past when we’ve played them. I know his goalkeeper (Tony Seleznick) is phenomenal, I had the privilege of coaching him a few years back, so it’s going to be an interesting game.”

Calvo credits the strong start his side has made to the season to the rigorous training sessions they have been through. The work that the side has put in on the training field has certainly paid off competitively, with five Gryphons having multiple goals this season.

“They’re training every day hard, and they’re taking one game at a time,” Calvo said. “They’re treating every opponent as a strong opponent.”

Colleges: Bulls game moved up to Thursday night vs. Stetson

South Florida’s opening game of the NCAA Division I Tournament against Stetson has been moved up to Thursday night, with kickoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the USF Soccer Stadium.

The Bulls have also announced that the first 500 students at the game with receive free admission to the game. Students wishing to obtain one of the free tickets must go to the ticket office at the men's soccer stadium one hour prior to game time. Students must present their USF student ID at the ticket window.

The Bulls are currently on a 29-game undefeated run at home in both the regular season and postseason. Should they advance to the second round, they would travel to face No.1 seed Akron next Wednesday.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

USL: Rowdies name Dalglish as manager

As I wrote earlier today for the Tampa Tribune, the Tampa Bay Rowdies have appointed Paul Dalglish to be the first manager in the club’s new era in the United Soccer League’s First Division.

To put on my opinion-writer hat for a moment, instead of my normal reporter hat, I’d like to commend what I think should be a good, and very well may be an excellent hire for the Rowdies.

There may be some who are going to point to the fact that this is Dalglish’s first managerial appointment as a knock on him, and the Rowdies hiring him. Only this week the Rochester Rhinos, a team the Rowdies will face entering the USL-1 next season, appointed Bob Lilley as their new manager. Lilley has prior experience in the USL, taking every side he has coached in the league to the playoffs, twice being named Coach of the Year and winning the league title in 2006 with Vancouver. But when it comes to soccer management, while prior experience can give you a blueprint for how you will manage your new team, it is no guarantee of future success.

Neither is being the son of a legendary player and manager. But with that experience of being around not just the soccer you and I grew up with as youngsters, but the professional game as Dalglish did, you would expect he understands more than most the rigors that come not only with playing the game, but being a top-quality manager. Add in the expertise he will be able to gather from Rowdies Technical Director Perry Van Der Beck, and the way he is reported to have thrown himself into the job since his appointment, and you have someone who could get results quickly.

How quickly? Let’s not go around thinking the Rowdies will win the USL-1 in their first season. The league is a tough one, even if the breakaway group of six does form its own league. Its clubs have had success in the CONCACAF Champions League, and three, Seattle currently and Portland and Vancouver in 2011, will either have moved up to join Major League Soccer, or will be about to. But when I asked Dalglish if it was reasonable to expect the Rowdies to contend in their first season, his first two words in response said a lot.

“Why not?”

Of course, he went on to point out, as coaches so often do, how it is going to take a lot of hard work for the team to achieve that goal, but the fact that he would something like that says a lot, at least to me, about the way he’s going to approach this job. This may be an expansion franchise in name, but as MLS found with the Seattle Sounders this season, with the right players, the right coach and the support of a city, good things can happen quickly.

Colleges: Seven Spartans named to All-South team

Seven members of the Tampa Spartans’ mens soccer team have been named to the Daktronics All-South Region team, including five players on the first team. According to Spartans coach Adrian Bush, it is the most the Spartans have ever had named to the team.

Goalkeeper Ryan Thompson, defender Dan Ingvarsson, midfielder Lister Warren and forwards Pascal Milien and Greg O’Connor were named to the first team, while defender Kyle Williams and midfielder Ryan Griffin were named to the second team.

The Spartans will try to advance to the NCAA Division II Final Four, which they will host, when they travel to face Lees-McRae College on Saturday in Banner Elk, N.C.

