Thursday, December 31, 2009

Youth: Chargers girls can't find winner in Disney opener

LAKE BUENA VISTA – The Clearwater Chargers girls under-17 team earned a tie in its opening game at the Disney Soccer Showcase on Thursday afternoon, but was unfortunate not to come away with a win as it controlled the flow of the game, and the majority of possession, in the second half of its 1-1 tie with the Hibernian FC Express from New Jersey.

“In the second half, we did a much better job of playing the way we normally play,” Chargers coach Sergei Stopak said. “A team that passes, supporting each other, trying to find our rhythm. I thought that was missing in the first half, but in the second half it was there. We were a little unfortunate not to find that final finish, but when you come to Disney, that’s what you expect from the competition.”

Jen Casey gave the Chargers the lead in the first half, but Hibernian tied the game just before halftime. From then on, the Chargers were in control, and scored early in the second half, only to see the goal taken away for offside.

Sierra Lelii was effective leading the Chargers attack, and Stopak thought she had done well in leading the line.

“I really thought she was going to beat that final defender and get that opportunity,” Stopak said. “In fact, we did, but we got too greedy to put it in the net, and we got caught offside for it, but she made a difference out there.”

The Chargers will face the Scorpions SC from Massachusetts in their second game the Scorpions routing the Michigan Hawks 5-1 in their opener.

The Chargers under-18s earned victory in their opening game of the event, taking a 1-0 win against the Ohio Elite Academy.

Elsewhere, the Brandon Flames girls under-15 team trailed at halftime, but after some adjustments were able to earn a 4-1 victory against Albertson SC from New York, Shea Rhoney scoring a hat trick for the Flames.

“(She had) brilliant composure,” Flames coach Randy Belli said of Rhoney. “Just going after the outside back and creating problems for the other team.”

Albertson’s three forwards caused problems for the Flames in the first half, pressuring the defenders and midfielders as they tried to find their passing rhythm, but in the second half the Flames started playing longer, angled passes to stretch the defense and create openings.

“They did a really good job pressuring us in the first half,” Belli said. “We just adjusted our tactics a little bit, started playing some longer diagonal balls because they were really leaving the opposite wide player or forward open, so once we started finding that player, and then settling down and playing a little bit I think the rust came off, and we created a lot of chances.”

RSL Florida’s girls under-18s also won, but the victory wasn’t as easy as the 5-1 score against KUFC from Illinois might make it seem.

“It was a quality team,” RSL coach Jim Cote said. “It was 2-0 at halftime, but they were all over us to start the second half, we just got one ball in behind them and three passes, boom, it was in the goal, then we got another on quickly after that. They were a very good team, we just got the breaks with the goals. I don’t think 5-1 was indicative of the game.”

Cote said he wanted to see better intensity from his side when they face West Virginia United, the defending West Virginia state champions, on Friday evening.

“It’s a big game tomorrow night,” Cote said. “At times we looked very, very good today. The issue with the team is that sometimes we think we’re better than we are, and we don’t play with that level of intensity.”

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Youth: Chargers under-16s beat HCU, under-18s fall in overtime

LAKE BUENA VISTA – The Clearwater Chargers boys under-16 team completed a strong week of performances in the Disney Soccer Showcase under-17 Copa Division, as three goals in a little under 10 minutes gave them a fourth victory for the event with a 3-0 win against Hillsborough County United’s under-17 team on Wednesday afternoon.

“We have been trying to learn how to win games,” Chargers coach Garth Pollonais said. “Now this weekend really put a positive spin on the things we have been trying to do.”

HCU started well, but once Clearwater found its stride it was able to control the pace and the rhythm of the game well, passing the ball sharply and making HCU chase. The Chargers took the lead in the 22nd minute after a good moment of awareness by Zack Shriver, who when lining up a free kick from close to 40 yards out spotted HCU’s goalkeeper cheating off his line in anticipation of a cross into the penalty area. Shriver fired a well-struck shot into the top left corner of the net, catching the goalkeeper off guard.

“It was originally going to be a cross,” Shriver said. “But then they came across and said have a shot, so I just went for it.”

The Chargers doubled their lead a minute later when Nikolai Hammer was brought down in the penalty area, and Shriver converted from the penalty spot. The Chargers added a third in the 29th minute, a good long ball down the right from full back Cameron Coughlin allowing Hammer to beat his marker for pace, and after he cut into the penalty area, he crossed low to the far post where Anthony Lucido was on hand to score.

Hammer was excellent leading the Chargers forward line, holding up possession when needed and making dangerous runs to put pressure on the HCU defense. Pollonais said that was something Hammer had been working on in training.

“That’s something we have been working on with him,” Pollonais said. “If he can hold the ball up, it keeps our flow of the game going better, and I thought he did a fantastic job doing that."

HCU had its opportunities to get back into the game but was unable to take advantage, particularly in the second half as numerous efforts missed the target. HCU coach Eric Sims was disappointed with the way his side had closed out what had been a good week to that point.

“Today defensively, (Hammer) was giving us a lot of problems,” Sims said. “The first goal, giving up a soft goal like that deflated us I think, and to give up a penalty and go down 2-0 is tough to come back from.”

While the Chargers under-16s appeared to take a big step forward as far as learning how to win games, the Chargers under-18s suffered a disappointing loss, losing a two-goal lead on the way to a dramatic 4-3 defeat in overtime against Alliance FC from Tennessee in their final.

Shane Wixted and Wes Sever had given the Chargers a 2-0 lead, but that quickly slipped away early in the second half as Alliance took a 3-2 lead. Down to 10 men, the Chargers tried to rally, and were aided by a moment of ill-discipline by the Alliance goalkeeper, who was sent off for foul language with less than 10 minutes to play in the second half, evening the numbers to 10-on-10.

Clearwater couldn’t find a way to score from the indirect free kick given after the red card, the shot being blocked by a charging Alliance wall, but after forcing a pair of corner kicks, Bruno da Silva’s volley from a half-cleared cross was blocked by a hand, giving the Chargers a penalty. da Silva himself stepped up to slot home from the spot, appearing to give Clearwater momentum as overtime began.

Alliance’s David Geno swung momentum back to his team’s side early in the first overtime period with a brilliant first touch off a long pass and a curling left-footed shot into the bottom left corner of the net to give his side a 4-3 lead. Clearwater was unable to respond a second time.

Pollonais was disappointed that after a strong first half his side wasn’t able to protect its 2-0 lead better.

“The first half, we played brilliant, we controlled the game, we went two goals up,” Pollonais said. “We’ve got to learn to manage games when we are in the lead. In a game like this, where we are a better team, we’ve got to put teams away, it’s as simple as that.”

USSF denies sanctioning to NASL, USL

The NASL, USL and Tampa Bay Rowdies were dealt a blow on Wednesday as the U.S. Soccer Board of Directors voted unanimously to deny sanctioning to either league for the upcoming season.

The USSF said in a statement that the two leagues would have the opportunity to come to a compromise within the next seven days to set up an interim plan for 2010 that could meet the required benchmarks.

“After carefully reviewing the findings from the Task Force it was clear there are still too many uncertainties for both organizations, which would be extremely difficult to resolve in a timely fashion that would allow them to prepare for the 2010 season,” U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said. “In the best interest of soccer in the United States, we decided to not sanction either league at this point. However, we did encourage both leagues to come together in the next week and attempt to develop another plan which would allow a single league to be approved on a provisional basis. We are committed to finding ways to improve the long-term viability of all leagues and teams and continue the growth of soccer in the United States.”

The USL released a statement, which can be read here.’s Andrea Canales has a view on the topic, which can be found here.

South Florida writer Kartik Krishnaiyer, who has done sterling work on the entire USL/NASL breakaway, has also weighed in briefly, with more likely to come.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Youth: RSL boys fall short at Disney

LAKE BUENA VISTA – RSL Florida’s two representatives at the Disney Soccer Showcase saw their tournaments come to an end on Tuesday, as both the boys under-16s and under-17s failed to advance out of their respective groups.

RSL’s under-16s played well from box to box in their final game, but a failure to convert scoring opportunities in the final third led to a 1-1 tie against the Michigan Jaguars. According to Coach Steve Wolf, that had been the theme for the side’s week, as they finished with two draws and a loss.

“From box to box, we dominated the games, but in the final third, in the box, we weren’t good enough to finish teams off,” Wolf said. “We didn’t have the killer instinct, the timing wasn’t there, we just couldn’t finish in the final third.”

Wolf was pleased with the way his side played overall, with Zach Higgins having a strong tournament in the center of midfield. Wolf said he thought the way Higgins thinks about the game sets him apart from a lot of players his age.

“He’s by far our most intelligent player,” Wolf said. “He almost plays like he’s in his thirties, he sees things and then he steps into situations defensively and just reads things. A very smooth player, very calm, always in control, and he’s very important for us in midfield.

RSL’s Under-17s finished an up and down tournament with a tough defeat, 6-0 to the Baltimore Bays. Coach Alex Delgado said there were just times when the team you faced was better, but he was happy with the way the side kept their heads up and kept working hard.

“Today, we were just out-matched,” Delgado said. “Sometimes it’s ok to say the other team was better than you, and they were better. We came out fighting though, we missed a couple of opportunities early, and when you have a team like the Baltimore Bays Academy team, they’re not going to let you breathe.”

Delgado was happy with the week overall, however, a win against Campton United from Illinois, currently ranked No.14 in the nation according to a highlight.

“Hopefully we gained a little respect from teams out here,” Delgado said. “We showcased ourselves well, and I think a couple of our guys caught some people’s attention out here, they did excellent. (Robert) Menke in the middle, (Kyle) Eichoff in the middle and Tevin (Gage) out wide had another amazing showcase, it was excellent.”

Hillsborough County United’s boys under-18s also fell short of advancing after a 1-0 defeat against Commack SC in its final game dropped them to third place in the group, as did HCU’s under-15s, which managed to end the tournament on a high note with a 7-4 win against the Albertson Academy from New York.

The Clearwater Chargers under-18 and under-16 teams both advanced through, each side winning its respective group. The Under-18s played to a 0-0 draw with the Forsyth Fusion, sending them through to a game against Tennessee’s FC Alliance on Wednesday afternoon.

