Koehler’s kick helps his team win Italian soccer tourney
Written by Pete Borello – Town Crier Staff Writer
WEDNESDAY, 19 JUNE 2002
Los Altos resident Danny “Dano” Koehler and his teammates on an under-13 boys soccer team showed Italy that Americans can play Europe’s most popular sport.
The team of select players from around the Bay Area, named De Anza Santos, last month won the Giovani Speranze Europee international youth soccer tournament in Rozzano, Italy.
“Everyone was surprised, not that we won, but that we played very nice soccer,” team director Paolo Carbone said. “We played European soccer – on the ground with a lot of passing.”
De Anza Santos was the first U.S. team to compete in the tourney, which also featured six teams from Italy and one from Switzerland.
The Americans went 3-0 in the competition and outscored their opponents 9-1.
De Anza Santos edged Verona Hellas F.C. of Italy 1-0 in the championship match, with Danny delivering the deciding goal in the second half.
“It was a magnificent goal,” Carbone said. “It was on a counterattack and he was one-on-one with a player. He took a shot from about 12 yards and it just went over the (goal)keeper. It was great execution from the kid.”
It’s a good bet Danny won’t soon forget that goal – or his 12-day visit to Italy.
“The whole trip was really cool and winning the tournament was like a dream,” the forward/midfielder said. “The team really came together. It was awesome.”
Danny, a who just completed the seventh grade at Egan Intermediate School, was the lone Los Altos representative on the team. The squad – coached by former Foothill College soccer standout Fabian Garza – also featured players from San Jose, Cupertino, Danville, Alamo, Santa Cruz, Aptos, San Ramon, Los Gatos and Pleasant Hill.
Danny and most of his teammates were selected for the tournament based on their play at last summer’s AC Milan Junior Camp in Los Altos.
The weeklong camp was run by coaches from AC Milan, one of the top professional club teams in Italy.
“Danny was determined to be selected for this team,” said his mother, Cathy Koehler.
Danny never missed a practice, according to Carbone, and showed plenty of potential.
“We were very happy to have him on the team,” Carbone said. “He’s going to be a very good player.”
Youth soccer: Breakers packing their bags for Italy
Sentinel Staff Report
SENTINEL STAFF WRITER
SANTA CRUZ — Back in May, the Santa Cruz Breakers under-19 Class I boys soccer team thought its season could have no better ending. The team accomplished one of its season goals when it advanced to the California State Cup championship game against Central Valley United on May 5.
Then the Breakers played flawless soccer to thrash United, 3-0. A pair of former Harbor Pirates provided the offensive punch — Andres Flores fired two goals into the net and got the assist on the third goal — scored by Hector Guzman.
Imagine the surprise several weeks later when Cabrillo College women’s soccer coach Paolo Carbone informed the team he had made arrangements for the Breakers to play in one of Europe’s most prestigious youth soccer tournaments over the summer. The tournament — dubbed the 9th Annual Mauro Lanari Memorial International — is based in Milan, Italy. Carbone then promised that this tournament would be unlike any the Breakers had ever competed in before.
The only question remaining was: Could the Breakers raise enough money to take the trip? “Anyone can go to Europe and play in a summer soccer tournament,” Carbone said. “There’s a big difference between those kinds of tournaments and this one.”
The Breakers are scheduled to leave for Milan on Aug. 14 and will face two-time tournament winner, Roma, in the first round of pool play on Aug. 17. This particular Roma serves as the main feeder team for the Italian soccer league first division power by the same name. The other two teams in the Breakers’ pool are a pair of Italian second-division teams — Ternana and Ascoli. The matches are scheduled for three consecutive days, Aug. 17-19.
After pool play, the top two teams from each group advance to the quarterfinals.
If everything goes right, the Breakers could appear in the championship game on Aug. 24. “The Breakers are going to play the cream of the crop,” Carbone said. “I felt I could pull some strings to get a team from Santa Cruz in the tournament.”
