NASL Week in Review for 3/4/2011
NASL teams continue to build their rosters while looking forward to opening day in early April. FC Edmonton have announced 15 player signings in preparation for their two-week Arizona training camp beginning March 6. FC Edmonton have inked veteran goalkeeper Rein Baart and young keeper Jaswinder Gill, defenders Niko Saler, Andre Duberry, Alex Surprenant and Antonio Rago, defender/midfielders Paul Matthijs and Chris Kooy, midfielders Shaun Saiko, Dominic Oppong and Mutanda Kwesele, midfielder/strikers Kyle Yamada and Chris Lemire and strikers Michael Cox and Paul Craig.
Meanwhile, the Puerto Rico Islanders announced that they have re-signed defender Marco Velez. and the Atlanta Silverbacks have added four more players, including Mexican veteran Mario Perez Zuniga, along with Bosnian striker Emsad Zahirovic and Texans Jose Parada and Patrick Robertson. FC Tampa Bay inked defensive midfielder Tony McManus to a one-year contract, while the Fort Lauderdale Strikers added midfielder Grant Kerr. The Carolina RailHawks opened their training camp Monday and play a preseason match Friday against Wake Forest University.
Goalkeeper Rein Baart was born in the Netherlands and spent most of his playing career there. The veteran, who will turn 39 in April, began his career at TOP Oss in 1996 and played over 115 games for VVV-Venlo and almost 100 for Fortuna Sittard. The 5’11″ keeper also spent time with NEC. FC Edmonton also brought in goalkeeper Jaswinder Gill, 25. The 6’4″ keeper played at the University of Alberta, where he won 2010 Canada West First Team All-Star honors.
Edmonton are bringing in a mixture of veterans with professional experience and rookie players. Coach Harry Sinkgraven will look to Paul Matthijs, 34, to help either on the backline or defensive midfield. The Dutchman spent the majority of his career in Holland with FC Groningen, but also played for Dutch sides AZ Alkmaar and BV Veendam, and was with Edmonton last summer for their 2010 exhibition season. Another player with professional experience is Canadian Dominic Oppong. The Ghana-born Canadian played college ball at the University of Cincinnati before transferring to the University of Buffalo, and spent 2010 in USL-2 with the Harrisburg City Islanders. And although he’s only 21, defender Alex Surprenant played for the Montreal Impact in 2008-2009. The Quebec native appeared in 14 matches for the Impact and also made 9 appearances for the Canadian U-20 team.
Puerto Rico Islanders
The champion Islanders announced that veteran defender Marco Velez is returning for the 2011 season. Velez has played over 120 matches in two stints with the Islanders after playing at Barry University. Velez, 30, has also played for the Seattle Sounders and in MLS for Toronto FC, for whom he made 38 appearances in 2008-2009. Velez is a native of Puerto Rico and has eight caps for the national team.
“I am committed to Puerto Rico. I will keep giving my best to reach every goal possible with the Puerto Rico Islanders, to continue to develop the sport in the island, and to bring quality soccer to our loyal fans; the best fans in the league,” said Vélez. “I really appreciate what the Islanders have done and continue to do to bring soccer in Puerto Rico to another level. To see how every day there are more and more boys and girls playing this sport that I am so passionate about, motivates me to go out there and give 100% every day,” he added.
The Silverbacks added three more young players to their roster, and one veteran. Long-time Mexican Primera Division defender Mario Perez Zuniga brings the experience of over 170 matches for such Mexican clubs as Necaxa, Club America, San Luis Potosi and, most recently, FC Atlas in Guadalajara. Perez, 28, was born in Mexico City and has made ten appearances for El Tri, the Mexican national team.
Youngster Emsad Zahirovic, 23, is a 6’2″ striker who has led the Atlanta District Amateur Soccer League in scoring three of the last four seasons. Midfielder Jose Parada won All-Conference USA recognition during each of his four seasons at the University of Tulsa, where the 5’7″ Texan scored 27 goals in 74 matches. Patrick Robertson is a 6-foot centerback who played his college ball at Coastal Carolina and has spent time with the Puerto Rico Islanders and Bayamon FC, as well as playing professionally in Peru and with the Harrisburg City Islanders.
FC Tampa Bay
FC Tampa Bay brought in another veteran, 30-year-old midfielder Tony McManus. A native of Memphis, McManus attended the University of Alabama-Birmingham before being drafted by the Chicago Fire in 2004. McManus spent the majority of his pro career with the Atlanta Silverbacks, making 156 appearances for the club between 2005 and 2008. The 5’9″ defensive midfielder also spent the last two seasons in Portland, playing 51 games for the Timbers.
FC Tampa Bay opens their preseason Saturday at 7:30 pm with a match at the University of Tampa.
Fort Lauderdale Strikers
The Strikers announced the signing of midfielder Grant Kerr, 25, a native of Scotland. Kerr began his career at the Everton Youth Academy and played college soccer in the US at Fordham University. After ending his college career in 2008, Kerr played with English League One team Southend United, and also has played professionally in Cyprus.
“Grant is a midfielder with a lot of bite. He will add a lot to our midfield. We are excited for his arrival from Scotland,” said Strikers Head Coach Daryl Shore.
Coach Martin Rennie welcomed 2010 RailHawks Kupono Low, Brad Rusin, Devon McKenney and Floyd Franks to Monday’s training camp at Wake Med Park, along with newly acquired midfielder Jonny Steele. Hawaii native Low, 32, has played in 85 matches for the RailHawks since 2007. Rusin, a former UCLA Bruin, has played in 33 matches for the RailHawks sine 2009. The 6’4″ defender also attended the IMG Academy in Bradenton and played for the PDL Ventura County Fusion. McKenney, 26, is an Ohio native who attended the University of Akron, and has played professionally for the Columbus Crew reserve squad and the Real Maryland Monarchs. Franks, 26, is a defender from UNC-Charlotte who played for the Chicago Fire and Cleveland City Stars before joining the RailHawks in 2010.
The Fort Lauderdale Strikers played their first game under their new brand last weekend against the NY Red Bulls, losing 2-0. Originally the preseason match was to be closed to the public, but shortly before the match the game was opened to the public and an announced crowd of 3,500 was in attendance. The Montreal Impact have played two preseason matches, losing to Sporting Kansas City 1-0 while rebounding for a 3-0 win over FC Dallas. Goal scorers for Montreal were Ali Gerba and newcomers Luke Kreamalmeyer and Idriss Ech Chergui netted the goals for the Impact, while former Islander keeper Bill Gaudette and Evan Bush, who played last year for Crystal Palace Baltimore, shared the shutout. Twenty-one-year-old Canadian midfielder Kyle Porter, who played for the Energie Cottbus reserve team in Germany and has represented Canada on the U-17 and U-20 national teams, also saw action against FC Dallas.