Other locals named to the team included former Berkeley Prep standout Thomas Biddinger, who was named to the first team after a strong junior season with Rollins, while Eckerd’s Luke Sheekey was named to the second team. On the women’s side, Saint Leo’s Hannah Beard and Sara Macko were named to the second team.

WPS: Bishop signed by expansion franchise Atlanta

Former Land O' Lakes High and University of Florida standout Stacy Bishop has been signed by Women's Professional Soccer expansion franchise the Atlanta Beat.

A midfielder, Bishop spent the inaugural season of the WPS with the Boston Breakers, where she made six starts and 10 appearances, recording two assists. She is the eighth players acquired by the Beat, who begin play in the 2010 season.

“Stacy is quite versatile,” Beat head coach Gareth O’Sullivan said in the club's press release. “I saw her play for Boston last season, and she has some strong attacking qualities. We are looking to use her as more of a holding midfielder although she does give us many options going forward.”

Bishop, who was a member of the U.S. under-23 squad and a semifinalist for the MAC Herman Trophy, also said she was excited to get the opportunity to be a member of the Beat.

“This really means a lot to me, and I realize that it is a special opportunity," Bishop said. "This is something I always dreamed of doing as a kid, so it’s pretty amazing to be able to do it for a living.”

Monday, November 16, 2009

Colleges: Bulls face Hatters in opening round of NCAA Tournament

The University of South Florida will host Stetson in the opening round of the NCAA Division I soccer tournament on either Friday or Saturday, with the winner getting a trip to top-seeded Akron in the second round.

The Bulls defeated the Hatters 3-0 in their final exhibition game of the preseason, Jorge Mora, Fernando Gonzalez and Hasani Sinclair scoring for the Bulls in that contest.

The Bulls also faced Akron in the preseason, falling 3-1 to the Zips. Akron is 20-0-0 this season, and has been ranked No.1 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll since the first regular season poll on September 8.

Preps: Buccaneers get boost from weekend road-trip

The first time Berkeley Prep’s soccer teams took a weekend away, all of the current players were not yet born. But in its 26th year, according to girl’s coach Ken Roberts, the Buccaneers girls had a good weekend in Boca Raton, earning a 1-1 draw against Plantation American Heritage and a 4-0 win against Boca Raton St. Andrew’s.

Both Berkeley squads took the trip south, defeating St. Andrew’s 5-1 and falling to American Heritage 2-0, but Roberts believes the results are not the most important thing on the trip, but more the increased chemistry and camaraderie that comes from the weekend the teams spend together.

“It’s a boost for the teams as far as it increases team chemistry a lot quicker than just showing up for games and practices,” Roberts said. “They basically live together for the weekend, but also starting back with (Dave) Zimmerman and I, we always treated it as a program, not a girls team and a guys team, they become supporters of each other, and this trip starts to emphasize that, especially early in the season the kids are voluntarily showing up to the other games when they’re not schedule to play, and that builds up a lot of camaraderie and school pride, and that pays off later.”

Roberts estimates the value of the trip is equitable to playing 10 games at home in terms of the development. The trip allows younger players to become better assimilated into their new squad, and gives them a chance to experience the sort of road-trips that can be commonplace when the region playoffs come at the end of the season.

“It helps prepare the kids to know how to travel,” Roberts said. “We get some of the young kids into the program this way, and to recognize that the trip is about having fun, but it’s also about the business of the team, and that gives the opportunity to give them that experience before it means everything at the end of the year.”

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Colleges: Spartans move into NCAA quarterfinals

The University of Tampa moved one win away from a return to the NCAA Division II Tournament Final Four as the No.10-ranked Spartans defeated host and No.5-ranked Rollins 2-1 in the second round of the tournament on Sunday afternoon.

The Spartans got first half goals from Dan Ingvarsson and Greg O’Connor put the Spartans ahead, but it took some excellent goalkeeping from Ryan Thompson, and a late goal to be denied on an offside call, for the Spartans to advance to the quarterfinals.