As it turned out, it took only one phone call from Carbone to convince his Italian friends the Breakers belonged in the 14-team tournament. “People in Italy respect my opinion, and a good friend of mine was placed on the selection committee two years ago,” Carbone said. “I waited because I wanted Santa Cruz to be proud of the team representing it in Italy.”
Since the Breakers will be the first American club team to play in the tournament, both the Italians and Carbone are keenly interested to see how they will fare.
“I’m very curious to see how the players will react, if they will be able to step up to the next level,” Carbone said. “I think the Breakers will be impressed by the tournament. They’ll be treated like professionals and receive quite a bit of attention from the Italian press.”
Breakers coach Sergio Sierra said his team will not only compete in Italy, it will win.
What concerned Sierra, however, was finding the money for the trip.
“It takes a lot of money to put together this kind of team in the first place,” Sierra said. “Adding a trip like this is even more expensive, but it’s the only way to express our local talent at the international level.
“Every major soccer team in Europe sends scouts to the tournament, looking for new talent — it’s a unique opportunity.”
In order for the Breakers to stay in the black, the team will need to raise about $13,000.
“The tournament kicked in $15,000 and Larry Biggam paid for the plane tickets,” Sierra said. “That means every player needs to raise $700 to cover costs. Many players on the team come from disadvantaged families and it’s been a struggle for them.”
Between now and Aug. 14 the team is looking for ways to raise the rest of the money for the trip.
“If there are individuals or businesses interested in helping sponsor the team, that would be great,” Sierra said. “The opportunity to play in this tournament is immense. The kids deserve to have it happen.”
For information or to make a donation contact Mary Sierra at 459-2548 or send an e-mail to: email@example.com.
Contact Ben McMorries at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gooch plays before thousands in Italy
sentinel staff writer
Ever since he was 6, Anthony Gooch has wanted to be a professional soccer player. After training most of his life toward that goal and establishing himself as one of the most coveted players in the area, he got a big break late last August.
That’s when a scout for the Italian soccer club A.C. Milan spotted him playing at a tournament. Soon after, the scout invited Anthony to practice and play in an exhibition game with an international team at the club’s 85,700-seat San Siro Stadium.
“He said, ‘Would he be able to go at a moment’s notice?’” Anthony’s father, Paul Gooch, recalled the scout saying. “I said, ‘Are you kidding? He sleeps with his boots on.’”
A few weeks later, Anthony boarded a plane bound for Milan. There he met his multi-national teammates and his Italian-speaking coaches. A few days later, he scored a goal to help his international team win in front of thousands of noisy, banner-waving, horn-sounding fans.
“Just to play on the full-sized field and see what it’s like because I might become a professional some day,” sighed Anthony. “It’s cool.”
Wait a second, you might be thinking. What kind of high-caliber soccer player isn’t used to playing on a full-sized field?
The kind that’s 10 years old.
Anthony was spotted playing for his Class I, under-12 Lionhearts team by an A.C. Milan scout at one of many U.S. Youth Soccer Association tournaments sponsored by the Italian club. Neither he nor his father, who also happens to be his coach, thought Anthony would be selected for the team, especially since the boy was quite a bit younger than most of the other players.
Paul fielded the call from the scout, but kept the news a secret until he was sure Anthony would be allowed to go. When the affirmation came, it kicked off an amazing adventure for the Capitola Elementary School fifth- grader.
Flying overseas was no problem for the boy who had made several trips to his father’s homeland of England. Adjusting to the language barrier, however, proved to throw a few kinks into the trip. Especially after Anthony discovered his coaches only spoke Italian.
“The only word they knew was up,” Anthony said. “So when they said ‘Up,’ I knew I was a forward. I adjusted to it.”
After his game, Anthony and his teammates were pampered with lunch and a medal ceremony. Then his family stayed for the main event — a match between A.C. Milan and Perugia that drew a full house in the huge stadium. The home team won, 3-0.
But the adventure didn’t end there. Anthony also received special permission to train a few days with the A.C. Milan Academy, where the team’s up-and-coming players sprout.