The under-16s, playing up in the under-17 division, completed pool play with a third victory, defeating FC Solar from Texas 2-1. The Chargers will face HCU’s under-17 side, which advanced with a pair of wins and a tie, closing with a 1-1 draw against Huntsville from Alabama.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Youth: Boost from Pena lifts HCU to key victory

LAKE BUENA VISTA – Alejandro Pena keyed a spell of three goals in three minutes as Hillsborough County United’s boys under-18 team took control of its group at the Disney Soccer Showcase with a 5-2 victory against the Potomac Soccer Academy on Monday evening at the Wide World of Sports Complex.

HCU had taken the lead in the sixth minute, Keith Sierra and T.J. East combining well to set up Sierra for a fine finish. Potomac hit back in the 30th minute, but HCU retook the lead in the 39th minute as Pena and Andrew Buckley worked a nice give and go. Buckley’s shot was blocked, but the ball rebounded to Pena who curled his shot from the left side of the penalty area into the right corner of the net.

The goal seemed to throw Potomac’s players, and within a minute HCU had made it 3-1, Pena flicking on a pass to Buckley, who finished beautifully, lobbing the advancing goalkeeper with a well-controlled volley. A minute later, Pena broke into the penalty area and was brought down, Sierra stepping up to convert from the penalty spot and giving HCU a 4-1 halftime lead.

Pena had only come entered the game in the 35th minute, with HCU coach Kelvin Jones wanting to make sure he could keep him as fresh as possible.

“(Ali) played 90 minutes yesterday, and I was concerned about letting him play the full 90 today,” Jones said. “T.J. was here today, so we decided to bring Ali on a little bit later, and he had an immediate impact. His pace and power was a difference right away.”

Matt Moore added a fifth in the 68th minute, turning his defender inside-out before firing a low shot into the right corner of the net. Potomac pulled a goal back late, but HCU posted an impressive win that put it top of the Group D. A win against Commack SC from New York on Tuesday would advance the side through to face the winner of Group C for a final game.

The Clearewater Chargers played a better overall game than in their opener, but needed a slice of luck to earn a 2-1 win against the TSF Academy Celtic.

TSF opened the game well, pressuring the Chargers as they tried to find a rhythm, and having a goal ruled out for offside early, one of three such instances where TSF was denied due to an assistant referee’s flag.

The Chargers took the lead in the 32nd minute, however, as Anthony Baumann mad a run in from the right flank, and delivered a beautiful through-ball to Charles Lynch who was brought down in the penalty area. Bruno da Silva stepped up and converted from the penalty spot low into the left corner.

“We got some good feeds, and we got some good movement off the ball,” Chargers coach Garth Pollonais said. “I think at the beginning, we didn’t figure out how to get behind them, but once we started to get our rhythm and movement it was a lot better.”

TSF tied the game in the 56th minute, a low curling free kick by Chris Benedict finding its way around the wall into the left side of the Chargers’ net, but the Chargers bounced back well, controlling possession and making TSF chase the game and give away possession cheaply.

That came to fruition in the 70th minute as Ben Sweat made a surging run down the left, and was found by a long ball over the top of the TSF defense by Jayson Lopaciuk. Sweat controlled the ball by the goal line and centered, and his cross went through the TSF goalkeeper’s hands, and into his own net.

“It was a great combination play coming around the outside,” Pollonais said. “Sometimes you’ve got to be lucky in this game, so we’ll take it.”

Clearwater will look to close out group play with a perfect record when it faces the Forsyth Fusion on Tuesday.

Elsewhere, HCU’s under-17s earned a second victory with a 2-1 win against Norcross, Ga., as did the Chargers under-16s, playing in the under-17 division, with a 3-1 victory against the Tennessee Rush that guaranteed them victory in their group.

Strictly Soccer’s under-15s earned their second win in as many games with a 1-0 win against Space Coast, but their under-16 counterparts fell 2-1 to Cobb FC. RSL Florida’s under-17s bounced back from an opening defeat with a 1-0 win against Campton United, while their under-16s drew 0-0 with Tulsa SC. Fusion Futbol Club’s under-17s couldn’t build on their opening victory, falling 3-1 to the Lonestar Academy from Texas, while HCU’s under-15s fell 1-0 to North Atlanta.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Youth: Chargers earn victory in Disney opener

LAKE BUENA VISTA – The Clearwater Chargers boys under-18 side didn’t find top gear too often on Sunday afternoon, but the soccer they were able to play was enough to give them a 3-0 victory against Jackson FC from Mississippi in the Disney Soccer Showcase at the Wide World of Sports Complex.

The Chargers got off to a flying start, Ben Sweat driving a shot into the top left corner of the net in the fourth minute after a strong run down the left from his full back position, and possessed the ball well to start off the game. The side’s lack of recent playing time showed at times, though, with passes going astray, allowing Jackson to find some opportunities to break into attack quickly.

“We played well in spurts,” Chargers coach Garth Pollonais said. “I didn’t think we put our game together completely the way I would have liked. We scored goals, we created chances, but I thought in the final third we could be a little more efficient in our play, but overall, it wasn’t too bad.”

Bruno da Silva scored the first of his two goals in the 25th minute, the beneficiary of some poor goalkeeping as after he cut in from the right, his shot from just outside the penalty area went underneath the dive of the Jackson goalkeeper. da Silva added his second goal of the game in the 64th minute, firing home at the far post after a low cross through the penalty area from the right reached him.

“As a team, I thought we were OK,” Pollonais said. “I thought Bruno did some good things up front, had two goals today and did some good things. Ben Sweat got the goal to start if off, I thought his goal really got us going.”

The Chargers under-16s also won their opener, playing up in the under-17 division, defeating the IPSC Force from Indiana 5-3 later on Sunday evening.

Hillsborough County United’s under-18s needed a late goal from Kahleel Forde to earn his side a draw against TLSC/Ayses SC from Texas. HCU likely should have come out the victor, with numerous chances missed after they fell behind to an early goal, but Coach Kelvin Jones was pleased his side was able to salvage a point.

“They scored in the first two minutes, and for the rest of the game we did all the playing,” Jones said. “We were inside the six a half a dozen times, and should have converted, so I think a draw is not what we deserve, but it’s better than nothing.”

Andrew Buckley had, in his own words, a frustrating day in front of net, missing opportunities you would ordinarily expect him to put away. Others were just as wasteful, but HCU gave itself a chance to advance from the group as a free kick by Kevin Sierra from the right of the penalty area was flicked in low by Forde from close range in the 88th minute.

Potomac Soccer sits on top of HCU’s group with a victory in its opening game, with the two sides facing each other on Monday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. A win would put HCU in good position to advance.

HCU’s under-17s also earned victory in their opening game as they defeated FSA Soccer Plus from Connecticut 3-1, but the under-15s weren’t as fortunate as they fell 2-1 the the Greensboro Dynamo.

In other action, Fusion Futbol Club’s boys under-17 team opened play with a 4-2 win against Mockingbird Valley from Kentucky. Strictly Soccer’s boys under-16 team won 1-0 against SYA Nova from Virginia, with its under-15s winning 2-0 against Charlotte United.

Elsewhere, Strictly Soccer’s boys under-18 team fell 2-1 to the Dallas Texans while both RSL Florida’s boys under-17s and under-16s fell 2-1, the under-17s to the GSA Phoenix and the under-16s to the Penn Fusion Celtic.

Youth: Wixted de-commits, will now play for South Florida

Clearwater Chargers under-18 Academy player Shane Wixted has de-committed from Providence, deciding instead to play for fellow Big East school the University of South Florida next fall.

“I wanted to stay a little closer to home.” Wixted said. “I think financially it was a much better decision for me, and (USF) usually finishes high in the Big East, nationally ranked, and I think their style of play fits me a lot better. I’m just excited to get out there.”

Wixted, who plays for Seminole High, is the fourth member of the Chargers to commit to the Bulls, joining T.J. Roehn (Berkeley Prep), Ben Sweat (Palm Harbor) and Javon Bostic (East Lake). Wixted said while it was nice some of his current teammates would also be at USF next season, it really didn’t influence his decision to switch schools.

“It didn’t really influence me,” Wixted said. “Of course, it’s always good to have some teammates with you, but it was more a personal choice for me.”

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Youth: Disney Showcase offers big opportunities for players, clubs

The games on the field at the Disney Soccer Showcase, beginning Sunday at the Wide World of Sports Complex, will likely be among the most competitive local players will face over the course of the club season.

The games off the field, however, likely will be far more important, as the showcase offers a chance for players to be scouted by major college programs looking for future talent. Disney now bills itself as the Nation's No.1 Recruting Event, and it has a good claim on the title with a huge number of colleges represented at the four-day boys event. Hillsborough County United boys director of coaching Kelvin Jones said because of that, getting teams into the showcase has become a major goal for each of the club's top teams at the beginning of the season.

“Because the U.S. Soccer Academy is now around, it's made it even more important that if you're not in the U.S. Soccer Academy, you get into the big tournaments,” Jones said. “It's always been vital, because you can't always give your players good exposure unless they're at the tournaments the (college) coaches are at, and if you're going to have the majority of coaches at Disney, then you've got to be at Disney. It's that simple.”

Soccer recruiting has expanded greatly in the past decade. As college programs' budgets have expanded, so have the reaches of many Division I programs to begin identifying players they want to target at a younger age. Most high school seniors going to major programs will ordinarily commit either before or early in their final year of school because they have been targeted as juniors, or even sophomores.

“I've been doing this for a long time, and what I've seen is the college recruiting is starting earlier and earlier,” Jones said. “A while ago, only the very big schools, like Virginia or North Carolina and Duke, would look at juniors and get juniors to commit.

“It's become increasingly important to be seen now as a junior, because most of the big schools are now recruiting the junior year kids, and as a junior it is huge now, bigger even than senior year. You could get lost in the shuffle here if you don't play well as a junior.”

HCU's boys under-18, under-17 and under-15 teams will all be at the event, as will teams from the Clearwater Chargers, St. Petersburg's Strictly Soccer, Fusion Futbol and RSL Florida. Steve Wolf, who will coach RSL Florida's boys under-16 team, agrees with Jones' assessment that recruiting has escalated to encompass younger players.

“It becomes like a rat race,” Wolf said. “I remember T.J. (East) last year committed to Wake Forest verbally sometime in the spring, and Sebastian Thuriere the year before committed his junior year to USF, so I agree with what Kelvin said, it's a lot more intense to get players now.”

