NASL News: Teams Prepare for Season Openers in Two Weeks
With the opening of the NASL season just two weeks away, teams are busy finalizing rosters, adding sponsors and playing preseason friendlies. The season opens April 7th with Atlanta hosting the expansion San Antonio Scorpions, while the Strikers play host to FC Edmonton. That same day the Puerto Rico Islanders receive a visit from the Tampa Bay Rowdies and the Minnesota Stars welcome the Carolina RailHawks.
Strikers Add Three New Players
The Fort Lauderdale Strikers have added defender Emilio Orozco on a season-long loan from Mexican club Tigres and have also signed rookies Mark Anderson and Aly Hassan. Orozco, who turns 21 at the end of April, joins fellow loanee and Tigres teammate Leopoldo Morales at Fort Lauderdale. The 5’10″ backliner has been part of the U.S. U-17 and U-20 teams and played with the Tigres U-19 squad.
“Emilio is a talented player we’re excited to add to our group,” said Strikers head coach Daryl Shore. “He’s going to get a chance to improve his skills and help us to reach our goal of winning a championship.” Midfielder Anderson, a 23-year-old Englishman, attended nearby Barry University and earned the 2011 Daktronics DII Player of the Year Award. Forward Hassan also played his college soccer nearby, at Nova Southeastern University, where he scored 36 goals during his career.
In other Strikers news, the club played to a 1-1 draw in a preseason friendly Wednesday with Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. Midfielder Patrick Otte scored the Strikers’ goal on a diving header.
On Saturday morning the Strikers romped over Barry University by a score of 7-2 at Fort Lauderdale Stadium. Strikers forward Andy Herron scored a hat-trick.
Rowdies Sign Two Rookies
The Tampa Bay Rowdies signed two rookie players, goalkeeper Andrew Fontein and defender Draymond Washington. The 6’1″ Fontein earned 2011 Big West Goalkeeper of the Year while playing at UC-Irvine. Washington is a Maryland native who played college ball at George Mason University. Washington also captained the 2011 PDL Real Maryland FC squad, playing in 15 matches last season.
Both players were trialists with Tampa Bay and were signed to two-year contracts, with the first year guaranteed and the second at the club’s option. With these two new signings, the Rowdies now have 17 players inked for the 2012 season. For more on the Rowdies, check the latest NASL podcast featuring Coach Ricky Hill.
FC Edmonton Have 22 Players Under Contract
The FC Edmonton club now has 22 players signed up for the 2012 season. In shaping their roster for the upcoming season, the Eddies let go of Lethbridge native Niko Saler, who played in six Eddies contests last season.
“It’s a bitter-sweet day here at FC Edmonton,” said general manager Tom Leip. “Sweet in that we’ve made some significant signings, which are sure to improve our team in all positions; bitter because we’ve had to say goodbye to a talented, young, Albertan defender who has been with the club since its infancy. I’d like to welcome all the new players to the club and wish Niko nothing but the best in his future soccer career.” The Eddies travel for two games this weekend against WSA Winnipeg.
In other FCE news, goalkeeper Michal Misiewicz and midfielder Shaun Saiko were on the Canadian squad that played its first Olympic qualifier Thursday against El Salvador. Misiewicz earned Man of the Match honors in the scoreless draw between the two nations. Both Eddies feel a lot of support from home. Saiko noted, “It’s incredible to receive all the support we have received. Through Facebook, text messages and Twitter it’s nice to see what we are doing for FC Edmonton and it’s really nice to have all of the support from the fans.”
Edmonton played a two-game series with WSA Winnipeg this weekend. WSA is a PDL team and the Eddies defeated the side by a total of 10 goals to 1.
Next up for the Edmonton will be the Minnesota Stars on April 2 as they swing through the Twin Cities on the way to their season opener in Fort Lauderdale.
Jonathan Greenfield Signs with San Antonio
Although South African defender Jonathan Greenfield has not been “officially” announced as a signing for the San Antonio Scorpions, their website tells a different story. The 30-year-old native of Cape Town has played in the U.S. for the Minnesota Thunder and Rochester Rhinos, along with a number of indoor teams, including the last two MISL Champion Milwaukee Wave squads.