The trip also included a voyage to the Swiss border to watch an A.C. Milan practice and get autographs, including one from soccer legend Pele’s son Dida, who is a goalkeeper for the Milan team. And before the Gooches left, they were fortunate enough to get tickets for another full-house Premiere League game where they saw A.C. Milan’s rival Inter Milan battle the Ajax team of Holland in a packed San Siro Stadium.
The trip opened Anthony’s eyes to the frenzy that often surrounds soccer in Europe and that his father had attempted to describe to his son many times.
“His eyes were as big as flying saucers, just in awe of what he was seeing,” Paul Gooch said. “He’d never seen such a big game before live.”
The experience only went toward solidifying the 10-year-old’s determination that some day all those fans would be cheering him on. But if he had his way, his fans would be the followers of the English club Manchester United.
“With all the crowd and then playing on a full-sized field where the professionals play, and we were treated like professionals,” Anthony said. “I think it was fun.”
Sekon achieves goal in Milan
By JON WALSH SENTINEL STAFF WRITER
SANTA CRUZ — Chris Sekon’s world expanded by unbelievable proportions last August when the 12-year old Santa Cruz resident made a trip to Milan, Italy.
Sekon was one of three Bay Area players to receive an invitation to play in the Trofeo Berlusconi, a game featuring top youth players, in San Siro Stadium, home of the legendary European team AC Milan.
Sekon was exposed to a new side of soccer, where fans are passionate about the sport and where AC Milan routinely packs its 80,000-seat stadium.
Sekon also learned about a new culture, new people and unique foods.
“It was fun over there,’’ Sekon said Thursday. “I liked it because there was an ice cream store at the end of the block (from his hotel).”
“It’s called gellato,’’ Cabrillo College women’s soccer coach Paolo Carbone said, correcting his young pupil.
It was at Carbone’s soccer camp at UC Santa Cruz, the AC Milan Junior Camp, where Sekon’s journey to Milan began. Sekon was selected from a group of over 60 prestigious players to receive an all-expenses paid invitation.
Sekon didn’t waste his opportunity. He scored two goals and is believed to be only the second American to ever score in the famed stadium, Alexi Lalas being the other. After the game, Sekon was interviewed on live, national TV. “It was a good experience,’’ Sekon said. “I play better if I play with better kids.”
Sekon also met the FIFA Player of the Year, Zinedine Zidane of France.
Sekon’s visit to Milan was the reward for eight years of hard work. “I’ve been playing since I was three,’’ he said. “My dad got me started and I got help from a lot of people and coaches. When I started, it was just for fun. But when I got to be 10 or 11, I just kept working at it.”
Sekon, who attends Shoreline Middle School, plans to return to Milan in 2002 and hopes to one day play for AC Milan or the U.S. National Team.
The AC Milan Junior Camp, where Sekon caught the eye of AC Milan representatives, will return to UC Santa Cruz and be held July 30-Aug. 3. The camp is designed for advanced players age 10-15. For more information, call (408) 554-6448 or visit www.acmilanjrcamp.com.
Lynden Gooch at Sunderland and West Ham
From an early age when he first learned to walk, he was with a soccer ball at his feet. Later, going to all the practices of his older brother, Anthony Gooch, Lynden was always playing on the side lines and learning. He would emulate all of his brother moves and the way he would play. Lynden would be everywhere that his brother and his team was, The Lionhearts. He would follow them in the sun, rain, or snow, it didn’t matter.
When it was Lynden’s turn to play at five years old, he had practiced so much against older players that he was phenomenal in his own age group. He scored so many goals that they had to put him as goalie. That didn’t even stop him. Lynden saved a ball as goalkeeper and dribbled up the whole field and scored as the goalie. It is even on youtube today.
Because his mother, Irene Gooch, worked at night, his father, Paul Gooch, used to move the furniture around in the living room to create a wall for his two sons to try and get the ball over and score in the goal, between the window and the sliding door. It taught them how to hit the ball in different situations. Usually at 10 PM, they would move all of the furniture and pictures to the original place so there was no evidence for their mother to see.