While that is the case, Wolf said he doesn't think the players feel additional pressure as a result.

“This is a game, and it's got to be fun,” Wolf said. “The guys at Manchester United and at the highest level all over the world, it's still a game, and it's still got to be fun. I'm sure they can't wait to get out there and play at Disney, I can't wait to get out there as a coach.”

Preps: Newsome's Gutsche named to Florida ODP squad

Newsome’s Karina Gutsche has been named to the Florida Olympic Development Program squad that will compete at the Region III ODP Championship, to be held next month in New Orleans from Jan. 14-18.

The event will means Gutsche will miss the Wolves final regular season game against rival Bloomingdale on Friday, Jan. 15, but barring injury she would be available for the Class 5A-District 8 playoffs to be held the following week.

Gutsche said she was very happy to have been selected, and was looking forward to the new experience of representing the state.

“I’ve never done this before, so I’m excited to be going for the first time,” Gutsche said.

Newsome coach Kelly Townsend said she was pleased that Gutsche was being rewarded for the work she has put into improving her game.

“Karina’s always been very hard-working,” Townsend said. “She strives to be the best, and it shows in practice, it shows in the games, it shows in everything that she does.”

MLS: Zimmerman gets acclimatized, Hall having busy offseason

Former Wharton standout, and new member of MLS expansion franchise the Philadelphia Union, Nick Zimmerman had a sit down with the club’s website earlier this week.

The Union will play in the opening game of the 2010 MLS season against 2009 expansion side the Seattle Sounders, and one would hope that Zimmerman will be part of the starting 11 for his new side.

Elswhere, Zimmerman’s former New York Red Bulls teammate and roommate Jeremy Hall has been doing some travelling in the last month, first going to South Africa on the Generation adidas tour of the country.

Hall then accompanied Red Bulls teammate Seth Stammler as he traveled to Costa Rica and Haiti as part of Stammler’s Sporting Chance Foundation.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Preps: New Orleans Jesuit, Melbourne, Sickles lead way on Classic All-Tournament team

New Orleans Jesuit’s Steven Cabos and Joe Hart were named the Offensive and Defensive MVP’s of the 16th High School Soccer Classic, with seven local players being named to the All-Tournament team that was released on Thursday morning.

Sickles was the only team outside of finalists New Orleans Jesuit and Melbourne to have more than one player named to the team, with midfielder Mike Bajza and defender Gil Davis representing the Gryphons.

Gaither’s Jordan See and Tampa Jesuit’s Austin Jurado were the other two players named from Hillsborough county schools.

Countryside’s Jagger Martinez, whose versatility was critical to the Cougars' run to the semifinals, and Palm Harbor’s Ben Sweat, who scored three goals in three games before the Hurricanes were eliminated in the quarterfinals, were also named to the team.

Land O’ Lakes was also represented, Jake Frahm being recognized for his strong play in midfield, and superb goal against Orlando Bishop Moore in the quarterfinals.

The full team is listed below:

MVP Offense – Steven Cabos – New Orleans Jesuit
MVP Defense – Joe Hart – New Orleans Jesuit

Ryan Price – Melbourne
Callum Wilson – Melbourne
Jake Frahm - Land O’ Lakes
Jordan See – Gaither
Claude Daigler – Orlando Bishop Moore
Pedro D’Avila – Orlando Dr. Phillips
Max McDaniel – Gulf Breeze
Jagger Martinez – Countryside
Ben Sweat – Palm Harbor
Tyler McDaniel – Lake Mary
Mike Bajza – Sickles
Gil Davis – Sickles
Brandon Curriston – Niceville
Andrew Palumbo – Fort Myers Bishop Verot
Austin Jurado – Tampa Jesuit

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Youth: Salkicic named to U.S. Residency Program

Strictly Soccer’s Tarik Salkicic of St. Petersburg has been selected to join the U.S. Soccer Under-17 residency program in Bradenton, joining Fusion Futbol Club’s Atsouh Ayah of Tampa.

Salkicic was called up to the under-17 national team for the Nike Friendlies in early December in Arizona, and he received word from U.S. Soccer this week that the program wanted him to join full time. Salkicic will play for Strictly Soccer at the Disney Soccer Showcase next week before heading to Bradenton on Jan. 4.

“It means a lot,” Salkicic said. “I’m happy that they called me, and I hope to represent my club well.”

Born in Croatia, Salkicic’s family moved to Germany for a short time when he was young before moving to the U.S. when he was five. Salkicic said his family’s love of the sport had been a major influence on him.

“My grandfather used to play soccer as a semi-pro, and I talked to him every day about it,” Salkicic said. “My family is in love with soccer in general, so I think that’s where it comes from.”

Salkicic also said Strictly Soccer coach Hans Burt had been instrumental in helping him develop. Burt said he was very proud to see Salkicic called up after having spent the past eight seasons with Strictly Soccer. While not the most polished player, Burt said he thought Salkicic’s energy and desire to improve would allow him to develop greatly while in the program.

“There’s a lot of good players who can’t take that constant workout and that constant flow,” Burt said. “This kid is going to love it.

“He will only get better in the national program. He is a guy who exponentially will improve, and it’ll be a shock if anyone improves more than him over the next year-and-a-half, because he will run with it, he won’t get tired. His concern is when they have a week or two off of practice can he come up and train with us.”

Preps: Blue Jays take Classic title on penalties

TAMPA – New Orleans Jesuit’s Brian Barbera knew where he was going as he walked up from the center circle.

“I knew I was going that way the whole time,” Barbera said.

Barbera buried his penalty into the bottom right corner of the goal, giving the ESPN Rise No.5 Blue Jays a 4-3 penalty shootout victory against No.24 Melbourne in the final of the High School Soccer Classic after they had tied 1-1 through regulation at the Ed Radice Sports Complex on Wednesday afternoon.

Barbera followed teammates Alex Petrou, Patrick Culotta and Jordan Schwartz in converting from the spot, while Blue Jays goalkeeper Joe Hart made a pair of saves to give his side victory.

“You know, on paper last year we were ranked No.1 in the nation, and (Melbourne) was ranked No.2, so from that end of it we were saying ‘let’s go to an event like this so we can really see how good we are on the field,’ ” Blue Jays coach Hubie Collins said. “I think from that end of it I think it says a lot about these young men, about their character to come down here for five days before Christmas to come here and come out as champions. My hat goes off to those young men.”

Jesuit had taken the lead in the third minute, Culotta floating a cross into the penalty area from the right that was met by Petrou, who headed into the right corner of the net. Soon after, though, Melbourne settled down, and had the better of the play for the final 30 minutes of the half. Callum Wilson went close to tying the game, his turning right-footed drive from the top of the penalty area going off the top of the crossbar for a goal kick, as did Trey Collins, who had a shot go just wide of the right post.

Wilson was instrumental in the move that allowed the Bulldogs to tie the game in the 30th minute, latching onto a pass from Ryan Price before attacking the Blue Jays defense. As Wilson tried to cut past his marker, he was tackled, but the ball deflected off the defender, catching the goalkeeper stranded as the ball ricoched into the right corner of the net.

Wilson came close to giving the Bulldogs the lead before the break, again hitting the crossbar, the rebound being shepherded to safety by the Blue Jays defense.

“It felt like we were in control of the game, but obviously it doesn’t always help you score,” Wilson said. “It comes down to who can get the luckiest, really, when it comes down to taking penalties. Their goalkeeper did very well, he had a sweet game, stopped us quite a few times.”

While Wilson, and to a lesser extent Price, were able to find some space, the Bulldogs did a good job of limiting Jesuit’s Steven Cabos. Named the tournament’s offensive MVP, Cabos didn’t pose as great a threat in the final as he had in previous games, thanks in part to the work T.J. O’Toole, who put in a good man-marking job on the Blue Jays’ standout. Collins said he thought Cabos was tired after having played the bulk of the Blue Jays’ previous four games, but was impressed with the way the Bulldogs defended him.

“I think Melbourne did a helluva job shutting him down,” Collins said. “They didn’t allow him too many opportunities, I think he had maybe one or two strikes on goal, but creativity-wise he was limited, so fair play to them.”

The number of scoring chances lessened in the second half as both sides made defensive adjustments, Price seeing a shot drift wide late. That sent the game to a shootout, and the Blue Jays’ victory.

Melbourne was disappointed to fall, but after losing a large senior class believed its performance over the tournament would show how well the squad had reloaded this season.

“A lot of teams shrugged us off last year, saying we lost too many starters,” Wilson said. “It’s nice that we can still show that we’re stepping up as a team, that’s a nice feeling.”

As far as the Blue Jays were concerned, the victory was a big boost not only to them, but to Louisiana soccer.

“Louisiana doesn’t get a lot of respect, soccer-wise,” Barbera said. “For us to come and prove ourselves, it showed what we are all about. I think we proved ourselves, and earned respect.”

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Preps: Blue Jays to face Bulldogs in Classic final

TAMPA – New Orleans Jesuit came to the High School Soccer Classic with big expectations.

“This was one of our major goals in the season,” Blue Jays coach Hubie Collins said. “We knew we were coming to this even four months ago, before our season even began. I know our players were very focused on it, we knew there was going to be great competition down here, we knew we were going to play some great teams, and that’s what we wanted to do.”

On Tuesday night, the Blue Jays, who edged up to No.5 in the ESPN Fab 50 earlier in the day, advanced to the Classic final, a 2-0 victory against Countryside setting up a game against No.24 Melbourne on Wednesday at noon at the Ed Radice Sports Complex.

The victory could have been a far easier one for the Blue Jays, who struggled with their finishing throughout the game, Patrick Culotta having a good chance saved and Alex Petrou putting the rebound wide early. Blue Jays standout junior Steven Cabos gave his side the lead in the 29th minute, though, rifling home a shot from 25 yards into the right corner of the net.

The Cougars had been concerned about fatigue, having played a tough game earlier against Palm Harbor to advance to the semifinals, and that proved to be a valid concern as they struggled for the most part to find a rhythm, allowing Jesuit numerous opportunities.