According to a post on Facebook by Scorpions president Michael Hitchcock, the team has now sold over 5,000 tickets to their home opener at Heroes Field against the Puerto Rico Islanders on April 15. Another photo from the team’s Facebook page shows a truck with steel on it that will be the skeleton of the new stadium in progress.
Minnesota Stars FC Hold Intrasquad Scrimmage
On Friday the 2011 NASL Champion Minnesota Stars FC held a morning intrasquad scrimmage, dividing players into yellow and navy squads. The yellow squad won, 3-0 on goals by Devin Del Do, Amani Walker and trialist Conrad Smith, who played in 14 matches last season for FC Edmonton. Chris Cortez also saw a lot of minutes as a trialist. Cortez has been with Chivas USA but was released this spring.
“I thought it was an honest day of soccer,” Lagos said. “We asked both teams to pretend like they were going against each other, and they did that. The first 25, 30 minutes were hard-nosed, at times technical, at times tactical, at times physical soccer, and that opened up into some scoring for one team and a good battle for the other.” Click here for more on the scrimmage.
Two Stars players who have not been seen in training camp yet this year and who were part of the 2011 NASL Championship team are midfielder Andrei Gotsmanov and forward/midfielder Jeff Cosgriff. Although it is still not official from the Stars, reports coming out of the training camp say Gotsmanov has told the team that he will not be returning and has decided to retire from professional soccer. A source confirmed to IMS that Cosgriff has also retired taking a job with a computer company in his home state of California. To date the Stars still only have one goalkeeper signed to a contract and have seen a number of trialists come and go this preseason.
The Stars are also readying for the season opener at the Metrodome. The club will hold a Tailgate Party beginning at 4:30 pm outside Gate D in the southeast picnic area of the stadium. Bud Light will sponsor the party and the match.
“We’re excited to have Bud Light on board as the presenting sponsor of the Champions Challenge, and we believe it’s an ideal fit as we look to fill the Metrodome with soccer fans,” Stars FC CEO Djorn Buchholz said. “It’s been almost 20 years since a championship team opened up its season in the Metrodome, and we want our event to be fitting of the occasion, and with media support from K-TWIN, Univision and City Pages, as well as an energetic performance from Secondhand Ska Kings, I’m confident we can build excitement for the biggest soccer game in Minnesota in years.”
More NASL News
The Puerto Rico Islanders will feature in the Bayamon PreSeason Cup this weekend. Admission is free to the public as the tournament includes the Puerto Rican U-20 squad, Bayamon FC and the Blazers. Sunday’s triple-header includes an All-Star Celebrity match and an Islanders Open Day where fans can meet the players and staff of La Tropa Naranja.
“I would like to invite all Islanders fans to come out and support us during this tournament. I am looking forward to meeting our fans, which I know firsthand are the best in the league. This is also a great opportunity to continue our community outreach efforts and work with an excellent organization like Golitos, as well as using soccer to help these children with autism. I guarantee you that the club will do everything to bring home the Bayamon FC Cup,” said head coach Adrian Whitbread.
The Carolina RailHawks announced recently their partnership with seven returning and ten new sponsors. The club also renewed its relationship with WakeMed for stadium naming rights and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina for the front of the jersey sponsorship.
The Atlanta Silverbacks announced that their April 7th Opening Day match with the visiting San Antonio Scorpions will be Special Olympics Georgia Community Day. In partnership with Fans for a Cause and Morgan’s Wonderland, 100 Special Olympics athletes will receive free tickets to the match and the opportunity to meet both Silverbacks and Scorpions players afterwards.
“The Scorpions have set the bar high through their creation of Soccer for a Cause, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to be able to incorporate such a worthwhile endeavor into what we’re doing in Atlanta,” said Silverbacks President Michael Oki. “While we’ve previously worked with Special Olympics Georgia, we’re always looking to build upon our relationships, and we certainly look forward to doing that with them this season.”