Paul put both, Anthony and Lynden, in the Olympic Development Program (ODP). They both played district, state, and regional ODP. Also, in 2010 Lynden got called up by the U-15 U.S. National Team twice. They also had the opportunity to play in Europe. Anthony, playing with A.C. Milan, Everton F.C, and Sunderland A.F.C. Lynden also wanted to play in England, and he got the opportunity. Lynden went to Sunderland for the first time in 2006. In Lynden’s first game, he scored a hatrick in 27 minutes against Leeds United. That got the ball rolling. “Who is the Californian kid?” said the Sunderland boys. Ever since that day, Sunderland have flown him out twice a year to train and play for two weeks at a time to keep an eye on him. A couple years later, a West Ham United scout saw him playing and asked if he would like to have a trial at West Ham and he did. Paul knew this was a great opportunity, to see another Premier League club. His father knew where his son’s personality would fit better, but he wanted Lynden to make the decision himself. Lynden loved Sunderland A.F.C. and that was his decision. His father always told him, “it is almost impossible to get a look in at the Premier League clubs, and that you’re only young and fit once so go for it”. That is what Lynden did.
Lyndens last time in England was in May 2011. The last day he was there, he was in the U-16 Sunderland youth team squad for the trip to Stoke City in the Premier League. After getting the start and a goal from 30 yards out, one on one with the goalie, everyone was happy. After the game as we walked to the team bus, the Sunderland Academy Director took Lynden and his father aside, and told them that they would like to give him a contract. That drive back down to London was the most rewarding five hour drives ever. All the hard work and effort from everyone, endless days travelling, and playing in the pouring rain, snow, and howling winds had rewarded him with all he had ever dreamed for. But, his father said, “It is only just beginning, and you have to continue to work hard because there are 2,000 kids that want your spot”.
Lynden travels to Sunderland in January 2012 to sign his contract. The journey has only just begun.
MARTIN MONROY TO GERMANY?
It was in May, and Monroy was playing with Borussia Monchengladbach, a club team in Germany’s second professional division. Monroy was invited to try out with the German side after being spotted in a semipro tournament in Switzerland with the Santa Cruz Breakers 88 Under-19 club team.
The minimum age to sign as a pro in Germany is 17. Still, Monroy knows that once he is done with high school soccer, greener pastures lie ahead — though it may be difficult to imagine a greener pasture than the one P.V. practices on, overlooking a strawberry field off Highway 1 in Watsonville.
“It was hard, but they liked how I played,” Monroy said. “I couldn’t sign a contract because I was 16, but they liked how I played.”
Monroy has an offer from Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo to play for former Breakers and UC Santa Cruz coach Paul Holocher next year. Monroy said he will play there if the pro contract doesn’t work out.
Santa Cruz Broadens Their Horizons – Breakers Earn Invite to Elite Switzerland Tournament
Tuesday, March 13
SANTA CRUZ, CA – United Soccer Leagues Super Y-League club, the Santa Cruz County Breakers have gained an invitation to an illustrious youth tournament running Thursday, April 5 through Monday, April 9. The Torneo Internazionale di Bellinzona U19 tournament is an eight team tournament held in Switzerland annually between the highest ranking youth academies in the world. The Breakers, who competed in the Super Y-League U17 division in 2006, will face off against youth academy teams from Borussia Vfl 1900 Monchengladbach (Germany), SE Palmeiras (Brazil), Ticino (Switzerland), Tottenham Hotspurs FC (England), ARIS FC Salonicco (Greece), FC Barcelona (Spain), and FC Basel (Switzerland).
“The players we take on this tournament will return home much better players,” said Santa Cruz County Breakers Head Coach Bob Poser. “Seeing the level of intensity these youth academy players train at, and the results of working so intently will make our guys much better students of the game. The majority of these players will play at the NCAA level next season. Coming off a trip where they go against the First Division youth Academy teams from Tottenham and Barcelona will prepare them for the NCAA level.”