The Blue Jays were unable to take advantage of them, though, and with just under 15 minutes to go the Cougars almost tied the game as Mike Lion’s sweeping pass from the center found an unmarked Zack Shriver breaking in on the left. Shriver moved in and juked past the goalkeeper, only to see his shot find the side-netting.

“Nine time out of 10 he finishes that ball, he’s a solid player,” Countryside assistant coach Colby Beckman said. “Unfortunately, I thought tonight wasn’t right for us, it wasn’t our night.”

The Cougars continued to press forwards, and gave the Blue Jays some anxious moments at the back as they went to three attackers to press for the equalizer. With 10 minutes to go, there was a brief stoppage as one of the sets of floodlights went out on the field, but the lights didn’t go out on the Cougars hopes until four minutes remained. After a foul just inside the Countryside half was quickly taken by the Blue Jays down the right to Andrew Moise, he got in behind the Cougars defense, and centered across the top of the six-yard box to Culotta, who controlled and then shot home to put the game away.

“I was a little bit nervous at the end of the game because they put us under a little bit of pressure,” Collins said. “They put three players up top and started playing a bit more direct, and our defenders, who really didn’t have a whole lot to defend all game, had to scramble a little bit more in those last five, 10 minutes, but I thought they handled the pressure well.”

If the Blue Jays are to take home the title, they will have to stave off the pressure Melbourne’s free-flowing attack will offer as the Bulldogs brought an end to the run of Orlando Bishop Moore with a 5-0 victory. Callum Wilson scored twice for the Bulldogs, while Ryan Price was instrumental in helping create chances for Melbourne, last season’s Class 6A Florida state champion. Bulldogs coach Jerry McCabe said Wilson and Price’s strength made them hard to handle defensively.

“They’re both very strong on the ball, and you can’t move them, they can hold it up under pressure,” McCabe said. “That allows us to get the midfield in on the attack. Ryan did a very good job, good first touch, keep the possession, keep the ball moving tonight, held it up long enough for guys to make runs, and then Callum was getting on the other end of things and finishing things off.”

So now, the two teams that most expected to meet in the final will get the opportunity to face off for the championship.

“Once we decided to come here, we wanted to make it as far as we could,” Collins said. “Obviously, we’re delighted to be in the final.”

Preps: Countryside advances past Palm Harbor, Land O' Lakes falls late

TAMPA – Countryside scored twice in the first 10 minutes and then held off a strong Palm Harbor rally in the second half to advance to the semifinals of the High School Soccer Classic at the Ed Radice Sports Complex on Tuesday afternoon.

The Cougars capitalized on a pair of errors by the Hurricanes to jump out in front quickly, Max Seijo and Zack Schriver finding the net for a 2-0 lead. Countryside assistant coach Colby Beckman, filling in for Coach Dave Sica, said his side had made an adjustment to its starting formation that paid big dividends.

“We decided we wanted to push an extra guy forward,” Beckman said. “Not play out normal flat back four to try and jump on them early, that was the idea to put them on their heels, and luckily our guys were skilled enough to do it.”

Countryside’s Jagger Martinez added a third for the Cougars early in the second half, but the Hurricanes roared back getting goals from P.J. McDonald and Ben Sweat to make the score 3-2. Palm Harbor coach Alex Delgado said he thought the introduction of Austin Sweat gave his side the lift it needed.

“He came in, and he sparked the whole comeback, I think,” Delgado said. “He came in and changed things around.”

Beckman said he thought as the second half wore on his side played more not to lose than to win, but the Cougars were able to add an insurance goal just before the final whistle, Martinez’s second of the game, that allowed them to move on.

Countryside will face New Orleans Jesuit in the semifinals, but after a challenging week that has seen a lot of things go against the Cougars, Beckman is looking forward to another big challenge.

“A great side, it’ll be a great test for our team to see if we can fight through the tired legs,” Beckman said. “We’re looking forward to the opportunity.”

Land O’ Lakes could, and likely should, have joined the Cougars in the semifinals, but after creating the better chances and controlling the majority of play in the second half against Orlando Bishop Moore, the Gators allowed a late goal to give the Hornets a 2-1 victory.

Land O’ Lakes fell behind early, and was not playing up to its normal standard, but the Gators got back on level terms just before halftime as Jake Frahm scored on a brilliant strike from 25 yards out to make the score 1-1 at the break.

The Gators then had opportunities to take the lead in the second half, but a pair of good headers went over the bar, as did a pair of shots, and Andrew Garcia may have been guilty of a little too much unselfishness as he passed up a good shooting opportunity after beating his man to try and set up Frankie Villar instead, the opportunity ending up going to waste.

That came back to haunt the Gators late, as an indecisive piece of defending allowed speedy Bishop Moore forward Steven Taylor to pick up possession and break in on goal. Land O’ Lakes goalkeeper Kody Parker got a hand to the shot to try and turn it wide, but saw it deflect in off the left post, sending the Hornets through.

Bishop Moore will face Melbourne in the semifinals after the Bulldogs scored three goals in the first half to romp past an Orlando Dr. Phillips side that was reduced to 10 men before the break.

Preps: Sickles overwhelmed by New Orleans Jesuit

TAMPA – Sickles took an early lead, but in the end were overwhelmed by ESPN Rise No.6 New Orleans Jesuit attack led by Steven Cabos, who had a hat trick, that handed the Gryphons their first loss of the season 5-1 in the quarterfinals of the High School Soccer Classic at the Ed Radice Sports Complex on Tuesday afternoon.

Sickles had an early chance when Boris Simunovic beat the Blue Jays' offside trap, but with the goalkeeper off his line, Simeunovic’s looping header went over the crossbar. The Blue Jays had their own chance to take the lead when Cabos’ free kick rang the crossbar from 20 yards.

The Gryphons then took the lead in the 19th minute, an unlucky deflection on a clearing header by the Blue Jays falling to Eric Krukar, who shot in from close range. The Gryphons appeared in good shape to hold the lead until halftime, but in the 35th minute, a brilliant through-ball and chipped finish by Bradley James pulled New Orleans Jesuit back on level terms.

The Blue Jays then took the lead five minutes into the second half, an excellent volley by Cabos from outside the penalty area giving Sickles goalkeeper Brandon Stout no chance. A Gryphons defensive breakdown 10 minutes later then allowed Cabos to steal possession, and he released Jordan Schwartz into the left channel for a deft finish, chipping the ball into the net over the advancing Stout.

At that point, the Gryphons knew they had to go for broke, and pushed center back Gil Davies forward. The gamble didn’t pay off, unfortunately, as Cabos scored twice on counter-attacks three minutes apart to put the game away for the Hornets.

“It’s one of those things as a coach you have to gamble, move your players up,” Sickles coach Tony Calvo said. “It’s a tournament, you have to try and move your players up, so I did, after that third goal I had to try and move them up and see what was going to happen.”

Blue Jays coach Hubie Collins said he had told Cabos to be aware that there could be counter-attacking opportunities as his side switched to a more defensive 4-5-1 formation after going up 3-1, and was full of praise for his striker.

“Steven’s probably one of the more special talents I’ve had the chance to come across in my coaching career,” Collins said. “His technical ability is probably second-to-none in the players I’ve coached in my time in Louisiana. He’s been fantastic.”

Calvo said he was now eager to see how his side would respond to their first loss, with important district games against Gaither and King scheduled for early in the new year.

“I wanted to see how we would act when we lost,” Calvo said. “I think that there’s enough leadership on this team to rebound and continue.”

Monday, December 21, 2009

Preps: Gryphons get goals from Ltief, shutouts from Stout to advance

TAMPA – A pair of goals by Joey Ltief and a pair of shutouts allowed Sickles to advance to the semifinals of the High School Soccer Classic on Monday evening, making the Gryphons the only Hillsborough country team remaining in this year’s competition.

Ltief scored twice in the first 15 minutes against Jacksonville Bolles, and the Gryphons were able to maintain their lead for a 2-0 victory against the Bulldogs to put them in position to advance in their opening game. Gryphons coach Tony Calvo said earning an early lead against Bolles was critical to his side’s success.

“That was our biggest thing,” Calvo said. “We wanted to get the goals in early against Bolles, because we had seen them play Niceville on Saturday and we figured if we could get the first goals in and then put high pressure, we would be fine.”

Stout was in excellent form in both games, making a pair of outstanding saves late against Bolles to help the Gryphons retain their lead, and then recorded a shutout against Niceville to allow Sickles to advance with a 0-0 draw. The Eagles won the ensuing shootout 4-2, but the Gryphons had already secured the point they needed to face New Orleans Jesuit in the quarterfinals at noon on Tuesday.

“He’s is a very big asset on the team,” Ltief said of Stout. “Obviously no one player can win it all, but having Brandon in goal, that’s obviously a plus, keeping us in the game.”

Now the Gryphons get a chance to unseat the No.6 Blue Jays, who advanced to the quarterfinals with a shootout victory after a 0-0 draw against Fort Myers Bishop Verot on Monday afternoon. Calvo said his side was looking forward to the challenge of facing such a highly-regarded squad.

“It’s going to be another challenge for us,” Calvo said. “This whole tournament has been tough, but I think it’s going to be a good game for us.”

Preps: Countryside takes advantage of opportunity, will face Palm Harbor in Classic quarterfinals

TAMPA – After seeing Orangewood Christian grab victory late on Saturday afternoon, the potential for Countryside to reach the knock-out stages of the High School Soccer Classic appeared dim.

But a 3-1 win by Gulf Breeze against Orangewood opened the door for the Cougars, and a pair of second half strikes by Max Seijo allowed them to walk right through, a 3-1 win moving Countryside into the tournament quarterfinals on goal difference and a game against Palm Harbor on Tuesday at noon.

“The guys fought really hard,” assistant coach Colby Beckman said. Beckman and the remaining Countryside assistants were present in place of head coach Dave Sica, who was ejected from Friday night’s regular season game against East Lake. “Max has been a great player. Up top, he holds the ball up very well, and some of the finishing has been where he has struggled lately, but he showed the type of player he is today.”

The Cougars, who entered the game knowing they needed a two-goal victory to advance, got off to a great start as a counter-attack from a Gulf Breeze corner was finished off by Nino Hadzialic. The Cougars then added a second goal through Seijo, who finished well from inside the penalty area.