“It gets us one step closer and we have to continue to improve in a lot of areas,” Spartans coach Adrian Bush said. “We will enjoy this and it’s back to work for our players tomorrow. With our staff, there are no days off; our prep is immediate.”

The Spartans opened brightly, and Ingvarsson opened the scoring in the 26th minute as he curled a free kick from just outside the penalty area into the net for his fifth goal of the season. The Tars then went close to tying the game as the Tars leading scorer J.D. Greunewald was denied by Thompson before O’Connor latched onto a pass by Brian Fekete and fired a shot in from the left corner of the penalty area.

Trailing 2-0 at halftime, the Tars increased their intensity to start the second half, but it was matched for the most part by the Spartans as neither side was able to gain an upper hand. That changed midway through the half as an angled cross into the penalty area from Jacob Deloach was headed home by Bradley Welch to make it a one-goal game.

The Tars then appeared to have tied the game with nine minutes to play, but Dennis Chin had his goal denied by the assistant referee's raised flag, signalling an offside call. Four minutes later, Thompson kept the Spartans ahead as he punched clear a header by Thomas Biddenger, and Tampa was able to hold on for the final five minutes.

“We want to tip our hats to Rollins, their coaching staff, and program,” Bush said. “This is a program with class and an outstanding team. This was a great win on the road against a very good team.”

The Spartans will travel to face No.9-ranked Lees-McRae in the quarterfinals on Saturday after the Bobcats defeated No.24 Anderson University 3-2 in their second round contest.

College Matchday: No.10 Tampa at No.5 Rollins

WHEN: Sunday, 1 p.m., Cahall-Sandspur Field

NEED TO KNOW: Tampa will try to earn a little revenge on the only team to defeat it in the regular season as it tries to advance to the NCAA Division II Tournament South Region final against Rollins.

Rollins won the first meeting 3-2, the Tars jumping out to a 3-0 lead before the Spartans rally through goals by Dan Ingvarsson and Greg O’Connor fell short. The Tars subsequently lost twice, both to Barry, but earned their revenge for those defeats with a 1-0 win against the Buccaneers in Friday’s 1-0 overtime victory, Daniel Salazar scoring the only goal with just over three minutes to play before the game went to a shootout.

Tampa will look to make a far better start than they did in their first game against the Tars, as they were able to in their 3-1 win against Lynn on Friday. Pascal Milien gave the Spartans an eighth-minute lead against the Fighting Knights, and while Lynn tied the game 11 minutes later, Jordan Moses soon restored the lead before Chris O’Brien added a late insurance goal.

The winner of Sunday’s game will face the winner of Lees-McRae and Anderson (S.C.), who also play Sunday at 2 p.m.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Preps: Tigers strike late, earn tie with Crusaders

TAMPA -- Joseph Metzger scored with 10 minutes to go to earn Jesuit's soccer team a 1-1 tie with Tampa Catholic at Crusaders Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

The Tigers (1-0-1) had been building pressure on the Crusaders as the second half had gone on, and it finally told as Christopher Conlon's cross from the right was met on the half-volley by Metzger and tucked into the right corner of the net from eight yards out.

Tampa Catholic had taken the lead in the eighth minute, a long throw-in from the left by Steven Ramos being flicked on by Brendan McCarron to Christian Blattler, who flicked a volley into the right corner of the net.

The Crusaders (1-0-2) had other chances to extend their lead, Andrew Buckley having his chance snuffed out by advancing Jesuit goalkeeper Seth Drummond after Buckley had been put in through on the left side. Drummond also made an outstanding save, scrambling across his goal to turn a shot pinpointed for the top right corner of his net by McCarron on a quickly taken free kick early in the second half.

“He made some brilliant saves to keep us in the game,” Jesuit coach Bob Bauman said.