The Breakers earned invitation to the tournament through Santa Cruz Coaching Director Paolo Carbone who went to Switzerland and Italy last season with another Northern California team. During the trip Carbone played a friendly against the Bellinzona U13 youth team and attended one of the U19 matches from last year’s tournament. During the match Carbone convinced Bellinzona President and Technical Director Vincent Cavin that his own Santa Cruz County Breakers were capable of competing on the same plane as the top youth academies in the world.
A representative of AC Bellinzona witnessed a strong showing from the Breakers in an exhibition match last spring and a favorable recommendation from AC Milan scout Gianpaolo Montesano during a Super Y-League game this summer moved the Bellinzona tournament selection committee to accept an American team into the tournament for the first time in a few years.
“Having a special player on our club such as U.S. U18 National Team Member Jose Gonzalez pushed us over the top as far as warranting an invitation,” added Poser. “Two or three additional players are capable of getting interest from the youth academy teams we will face over there. Erik Espinoza will also be a leader for us in Switzerland, he earned some recognition in Cocoa, Florida earlier this year when he was named to the ‘88/’89 Super Y-League ODP Select Team.”
“I have coached some of these players from the time they were at the U6 level,” said Poser. “It is really kind of amazing to see how far they have come, how far we have come as a club. We joined the Super Y-League as soon as it became an option for us in Northern California. The Super Y-League has been the transition for us, from a classic youth soccer team to the premier club level. We used the league as a way to sell player development within the club system and prioritize individual development over the team. It has lead to more success and better overall teams playing under one Santa Cruz County Breaker banner. This U17 side has always been the flagship team of our club – we will do our absolute best to represent where we come from and the leagues we play in.”
Bellinzona tournament update from Switzerland
Wednesday, April 11
It has been a whirlwind since the opening night match against Barcelona. Each day is packed with press interviews, TV filming, ceremonies, coaches meetings and superb football.
Day Four found us playing FC Basel in our second match of the tournament, one of the best, if note the elite youth soccer side in all of Switzerland. It was a difficult day at best. From the moment the Basel team let out a blood curdling war cry in the tunnel, we were never quite comfortable. We were a bit let down after out-shooting but losing to a very talented Barcelona side the day before. All was coupled with the energy and focus with which Basel came out put us on our heels immediately.
They were clearly a very professional youth side. Within 20 minutes they had gone up 3-0 on incredibly well driven balls from their left side into the box. The crosses found two hard crashing 6’5’’ plus front runners in the air. It will turn out that one of these front runners, Luka Lapenda, won the golden boot for most goals scored in the tournament. Although getting some of the run of play, we were just never really in this match and by the interval had given up yet another energetic goal to a side that simply was the more, athletic, organized, and determined side on the day. We came to learn that this side is hand picked, some having already played in the Swiss first division, financially very well backed, trains eight times per week and when firing on all cylinders is considered one of the very best in all of Europe. They were today a superb side.
After we collected ourselves and made some adjustments at half time we were unlucky not to score pull at least one goal back and only lost the second half 1-0 on the 52nd minute strike by Subotic on a blazing fast counter attack.
We came away from this match having learned some valuable lessons that will make us a better side and have nicknamed powerfully driven balls into the box, “Basel bullets.” A painful but very educational evening for our American youth soccer players that train 2-3 times a week amongst all the competing demands they face in contrast to the academy environment of these European sides.
Day Five – Team presentations to the City of Bellinzona, Match against ARIS Salinicco of Greece The day started with the team heading off for a tour of the three major Castles of Bellinzona, truly a remarkably beautiful area of Switzerland. Meanwhile Breaker coach Bob Poser and Coaching Director Paolo Carbone met with the Director of Professional Football, the Technical Director and U19 team head coach of the great football Club Palmeiras to exchange ideas. While they were very happy to discuss tactics and historical ideas of the CFB (Brazilian Football Association) and the effect the CFB has on the professional teams in Brazil, they were also interested to learn of our tactical ideas and goals. It was a great opportunity to further deepen the relationship between the clubs as they discussed players visiting for periods of training in Sao Paolo. It was fascinating to learn the influence the CFB has on all Brazilian clubs and players traveling to other continents and playing leagues to embrace the most current CFB philosophies so that they are prepared to rejoin the Brazilian National team when called up for international competition.