Gulf Breeze then pushed forward, knowing just a goal would send it through, and not Countryside, and the Dolphins got their goal shortly after the second half water break. But Seijo added his second with seven minutes to go, finishing a cross by Derya Ekren well to restore the two-goal lead the Cougars needed.

The Cougars will face Pinellas rival Palm Harbor in the quarterfinals, the Hurricanes getting goals from Robby Mattei and Ben Sweat to defeat Clearwater Central Catholic 2-0. Beckman said he was looking forward to taking on a local rival for a place in the semifinals.

“Palm Harbor is nothing new to us,” Beckman said. “We always get up to play those guys, they’ve been a rival since I played here in the early 2000’s. Their coach Alex Delgado is a great friend, and we always enjoy playing Palm Harbor.”

Land O’ Lakes joined the Cougars and Hurricanes in the quarterfinals with an impressive 5-0 victory against Sarasota. Tim Falcon, Nate Dalton, Justin Lyles, Andy Garcia and Evan Reidy all got their names on the scoresheet for the Gators, who will play Orlando Bishop Moore in the quarterfinals.

“We got a lot of people in, got some people some extra playing time and got some rest for the starters,” Gators coach Mark Pearson said. “It was a good team win, we didn’t let down at all, did very well, I was very pleased.”

Orlando Bishop Moore advanced at the expense of Tampa Prep, handing the Terrapins their first loss of the season as goals by Connor Keymont and Claude Daigler gave the Hornets victory. Zack Hebert pulled a goal back with around 20 minutes to go for the Terrapins, but while Jake Peterson and Twain Glaser hit the woodwork late in the first and second half respectively, Terps coach Doug Smith thought the Hornets deserved their win.

“It’s tough to play two games in one day, but we got outworked, particularly in the first half,” Smith said. “We were getting beaten to every ball, every second ball, we were losing all the tackles, and frankly that set the tone for the game. Our effort in the second half was good, and we did do a better job, but it was almost too late by that time to remedy some of the stuff that had happened in the first half.”

Tampa Prep had earlier defeated Gaither in a shootout to eliminate the Cowboys after a goal by Travis Simmons in the 74th minute had given the Terrapins a 2-2 tie in regulation. A victory against the Hornets would have sent the Terps through, but they were unable to find a way to win.

Mitchell came close to joining Pasco county counterpart Land O’ Lakes in the quarterfinals, but lost an early two-goal lead before falling in a penalty shootout to Orlando Dr. Phillips 5-3 after the game ended in a 2-2 tie. With both the Mustangs and Panthers having defeated Jacksonville Stanton Prep, the two teams entered the game tied with three points apiece.

David Vasquez and Max Rockwell had goals within the first six minutes for the Mustangs, but the Panthers rallied through Shawn Moffitt and Devin Boshears to send the game to a shootout. Mustangs coach Oscar Ubillus said he thought his side let down after gaining such a quick two-goal lead.

“Definitely there was,” Ubillus said. “I told them at halftime that might have been the worst thing that could have happened because then they were forced to come out. They got that first goal,not really earned because out ‘keeper made a mistake, and then beat us on a run for the second goal, but they really outplayed us for the rest of the first half.”

Jesuit was eliminated before it took the field on Monday night, New Orleans Jesuit having already won the group with a shootout win against Fort Myers Bishop Verot, but the Tigers did defeat Verot’s shutout streak, earning a 2-0 win in the process. Berkeley Prep had a chance to advance, but dropped an early lead against Melbourne to send the Bulldogs into the quarterfinals with a 2-1 win. The Buccaneers managed the same feat against Seminole, holding a 1-0 lead at the break before falling 2-1.

Can't make it to the Ed Radice Sports Complex for today's quarterfinals and semifinals? Just join the Tampa Bay Soccer Blog on Twitter at for updates from all of the day's action in the championship bracket.

Preps: Plant girls retain top spot, but big reshuffle below

The Sarasota Holiday Tournament brought about a big reshuffle to the Hillsborough County Coaches Soccer Poll, but Plant's girls remained a solid No.1 after winning the Elite division on Saturday.

Newsome, which the Panthers had defeated on Friday night, and then subsequently fell to Berkeley Prep in Sarasota, dropped from No.2 to No.5, with the Buccaneers moving up a spot to No.2 and Bloomingdale the new No.3

Steinbrenner, which won the Sarasota Premiere division in convincing fashion, moved into the No.4 slot, up from No.7.

On the boy’s side, there was little chance in the top five, with only Gaither dropping a pair of slots to No.5, Sickles retaining the top spot. With the Gryphons as the only county school to advance past the pool stage of the High School Soccer Classic, the potential reshuffle may take place when the next poll is released.

The full polls are listed below.


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


1. Plant (16-1-1)
2. Berkeley Prep (9-4-2)
3. Bloomingdale (8-4-2)
4. Steinbrenner (11-0-2)
5. Newsome (10-3-3)
6. Tampa prep (9-3-4)
7. Wharton (8-5-3)
8. East Bay (8-3-1)
9. Freedom (7-3-3)
10. Sickles (6-2-2)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Preps: Land O' Lakes hopeful Senior Night opponent can be found

Land O’ Lakes boys coach Mark Pearson sent out the e-mail on Friday afternoon.

The Gators had just received word from Gulf High that it was going to have to cancel their scheduled Jan. 13 game. Not a good situation for Land O’ Lakes, since their final regular season home game of the season was meant to be Senior Night for the team. So Pearson sent out a request to numerous local high school coaches in search of a replacement.

Fortunately for the Gators, it appears as though a solution, and replacement, is going to be found.

“(Clearwater Central Catholic) are trying to see if they can move a game, as well as Gaither and possibly even Sickles,” Pearson said. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed and hoping that someone can come through for us and pick up that game for us.”

The common thread between the three schools Pearson mentioned and the Gators is Hillsborough County United, at which Pearson and CCC coach Jim Harte, Gaither coach Eric Sims and Sickles coach Tony Calvo all coach at outside of their high school soccer positions.

“One thing about our community is that we’re very close-knit,” Pearson said. “We’re very competitive against one other, but we’ll try to help each other out whenever we can. It’s great to know that you can send out an e-mail and get responses back like that. It’s unfortunate it came out the way it did, but we’re hoping it can get resolved.”

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Preps: No.6 Blue Jays too much for Tigers

TAMPA – Jesuit twice held a lead against ESPN Rise No. 6 New Orleans Jesuit, but the Blue Jays scored three goals in the second half to rally for a 4-2 victory at the High School Soccer Classic at the Ed Radice Sports Complex on Saturday night.

The Blue Jays could have taken the lead in the first minute, when Patrick Culotta shot wide after a poor goal kick allowed him the chance at a goal. The Blue Jays squandered another pair of chances before the Tigers took the lead in the ninth minute, Chase Goodwin rising at the far post to head home Brett Durrance’s corner kick.

“When you think about it, they could have had, one, two, three in the first 10 minutes,” Tigers coach Bob Bauman said. “And we kind of weathered the storm, we come down and score.”

The Blue Jays, who won the ESPN Rise Winter national championship a season ago, continued to create chances, only to see them go begging. That changed in the 30th minute as a corner from the left was knocked down at the far post by Brandon Cohen, and Patrick Warwick stabbed a shot home from inside the 6-yard box.

The Tigers' energy remained high, though, and they continued to give as good as they took from the Blue Jays, and that was rewarded a minute before halftime. After a poor free kick from their half by the Blue Jays came straight to Tyler Hartlage, he fed a ball through to Durrance, who raced in alone on goal and finished coolly into the left corner of the net.

The Tigers’ lead didn’t last long into the second half as the Blue Jays tied the game off another corner four minutes into the second half, Alex Petrou scoring off a rebound from close in.

The Tigers could have retaken the lead shortly after Petrou’s equalizer, but saw Durrance’s free kick flick off the top of the defensive wall and go off the post, and a shot by Jordan Hayes turned around the left post by a good save.

The Blue Jays went ahead at the hour mark when Steven Cabos flicked a shot in with the outside of his right foot to make it 3-2. Cabos added his second with just under 10 minutes to go, but the wind had already been taken out of the Tigers’ sails.

New Orleans Jesuit coach Hubie Collins said he thought his side’s character was what made the difference.

“I think we just had to show our character in the second half, come out and show what we could do,” Collins said.

While he was disappointed his side hadn’t been able to pull off the upset, Bauman said he expected his side would learn from the game, and be better in their next outing.

“I think the biggest thing is we learned the difference between playing tentative and not to lose, compared to playing to win,” Bauman said. “We have some players who are bringing along their confidence level to play against a team of that caliber. So as we get these opportunities, which is a great opportunity like tonight, I think we’re going to learn from that and attempt to get better.

“I told this team from the first week on that the idea is we win our last game. That’s what matters to us. So if we get one percent better from tonight, we play another team at a higher level, then that’s a positive for us.”

Preps: Sweat gives Hurricanes opening win; Gators also victorious

TAMPA – Palm Harbor’s Ben Sweat helped get his team off to a good start at the High School Soccer Classic at the Ed Radice Sports Complex as his second-half goal gave the Hurricanes a 1-0 victory against Lake Mary in an entertaining clash on Saturday evening.

Sweat scored in the 60th minute, latching onto a long clearance from goalkeeper Joshua Paul before firing home low past the goalkeeper. That it took so long for either side to score was surprising, for both teams has good opportunities to break the deadlock before Sweat finally did, but Palm Harbor coach Alex Delgado was very happy it was his side that had come out on top.

“We definitely ducked some chances on their part in the first half, and as soon as we scored, there was a great opportunity for them,” Delgado said. “But I told (my players), it seemed like they had exhausted themselves in the first half to get that first goal … They didn’t put their chances away tonight, and a great ball by Josh, our keeper, put Ben in, and he put it away.”

Land O’ Lakes also took victory in its opening game, a first half goal by Tim Falcon proving enough for the Gators to earn a 1-0 victory against Monteverde Academy. Land O’ Lakes coach Mark Pearson was very happy with his side’s performance, especially in the defensive end where the Gators only allowed three shots on goal.

“We played very well,” Pearson said. “It was a great team effort, the kids played fantastic. We knew what to look for coming into the game, and we did everything that we wanted to do. We were unfortunate not to grab another couple of goals late on the counter-attack, but we did everything right for the first game.”