As each half went on, though, the young Tigers side came further and further into the game and began to create opportunities of their own. The Tigers almost tied the game midway through the second half as Stephen Gathman's downward header off a corner from the left came off the ground hard, hit the underside of the crossbar and was finally swept away for another corner by a TC defender. That corner created another opportunity for Joel Gutierrez, whose shot went off the post before being gathered by TC goalkeeper Paul Wilson.

The Crusaders, who began the game with a short bench, also struggled with injuries as Kevin Carter was unable to complete the game with a hip problem, and Matt Moore left the game late with cramps. TC coach Kevin McCarron said he was happy to take a tie.

“I think ultimately it was a fair result,” McCarron said. “If the game goes on any longer, they win the game because we just ran out of subs. Of course, we're disappointed we didn't win, but this is as close as we've come to a win here since I've been the coach here.”

Bauman too believed his side would have earned victory had they had a little more time, but was happy with the way his side played against the more experienced Crusaders, and how they were able to limit Buckley's opportunities.

“Our backline did a very good job of forcing him away from goal where he couldn't really be as creative,” Bauman said. “Last year, I think he scored two against us where we let him slip in over the top and didn't have a chance to recover. For us today, I think every time he got it, we forced him away from goal.”

Jesuit faces Robinson in its district opener on Monday before facing Tampa Prep on Wednesday. Tampa Catholic also opens district play this week, travelling to face Berkeley Prep on Thursday after a game against Anclote on Tuesday.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Colleges: Spartans move into South Region semifinals

Pascal Milien and Jordan Moses scored first-half goals as the University of Tampa moved into the South Regional semifinal of the NCAA Division II Men's Tournament with a 3-1 victory against Lynn.

“Very pleased,” Spartans coach Adrian Bush said. “It’s just a step further, a step closer to our goal. Sunday isn’t going to be an easy game by any means, but I’m very happy.”

Milien gave the Spartans the lead in the eighth minute, but the Fighting Knights hit back 11 minutes later as Paolo Vaz made the score 1-1. Moses restored the Spartans’ lead in the 29th minute, turning the ball home after Dan Ingvarsson had hit the crossbar and Lister Warren had a pair of shots blocked.

“It was a fantastic rebound,” Bush said. “There was probably thre or four that were initially blocked, and Jordan got in under control and just buried it. A great goal from him, and he’s a guy who started off injured, and he’s really starting to come into his own now. I’m really happy for him for what he did, he was outstanding tonight.”

The Spartans controlled good portions of the game, and that led to some frustrations for Lynn, which had six players shown yellow cards during the game. Bush said he thought the key to the game was the Spartans’ preparation that allowed them to make the correct adjustment to anything the Fighting Knights threw at them.

“They really went out an executed perfectly,” Bush said. “We talked about three or four different scenarios, if Lynn did this, how would we counter, and we were ready for anything they threw at us, and I think that was the difference in the game.”

Milien went close to extending the Spartans lead in the 64th minute as his fierce left-footed shot from just outside the penalty area came back off the post after he had cut in from the right side, but Tampa put the game away in the final minute as Chris O’Brien scored off a rebound of Milien’s initial shot.

The end of their season caused emotions to spill over for Lynn’s players, of whom two, Gabe Taboada and Christian Donert, were shown red cards after the game ended.

The Spartans will now face host Rollins on Sunday at 1 p.m. after the Tars defeated Barry 1-0 in overtime in the second game of the evening.

Preps: Gryphons' Davies commits to Spartans

Sickles center back Gil Davies has verbally committed to the University of Tampa, Gryphons coach Tony Calvo confirmed on Friday.

Davies visited the Spartans last weekend, and becomes the second local player to commit to UT, following Tampa Catholic's Andrew Buckley.

Davies was named to the Tampa Tribune's All-County second team a season ago, along with goalkeeper Brandon Stout. The Gryphons allowed less than a goal-a-game defensively on their way to a 15-6-1 record.