The team then met in the city center for the tournament ceremony of presenting each team to the people of Bellinzona and Region Ticino. It was a grand affair with TV cameras, newspaper journalists, music, buffet/bar and many families with younger children clamoring to get autographs and glimpses of the next generation of professional footballers. Each team was given theme music as they came up to the stage where the captain was given a tournament poster and said a few words of thanks. The music the tournament selected for the Breakers was perfect – I Get Around by the Beach Boys. Some of the most heartwarming images were those of our Breaker players giving autographs to Swiss children alongside those future pro players from Barcelona, Tottenham and Palmeiras.
ARIS Salonicco Match This was a game we were prepared for and felt as if was our best chance to take our first three points.
The Breakers appeared to finally be getting over jet lag and the very fast speed of play. While the Greeks also had tall target players our speed of play had improved in the two 60 minute matches we had played the two previous days. Our front runners were more active, we were playing much quicker and creating good space for Jose Gonzalez to find more time in the midfield, which he took ten minutes into the match to drive a 35 yard blast that flew inches over the cross bar.
Not two minutes later we realized that while we might have been getting used to the speed of play we did not have that little bit of luck required on occasion for the margin of victory. With the front runners stretching the Greek central defenders (one in an off side position) Gonzalez pushed a ball through for himself and was away through the middle one on one with the keeper, when the Assistant Referee’s flag went up and the referee blew the whistle stopping play, despite both Breaker front runners turning away from play. With the Breakers pushed up the Greek side took the free kick quickly capitalizing perhaps the worst call of the tournament and scored on a counterattack three touches later. Amazing rather than up 1—0 we find ourselves playing from behind again. As if that wasn’t bad enough our keeper, Jeremy Delre, was given a straight red on a collision in our box on a corner kick scramble. This called 15 year old Breaker keeper Kevin Halasz into action. In his first minute of action at the U19 international level was to face a penalty kick! With the Breakers in vocal support, Kevin dove to his right and just barely missed saving a very well taken PK.
Disappointed and feeling the weight of the world the Breakers left the stadium convinced that tomorrow they would surely find the net for the first time this week.
Day Six – Santa Cruz County Breakers vs. Borussia Möchengaldbach This was our last game of the tournament and we were determined to find the back of the net however this German side had only given up a single goal in beating the great Brazilian side Palmeiras 2-1 earlier this week (and Palmeiras would play for the Championship later this evening) so we knew it would not be an easy task. Injuries had really depleted our side throughout the week and we were glad to have been 18 STRONG, as we would need them all. This proved to be a bit difficult defensively at first with some new faces in the line up.
However, none of us would have imagined that we would be down 3-0 at half time after the lessons learned in the first three matches.
The good news is that the boys found another gear after the interval determined to win the second half of this game and prove themselves worthy of invitation to the tournament. At last we would find some Breaker energy, confidence and yes, just a little but of that oh so badly needed luck.
After ten minutes Linares made a run into the final third and sent a through ball to Diego Gonzalez who drove a rocket shot past the German keeper only to hit the far post BUT this time it would pop back into play at the eight yard line where Joe Eubanks dove to met the ball in mid air and drive it into the M’gladbach net for the Breakers first goal of the tournament! If you heard a whoosh sound sometime around 2:00 AM on Monday morning it was our collective sigh of relief! This changed the game in grand fashion.