The same could not be said of Gaither, who went behind in a poor first half against Orlando Bishop Moore, and were unable to break down the Hornets tight defense in falling 1-0. Cowboys coach Eris Sims said adjusting from the small high school fields his side had played on throughout this season to the more conventionally-sized pitches at the Radice Complex was an adjustment his side had struggled with.

“It was a fair result, I thought they were a good side, and they deserved to win,” Sims said. “When they play on the small fields in Hillsborough County, you don’t have to run far before the ball's going out of bounds. It was an adjustment we weren’t able to make, I just hope we play better on Monday.”

Seminole also fell, a hat trick by Melbourne’s Ryan Price in the final 20 minutes of the game giving the Bulldogs a 3-0 victory. Melbourne had started the better of the two sides, Price having a volley well saved and hitting the post with another first half effort, but as the game wore on the Warhawks began to come into the game more against the defending Class 6A champions.

In the end, though, Price’s speed and the timing of his runs to beat the Seminole offside trap proved decisive.

“He was the difference in this game, in my opinion,” Seminole coach Rick Masi said. “I thought it was a pretty good game up until that point, but as I was just telling the boys I thought after the second goal we caved in.”

Countryside also fell on a late goal to Orangewood Christian, the Rams earning a 2-1 victory, putting a place for the Cougars in the quarterfinals a long way away.

Preps: Panthers need shootout, but win Sarasota Elite division

Plant's girls couldn't find the net in regulation, but defeated St. Petersburg Catholic in a shootout to win the Sarasota Holiday Tournament's Elite division.

Tampa Tribune girls soccer correspondent Jarrett Guthrie was at the game, and provides details here.

Steinbrenner also completed an impressive weekend, defeating Dade Christian 3-1 in the Premiere division final. For the weekend, the Warriors outscored their opponents 14-2 in sweeping to the final. Details on that victory can be found here.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Preps: Classic success can elevate team's standing, confidence

TAMPA – The 16th High School Soccer Classic kicks off on Saturday afternoon at the Ed Radice Sports Complex with a presitigious title on the line for the 24 teams set to compete.

But while taking away a championship from a tournament that contains a number of returning Florida state champions, and numerous sides currently in the ESPN Rise Winter Fab 50 rankings, the ability to build momentum, and the chance to build confidence, entering the second half of the season is at the forefront of many coaches minds.

Last season, Berkeley Prep built off its Classic title by making a run to the Class 3A state championship. Buccaneers coach Tim Cooper said competing and defeating such a strong level of competition gave his team a big boost of confidence, and the belief they could compete with anybody.

“When you win a prestigious tournament like that, I think it gives your team some self-confidence,” Cooper said. “I think it gives your team respect from other opponents, especially for us as a smaller school, a 3A school, I thought it kind of put us on the map not just in 3A but in the bigger picture of high school soccer. For us to win that last year was a tremendous accolade.”

Gaither coach Eric Sims saw a similar effect. After his side had struggled in the first half of the 2008-09 season, the Cowboys were 0-7-1 entering last season’s tournament, a shootout win against Lake Brantley and victories against Jacksonville Bolles and Sarasota put the team into the tournament semifinals with a new belief in what their season could hold.

“It definitely springboarded us into the second half of the year realizing that we were a good team, and that we had been unlucky in a lot of results,” Sims said. “I think with us, even last year, we didn’t win the thing, but it still helped us going into the second half of the year saying we could play with anybody.”

This season Gaither opens with Orlando Bishop Moore, and then faces an all-Hillsborough County clash with Tampa Prep. With the Terrapins ranked No.17 in the latest ESPN Rise poll, and the Cowboys ranked No.50, both coaches are excited for the first meeting between the two sides in either of their tenures.

“We’ve heard a lot about Gaither, we know they have some quality players, and we’re excited about the opportunity to play them,” Tampa Prep coach Doug Smith said. “Any time you have an opponent that’s recognized nationally, regardless of where they are from, but particularly if they’re in the same city, it kind of builds up some excitement within the players. The opportunity to play a team like Gaither, that’s just going to make the tournament for us.”

For Sickles coach Tony Calvo, whose side opens against defending Class 3A champion Bolles on Monday before a game against Niceville later in the day, the tournament is a chance for the Gryphons to continue their emergence as a potential state contender. After coming close to advancing into the semifinals the past two seasons, Calvo said his side is eager to break through this season.

“I think this year, these guys are hungry for this tournament,” Calvo said. “We’re at that point right now where physically we’ve been training hard, a lot of the boys on the team have been mentally preparing for every game, and it shows. It shows at our practices, it shows at our team dinners, it shows when we walk on the field that these guys really feel that this is their year to go pretty far.”

And a run to the latter stages of the tournament could provide, as it has for others in years past, just the springboard they need to do so.

“I think if you do well in this tournament,” Smith said, “because it is so prestigious, and brings in so much good competition, I think that really provides some insight as to where your season will end up.”

Preps: Panthers, Barons start strongly at Sarasota Tournament

Plant and St. Petersburg Catholic were the two teams to finish the opening day of the Sarasota Girls Holiday Tournament with two wins out of two, the Panthers defeating Tampa Prep 5-0 and Berkeley Prep 1-0 on Friday with the Barons edging out Bloomingdale and Miami Lourdes each by a score of 1-0.

Berkeley Prep or Bloomingdale could still advance to the final as they face each other on Saturday morning. Either side would need help to jump St. Petersburg Catholic, but could get it from Newsome, which will likely be looking to end the tournament on a high note after a 3-1 loss to Berkeley and a 2-2 tie against Tampa Prep.

Tampa Tribune correspondent Jarrett Guthrie has more details here, including Steinbrenner posting a pair of impressive wins in the Premiere division.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Preps: Panthers gain revenge over Wolves

Tampa Tribune girls soccer correspondent Jarrett Guthrie was at last night's win for Plant against Newsome:

Apart from setting up an interesting side-plot to the Sarasota Holiday Tournament, which begins today, it bears echoing the thoughts of Plant coach Steve McGill about how well Plant freshman Caroline Bado has played not only this season, but in the Panthers two games against the Wolves. She had the equalizer to send the game to a shootout when they met at Wharton's Lady Wildcat Invitational, and now picks up a pair of goals on Thursday night.

The other question will be how both sides will rebound for a potential schedule of four games in two days, with the two games scheduled for today having only a two-hour recovery period in-between. Both the Panthers and Wolves will face Tampa Prep and Berkeley Prep today, and both the Terrapins and Buccaneers have shown that when at full strength, they are very far from pushovers. After the intensity of Thursday night's game, will the Panthers and Wolves have enough in the tank to battle through to a third meeting?

Preps: Terrapins boys jump into Top 20 of ESPN Rise Poll

Tampa Prep has jumped into the top 20 of ESPN Rise’s Winter soccer rankings, the Terrapins perfect 8-0-0 start to the season landing them at No.17 in the opening regular season list.

Also appearing in the rankings are Jesuit at No.43 and Gaither at No.50. Locals absent from the rankings, though, are current Hillsborough Coaches Poll No.1 Sickles and No.5 Plant City, both of whom have also made undefeated starts to the season.

2009 Class 5A champion Palm Harbor University, who are now in Class 6A are also absent. That is despite a 9-0-1 start to the season, and the No.1 spot in the St. Petersburg Times Pinellas County rankings. Seminole (10-1-2) and Countryside (9-1-0) also missed the cut.

Everyone except for Plant City will have a chance to enhance their reputation beginning this Saturday as they compete at the High School Soccer Classic at the Ed Radice Sports Complex, Jesuit facing No.6-ranked New Orleans Jesuit, Tampa Prep facing Gaither and Seminole facing No.33 Melbourne in the opening round of pool play.

Preps: Newsome-Plant rematch highlights schedule

Newsome and Plant's girls get a regular season rematch from their Lady Wildcat Invitational this evening at Newsome High. Tampa Tribune girls soccer correspondent Jarrett Guthrie has more on the game, which kicks off at 6 p.m. If the first contest is anything to go by it should be a must-see for local soccer fans.

Of course, both sides are also scheduled to compete in the Sarasota Holiday Tournament. With the format of the tournament, the two sides could end up playing two games in three days should they meet in the final on Saturday afternoon. The Wolves will face Berkeley Prep, Tampa Prep and St Petersburg Catholic in the opening round, while the Panthers will face Tampa Prep, Berkeley Prep and East Bay.

There are also some interesting games on the boys side in the final regular season gameday before the holiday break. Berkeley Prep will be looking to get off its two-game losing streak before the High School Soccer Classic as it faces River Ridge. Elsewhere, while it is getting second-billing to the girls game, Plant and Newsome's boys should be an interesting contest between a pair of teams who appear in good position for high seeds at their district tournaments, while Gaither and Plant City will look to continue their momentum as they face Alonso and Bloomingdale respectively.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Rowdies: Dalglish profile published by New York Times

The TBSB is in the process of finding out more about the Tampa Bay Rowdies international combine that concluded today at the Liverpool FC Academy in England, but in the mean time, here's a recent profile of Rowdies coach Paul Dalglish from wire service Reuters that appeared in Tuesday's New York Times.

Spartans offering holiday soccer camp

After the success of its summer soccer camps, the Unversity of Tampa men's soccer program has announced it will also hold the Elite Soccer Academy Spartan Holiday Camp over the holiday break, beginning on Sunday, Dec. 20 and running through Wednesday, Dec. 23 for players aged 5-14 years old.

The daily camp will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the UT campus, with the coaches from the Spartans men’s team, head coach Adrian Bush and assistants Mo Loregnard, Steve Wolf and Eric Sims, leading the sessions. Also participating will be coaches from of the Spartans women's program, and players from the men’s and women’s teams.

Included in the four-day camp will be sessions on fast footwork, passing and receiving, dribbling and shooting. Player will also take part in small sided games to help improve tactical awareness, with Futsal games also included in the camp.

The camp costs $135 for those registering before Sunday, and $150 on the day of the camp opening. Single days are also available at a rate of $40 per day. For more information, and to register online, go to

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Preps: Stickley's goal earns Wharton point at Alonso

TAMPA – And up and down season took another turn down for Wharton, but the Wildcats still managed to earn a point, and retained a tie for first place in the Class 6A-District 8 standings as Alex Stickley’s goal gave the Wildcats a 2-2 tie against Alonso on Tuesday night.

Wharton (5-3-1, 4-2-1) came from behind twice, earning a point in the 69th minute as a long free kick by Khalil Marriott from the right was flicked on by Torey Dean to Cody Brown on the right of the penalty area. Brown’s shot took a deflection, Alonso goalkeeper Kenny Gilbert reacting well to parry, but the rebound came to Stickley who shot home from close range.

Stickley said he thought the Wildcats were lucky to pick up a point, but was pleased to have done so.

“I think we played pretty sloppy,” Stickley said, “but I’m proud of the guys for coming back and tying it up.”

Alonso (5-4-1, 2-3-1) created the better chances in the first half, Cody Profeta going close from 12 yards after Jesse Rivera’s shot from distance had been partially blocked. The Ravens took the lead in the 33rd minute as Nicolas Iriarte made a good run down the left, and his cross found Chase Fullman at the near post for a close-range finish.

Alonso coach Alan Turnquist said he was much happier with the energy his side had played with, after some lethargic recent performances.

“That’s what I was looking for,” Turnquist said. “We had a couple of lapses, should have made better decisions in the back, but I’m happy with our effort.”

Wharton answered six minutes into the second half as Juan Arango converted from the penalty spot after Dean was brought down in the penalty area. Dean then hit the post after the Ravens defense didn’t deal with a cross into the six-yard area, the rebound being sent wide. For the most part, though, the Wildcats were unable to play the possession game they are used to thanks in part to the high pressure Alonso put on their midfield and defense.

“We are a possession-style team, and we didn’t possess the ball well tonight,” Wharton coach Scott Ware said. “We couldn’t put few passes together, couldn’t control the tempo, couldn’t control the clock and get better opportunities. It’s all stuff we work on in practice, so that’s something we should be able to do.”

The Ravens regained the momentum, and retook the lead on the hour mark as a cross by Jonathan Thomas from the right found its way through to Hugo Ramos at the top of the penalty area. Ramos then flicked his right-footed shot into the top right corner of the net, giving Wharton goalkeeper Keenan Kushner no chance to save.

Kushner did make a critical save late, though, as he turned a volley from Iriarte over the crossbar to preserve the draw for the Wildcats.

Wharton is now tied with Plant on top of the 6A-8 standings, the Panthers earning a 7-0 victory against Brandon on Tuesday night. Ware thinks his players still needs to come together as a team if they are to make something of their season.

“Tonight was sloppy,” Ware said. “We had some discipline issues, we need to straighten that out and control the mind to control the field.”

Preps: Plant City looking to maintain strong run against East Bay

For an undefeated team, Plant City’s boys have flown under the radar for most of the season. Tonight, though, the Raiders get a chance to cement their position at the top of Class 5A-District 8 as it travels to face East Bay at 8 p.m.

The Raiders currently sit on top of the district standings with a 3-0-1 record, two points ahead of Newsome (2-0-2). New coach Stephen Rossiter said after defeating King 4-2 last Friday, his side is feeling confident of success.

“Tonight I think we feel very, very confident,” Rossiter said. “Our guys are very focused, we’ve trained a lot, we’ve developed a lot even before the season started so as a team with our chemistry and everything, I think we feel very confident for East Bay tonight.”

The Raiders have been led by Esgar Montelongo, who has 13 goals this season, and A.J. Black, who has 10. Going up a against a good East Bay defense, led by standout goalkeeper Derrick Miranda, could be a good test for the Raiders, who have averaged five goals per game so far.

“We’ll attack them from the outside, using the whole width of the field,” Rossiter said. “East Bay definitely owes a lot to its defense, and if you underestimate them, you won’t get in and you won’t be able to penetrate their attacking third, so we’re definitely going to use our outside mids a lot tonight, pull those defenders out and try to create opportunities in the attacking third.”

For the Indians, who suffered their first district loss of the season last Tuesday against Newsome, tonight’s game offers a chance to get back into contention for one of the top two seeds in the district. Coach Jonathan Drake is expecting a big challenge for his defense from the Raiders’ attack.

“I know that they have a very strong attack this year,” Drake. “I know we’re going to be challenged a lot in our defense, we’re really going to have to stay composed in the back to be able to compete with them.

“On the other end, with them having such a strong offense, we’re going to have to get some production out of our strikers to be able to stay in the game.”

Drake is looking for strong games from senior strikers Kyle Whiteside and Brandon Walker. With the game being part of senior night for the Indians, Drake said he hopes his side’s experience, and the atmosphere for tonight’s game, provides a boost for the side.

“My guys know what it’s like to have big games go down to the wire, and to really have to put in the entire 80 minutes or 100 minutes if we have overtime,” Drake said. “I think that is going to help us keep our focus and not lose our cool no matter what happens in the early stages of the game.”

Preps: Wildcats can take big step with win over Ravens

As inconsistent as Wharton’s boys have been all season, the Wildcats have an opportunity on Tuesday night to put themselves in position for the No.1 seed in the Class 6A-District 8 tournament as they travel to face Alonso.

But after another up-and-down week that saw his side lose 3-2 to Brandon, the Eagles first district win, before beating Plant 2-1, Wildcats coach Scott Ware is just hoping his side can put together a winning streak for the second time this season.

“With Plant Friday, the guys did well, and the victory put us on top of the table,” Ware said. “Now the question is can we keep it up now, because our consistency obviously has been spotty.”

Alonso and new coach Alan Turnquist have faced a similar battle, with a four-game winning streak that included a 4-1 win against Plant ending on Friday with a 4-2 defeat against Bloomingdale. Turnquist said he was hoping the Ravens would come out with better energy to start the game against Wharton, as they have been somewhat flat in their last few outings.

“It takes us to get down by one or two goals before the guys will come out with a solid effort,” Turnquist said. “We’re trying to establish a team that comes with the same effort game in and game out for 80 minutes, and we’ve been a little inconsistent. We’ve shown flashes of brilliance, and then other times we look like we couldn’t beat our way out of a paper bag.”

Turnquist is hoping to get good performances from his forward pair of Chase Fullman and Jonathon Thomas, both of whom have scored seven goals this season. He is also looking for midfielder Hugo Ramos, who missed the Ravens’ 2-0 loss to the Wildcats earlier in the season, to have an impact on the game.

Ware, on the other hand, is just hoping his side can find some goals, no matter the source.

“As long as we can put balls in the back of the net, the team’s happy,” Ware said. “I don’t mind spreading it out, which we have done all season. I think the leading scorer may have three goals at most, maybe four, on our team, so we have spread it out, but as long as we’re getting goals from somewhere, I’m content with that, and we’ve got to keep pushing for shutouts as well. If we’re going to score two goals a game, we can’t give up two goals a game either.”

Youth: Locals named to ODP Interregional squads

Berkeley Prep and Clearwater Chargers standout Taylor Richardson has been named to the Region III Olympic Development Program 1992 squad for the Girls Winter Interregional tournament to be held in Ridgeland, Miss. From December 27-30.

The tournament sees the ODP teams from the four regions of the U.S. compete against each other in a round-robin format. Also selected was Ellis Curry of Fusion FC, who was named to the Region III Boys 1993 squad, which will compete as part of the Disney Soccer Showcase at the Wide World of Sports complex.

Elsewhere, recent U.S. under-17 call-up Tarik Salkicic from Strictly Soccer was named to the 1994 squad, where he was joined by Michael Bajza of Hillsborough County United and Raymundo Marquez of Fusion FC.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Preps: Newsome impressive in win against Freedom

TAMPA – Newsome’s boys soccer team continued its impressive run of form, winning its third in a row, and running its undefeated streak to eight games with a convincing 6-1 victory against Freedom on Monday night.

Armani Alicea scored twice for the Wolves (6-1-2), including the opening goal in the 27th minute as a reverse pass from Harold Gussman picked out Alicea’s run into the right side of the penalty area, catching the Patriots flat-footed. That allowed Alicea time to move in before driving home his shot at the near post.

Newsome had a header cleared off the line by Freedom’s Alex Toledo shortly afterwards, but it didn’t take long for the Wolves to double their lead as a quick throw-in on the left in the 33rd minute was pulled back towards the top of the penalty area by Marcus Starke, and Skylar Wilks fired home from just inside the edge of the area.

Gussman then got his reward for an excellent game seven minutes into the second half as he fired home from the left side of the penalty area. Gussman was excellent throughout the game, making incisive runs to create opportunities for himself, and drawing defenders with him to allow his teammates time and space.

“Harold is a good addition to our attack,” Alicea said. “He dishes the ball to the right player at the right time and we capitalize on it.”

Joey Perfetto made it 4-0 from the penalty spot before Freedom (3-5-1) pulled a goal back, Taylor Nalls taking advantage of a free header off a corner. The Wolves restored their advantage two minutes later, though, the defensive wall parting to allow Steven Gonzalez’s free kick from the left side through and in at the near post.

Alicea then scored his second of the night, a well-struck left-footed volley from 12 yards after Freedom was unable to deal with a long throw-in effectively.

“That’s one of the better ones I’ve scored,” Alicea said. “I’m not really a lefty, but this made my season.”

Freedom coach Dennis Derflinger said the way his side was unable to retain possession in either defense or midfield had been an issue for the Patriots recently.

“We’ve struggled in the past few games with controlling midfield play, giving up needless balls, and that’s one of the things I’d talked to them about,” Derflinger said. “A couple of instances we played the ball to our midfield knowing they were marked, and those are things we can’t get away with against good teams.”

Newsome coach Neal Rickmers was very happy with the way his side played, and the cohesion the team appeared to be developing in all areas of the game.

“We’re actually reaching the point where everyone is balanced, the whole team,” Rickmers said. “We’re pretty even in scoring, we have people from anywhere to two to seven goals now at the top, and there’s multiple (players) with multiple goals, so the good news is that we’re really spreading the play out, and working the ball to the people that are open, and they can finish.”

Derflinger said he was impressed with the way the Wolves went forward.

“They have a good defense, they also make some very good runs off the ball,” Derflinger said. “Once a player receives it, they have two guys making different runs off it, so they’re well coached, they move the ball well offensively, and they’ve got a good attack.”

Preps: No change at top of Coaches Polls

Sickles and Tampa Prep retained the top two spots on the boy’s side, as did Plant and Newsome on the girls when the Hillsborough County Soccer Coaches Poll was released on Monday morning.