The Beakers were finally playing like we know we are capable of and had the better run of play creating a number of opportunities in the M’gladbach defensive third. Having adapted to the speed of play and recognizing the need for driven balls of great pace, the Breakers demonstrated we had gained some important experience in the past days. Our second goal came on a great ball played deep into the German final third that found Anthony Ponce who had made a committed run from the midfield. Ponce then played a Manny Leos who had shown in support from the right back position. Leos whipped a ball even the Basel players would have been proud to find a streaking Erik Espinoza. Espinoza who had finally seemed to find his rhythm rose to send a superb header towards goal, perfectly placing the ball back across goal into the near upper-90, the Breakers were now in stride.
Confidence was now on our side and the M’gladbach coach was up urging his players to not allow a third and tying goal. We thought we had found that elusive point late in the game after the best 20 minutes of football we had played all tournament. A final coaching change was made to bring Alberto Mata to the middle of the park and move Jose Gonzalez wide left, positions the boys played for seven years prior to Mata going to Cabrillo College, had Gonzalez isolated on the left side in the final third. As he turned and went at goal he was taken down one yard inside the penalty box. Unfortunately, despite this refereeing crew being very good – as had been the case throughout the tournament, save the center in Greek match – this center was not close enough to play and after running 15 yards to site of the infraction signaled for a free kick one yard outside the box. Now it was M’gladbach sighing with relief.
Despite some wonderful play in the final moments the Breakers were unable to find that elusive third goal before the final whistle. While having lost yet another match, the Breakers players, coaching staff and fans had felt redeemed that we had shown the kind of football we are capable of playing and that they were worthy of invitation to this prestigious tournament. There was a good deal of respect shown between players while organizing for the following team photo.
The post game atmosphere was incredible. The entire town had come out for an Easter weekend barbeque in the Club house with players from both teams having a well earned lunch and the towns children thrilled to get Breaker and M’gladbach hats, pins, stickers and players autographs. It was as if although the match, while important, was only part of these peoples celebration of the competition and the beautiful game itself. I was somewhat envious to see how this small Swiss mountain community had come together around the beautiful game of soccer. While the two teams collected themselves an U6 match was played in the corner of the pitch before we all headed to the Clubhouse for celebratory Ticino region rice and sausage buffet specialty.
Bob Poser Head Coach, SCC Breakers 88
Friday, April 6 – First Match
At last, Match Day is finally here. We started a long day by attending technical meeting and opening ceremonies in the Town Hall. The building is situated in the heart of old Bellinzona. Tournament and referee officials, including observers from FIFA and UEFA, made several presentations. Directors, Coaches and Captains from each team were required to attend. Afterwards there was a reception in the magnificent courtyard of Town Hall. Our team presented the appropriate dignitaries including the Mayor of Bellinzona, the Chief of Tourism and the tournament director a copy of the history of Santa Cruz Beach board walk, our Club pennant and a t-shirt.
After a team meeting in the afternoon we headed over to Faido (30 minutes out of Bellinzona) to play the Barcelona match. The boys appeared quite focused and excited for this opportunity to measure themselves against one of the most storied Clubs in the world. Just prior to heading out of our locker room for our team warm up we had a great surprise when Larry Biggam, the President of the Santa Cruz County Youth Soccer League, arrived and spoke with the players to tell them how proud the Santa Cruz county was of them. His words encouraged them and reminded them to enjoy this experience of a lifetime.
Again the facilities were great. FC Barcelona as expected was a superb side. We knew we were in for a spectacular experience when we saw our captains at the center circle with those of Barcelona and the first division referees from the Swiss FA.
Barcelona had explosive speed and was very technical. When given the slightest chance they were deadly. The crowd anticipated how well the Americans could perform against the highly touted players of Barcelona. As the first half unfolded it was the Breakers with the better chances. In fact they narrowly missed drawing first blood twice – once on a corner Allen Hardison put just wide of the Barcelona goal and another on a throw in by Walker Linares that Erik Espinoza put just over the crossbar. Barcelona was very quick in countering. They were technically superb with exceptional speed of play. Their ball movement was precise, well timed and explosive. The first half ended 0-0 with the Breakers having taken four shots to Barcelona’s two.
The second half saw small adjustments by both sides. Barcelona was no longer willing to leave many players forward on the Breakers set plays. After 11 minutes of fast paced football from both sides, Barcelona capitalized on a miscommunication in the Breaker midfield that resulted in a loose ball bouncing to their #10 Jonathan los Santos. He struck the ball out of mid-flight with lightning speed, a bending ball that connected with the upper-90 beyond the reach of Breaker keeper Jeremy Delre. Despite the Breakers out shooting Barcelona 2-0, los Santos’s spectacular goal proved to be the game winner. After the match there was great camaraderie shown both by sides. The Breakers won the respect and the hearts of the people of Faido and Bellinzona, Switzerland with a good level of play. The Breaker players walked into the crowd with their arms raised high. They applauded the knowledgeable and appreciative spectators who numbered roughly 500.
A great post-game meal with the friendly people of Faido topped off a wonderful evening of football and friendship amongst the passionate world of Calcio (football) here in the Italian region of the Swiss Alps.
Bob Poser Head Coach, Breakers ‘88
Tuesday, April 3
BELLINZONA, SWITZERLAND – Day one for the U18 Santa Cruz County Breakers ‘88 boys team in Bellinzona, Switzerland is in the books. The tournament organizers have been wonderful, treating us in a truly professional manner with every detail from pickup at the Milan airport in Italy and transport to Bellinzona, which consists of a breathtaking ride into the Swiss Alps. They have provided housing, meals, training times, facilities and equipment. Everything was all very well arranged.
Each team in the tournament is assigned a hotel. We have been lucky enough to get the most secluded hotel just south of the city center with our windows opening into a lush green meadow with a river and a spectacular view of the Alps. A full moon rose up over the river as if to welcome us to this beautiful place. They had a great buffet dinner waiting for us after which we hit the sack in order to try and get our biorhythms on Swiss time – our opening match against Barcelona is now less than 72 hours away.
After a great breakfast we were driven into town with the two guides the organizers have assigned to us. They took us to see the glorious medieval town of Bellinzona proper.
We walked through the famous Castle and saw wonderful views of the two other Castles and defensive wall of Bellinzona. The other highlight was all the posters around town announcing the tournament teams.
After shopping for chocolate we headed back to the hotel for lunch and to prepare for our first training on Swiss soil. Our hosts drove us to a private training ground with a groundskeeper and changing room where they provided us new cones, pinnies and balls. We had a few professional trainers from the Club Bellinzona watching and knew our fist impression was about to be made… impressions that would no doubt ring throughout the tournament organizers and other participating teams. The training session lasted one hour and fifty minutes and really helped get the transatlantic voyage out of our system – at long last we were playing the game we loved again. In place of the stands of Cabrillo College at home in Santa Cruz we were now surrounded by steep snow capped mountains covered with vineyards with classic mountain weather that quickly changed between everything from sunny skies to thunder and light rain.
We received many compliments on the quality and intensity of the training session and were told we will be presented with video footage of this and other moments throughout the tournament they are compiling. The boys did Santa Cruz County proud with good focus, a mature attitude and a professional mentality. Thanks to the donations we received and the team’s commitment to representing the Club, County, State and Country, the boys are looking and acting very professional.
After another great meal, the boys retired to their rooms for the evening to relax and watch Champions League matches on TV and preparing for another great day in which we will tour nearby Lugano, Lucarno and the glorious lakes that surround us. Meanwhile, the Breaker coaching staff met with some of the tournament committee members and learned about the ceremonies planned for the coming days in the City center, on the opening day of the tournament. The teams are to be officially presented to the Mayor of Bellinzona, the tournament organizers, one other and the people of Bellinzona. We also meet the Palmeiras team tomorrow in an informal gathering.
It is late and I need to prepare tomorrows training session so I’ll sign off for this evening. Everyone is healthy and happy and despite missing friends and family we are having a great time.
Bob Poser Head Coach, SCC Breakers ‘88
For pictures http://www.torneobellinzona.ch/page.asp?load=629