Sickles remained undefeated, moving to 9-0-2 with a pair of victories against Freedom (4-0) and Jefferson (6-0) last week. Tampa Prep is also undefeated, and perfect, moving to 7-0-0 with a 9-1 win against Bishop McLaughlin last week.

Plant and Newsome will enter their non-district showdown on Thursday as No.1 and No.2 respectively, the Wolves earning a 2-2 tie on the road against No.6 East Bay last Tuesday and the Panthers posting a pair of district wins against Bloomingdale and Wharton. The Wolves defeated the Panthers in a penalty shootout earlier this season to win the Lady Wildcat Invitational at Wharton.

Both No.3s in last week’s poll took a small tumble, East Bay’s boys dropping to No.7 after their 1-0 defeat to Newsome and Bloomingdale’s girls falling to No.5 after a 3-1 loss against Plant. There were no new entries into the poll on the girl’s side, though, with Steinbrenner’s boys the only newcomers on the boys side, sliding in at No.10.

Here is a full list of both Top 10s.


No.1 Sickles (9-0-2)
No.2 Tampa Prep (7-0-0)
No.3 Gaither (7-1-0)
No.4 Jesuit (7-1-2)
No.5 Plant City (7-0-1)
No.6 Berkeley Prep (4-2-0)
No.7 East Bay (5-1-1)
No.8 Newsome (5-1-2)
No.9 Wharton (5-3-0)
No.10 Steinbrenner (7-1-1)


No.1 Plant (10-1-1)
No.2 Newsome (9-0-2)
No.3 Berkeley Prep (8-3-1)
No.4 Tampa Prep (8-2-2)
No.5 Bloomingdale (6-3-0)
No.6 East Bay (6-1-1)
No.7 Steinbrenner (7-0-2)
No.8 Freedom (6-3-3)
No.9 Wharton (5-5-2)
No.10 Alonso (5-5-2)

Colleges: Former Charger MacMath named All-American

Former Clearwater Chargers goalkeeper Zac MacMath, now a sophomore at Maryland, completed a memorable weekend for goalkeepers with local ties as he joined South Florida’s Jeff Attinella (Countryside) on the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Division I All-America team, being named to the third team.

MacMath, who was also a member of the U.S. under-17 Academy in Bradenton before going to Maryland, recorded a 0.88 goals against average for the season, and was previously named All-Atlantic Coast Conference first team, and to the All-South Atlantic first team by the NSCAA.

MacMath helped Maryland reach the Elite Eight of the NCAA Men's Division I Soccer Tournament, where they fell to eventual champion Virginia.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Youth: HCU, Strictly perform well at Raleigh Boys Showcase

Hillsborough County United’s boys under-17 team earned three wins in three games at the Raleigh Boys Showcase Soccer Series, while Strictly Soccer (2-0-1) and RSL Florida (1-1-1) also performed well at the showcase event.

The event, which is a major one for college recruiting with 28 divisions alone in the boys under-17 division, was disrupted on Sunday due to bad weather with some games being shortened in length. That didn’t appear to affect HCU, and Coach Eric Sims said while he thought the team struggled defensively at times in their opening game, a 3-2 win against North Meck Soccer Club from North Carolina, he was pleased with the was the team settled down and played in its final two games. He was happier, though, that his player’s performances had put them on the radar of a number of major college programs.

“We played very well at times,” Sims said. “Some players definitely stood out, and we were able to get them the exposure that they needed. That was really the point of coming, winning the three games was a bonus, but really we wanted to get the players exposure and I think they did that.”

Strictly Soccer earned a pair of victories, 4-2 against the Richmond (Va.) Strikers and 1-0 against the Albion (Tx.) Hurricanes, before a 0-0 tie against Central Jackson (Miss.) in its final game. Coach Hans Burt said the three games offered three very different types of opponent, something he thought would help better his side.

“It was a good weekend,” Burt said. “We scored four the first game, played wide open, the second game we struggled, played a lot of defense but executed a free kick for a goal, and then today’s game was very physical, so a little bit of everything.”

While the Under-17 event was purely a three-game showcase for each competing team, Strictly’s under-16s took victory in the Premier Questra Division, a 1-0 victory against Alpharetta on a goal by Thomas White giving Strictly the title.

The side was missing Tarik Salkicic, who had competed for the U.S. Under-17 team at the Nike friendlies in Phoenix last weekend, but Burt said he was very pleased with how the team had learned to play without their standout midfielder.

“They’ve played about 12 games without him,” Burt said. “Through the summer he had some issued with injuries, and regional stuff, and we’ve done well in good competition, but to come up here without Tarik and play national-level competition, and play the way we played was just phenomenal.”

RSL Florida's under-17s opened with a 1-0 win against Great Falls (Va.) before earning a 1-1 tie against the Augusta (Ga.) Arsenal and a final day defeat to the Potomac Cougars.

Colleges: UT's Thompson named Division II first team All-American

The University of Tampa’s Ryan Thompson was named to the National Soccer Coaches Association of American Performance Subaru Division II All-America team, while teammates Dan Ingvarsson and Pascal Milien were also named to the second team and third team respectively on Saturday night.

Thompson finished his college career with a standout season, finishing with a 0.88 goals against average as the Spartans reached the NCAA Division II Tournament Elite Eight, recording an 83 percent save percentage and four shutouts.

"He was spectacular," Spartans coach Adrian Bush said. "What a lot of people don't know is that for a two-week period of our season he had the swine flu, and he never missed a beat. Had almost a break on his foot where he didn't train for another two-week period, and played against (Florida Tech), which I thought was his best performance of the year, he was really a game-time decsision..

"I think he's hands-down on of the top 'keepers in the country in any classification."

Ingvarsson was also instrumental to the Spartans success, marshalling the center of defense in front of Thompson along with Kyle Williams, and also providing quality play from set pieces, scoring five goals and adding seven assists principally from free kicks.

Milien, who was one of only three players from last year’s All-America team to be named again, was also outstanding. He led the Spartans with 12 goals and 31 points, his pace and skill providing the attack with a creative spark.

"I think it's a compliment to the type of players and people they are," Bush said. "I'm happy to see them get the recognition, I think it's well deserved. Those are three guys that don't come by often. It's tough to find those caliber of players, and those type of people, for your program and I think it's well deserved."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Youth: Plant City's Castro making a name for himself

LAKE BUENA VISTA –As he took to the field last month at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex, there were definitely some butterflies in Omar Castro’s stomach.

After all, the 13-year-old Plant City native had never appeared in a game similar to the one he was about to play in, representing the Region III Olympic Development Program in the Thanksgiving Interregional Tournament against other regional sides, and two U.S. Under-13 national teams.

In a surprise to none who knew him, though, Castro’s inner nerves didn’t surface as he continued to show why he is the latest young player from Hillsborough County to draw impressive reviews in a big setting. Former University of South Florida and University of Tampa coach Jay Miller, who led the Spartans to a NCAA Division II national championship in 1981, was Castro’s head coach for the weekend, and was impressed with the calmness Castro brought to the game.

“He’s just a solid kid, he does his work, he doesn’t get overly excited, but he’s such a steady, steady player,” Miller said. “He’s in a position where you have to be calm, you have to have ice in your veins, and two games straight here I’m looking for a mistake, and I can hardly find one.”

A center back, Castro has grown up around the game of soccer. His parents moved to Plant City from Mexico 18 years ago, his father and three older brothers all having grown up playing the sport and his older cousin currently a part of the youth academy at Mexican First Division side Indios. With that upbringing surrounding him, it’s hardly a surprise his natural talent emerged at an early age.

“Before my dad moved from Mexico to here, he played soccer, my brothers all played,” Castro said. “My dad started training me, and I liked it.”

Miller said the upbringing Castro had is typical for players who have reached the level he has.

“We find that is the M.O. of most all of these players,” Miller said. “Most all of them come from a family that is committed to soccer, and usually older siblings, they’re usually always playing up against them. It’s just a culture to be able to be that good.”

A large number of his family were there to watch him play for the Region III team at Disney, something that Castro said inspired him to play as hard as he could. The confidence he shows on the field is something he Castro has had to work on. According to his coach at the Plant City Lancers, Stephen Rossiter, Castro normally tries to deflect praise away from himself, putting the team first. Rossiter believes that as Castro has begun to believe more in his abilities, he has seen his game reach new heights.

“Since the first tryout he did with the Olympic Development Program, I just kept telling him that I had confidence in him,” Rossiter said. “There was no doubt in my mind that he would go because I’ve been around, I’ve seen a lot of soccer, I’ve been coaching for about 10 years, been all over the country. There’s other players out there similar, but he just has that natural ability that you see at this level. He’s had it since he started, he just had to believe in it, and once he started believing in it, he’s made it this far.”

Castro sees soccer being a big part of his future, with the goal of playing college soccer, and becoming the first member of his family to earn a college degree, coming before aspirations of playing professionally. With the outlook Castro has, Rossiter doesn’t see any reason why he won’t be able to accomplish anything he wants.

“He has a love for the game, soccer is his life,” Rossiter said. “It’s not just something that he does. … He’s got a lot of goals set in his life, and I think he’s definitely going to achieve them.”

Tampa Bay Soccer Blog now on Twitter

I am pleased to announce that the Tampa Bay Soccer Blog is now available on Twitter, for expanded coverage of the Tampa Bay soccer scene.

Not only will the feed give users access to all the stories on the blog the moment they are posted, but it will also allow you, the reader, to bring your own insight to the table. Got an opinion on local soccer? Feel free to share it here.

In addition, the Twitter feed will allow for immediate updates on important scores from high school, club, college and professional games in the bay area. Whether it's a game I am covering in person, or a score that's being reported from a coach, the TBSB will aim to have the bay area covered.

Next up for me is the High School Soccer Classic, beginning at the Ed Radice Sports Complex next Saturday. Can’t get to the game? Follow the TBSB on twitter for live updates of all the matches in the tournament. The TBSB will also be at the upcoming Disney Soccer Showcase and Wharton Invitational, and will also try to provide extensive coverage of the FHSAA playoffs from the district tournaments to the state finals at the University of Tampa, giving you a front row seat even if you can’t be there yourself.

To follow the TBSB on twitter, go to and become a follower.