First goalie to score in MLS named assistant at Louisville

News

 

The first goalkeeper to score a goal from open play in Major League Soccer has been named as an assistant coach under Ken Lolla at the University of Louisville.

Danny Cepero was announced as an addition to the Cardinals staff earlier this week, jogging memories of his 81-yard goal off a free kick in his debut for the New York Red Bulls against the Columbus Crew on Oct. 18, 2008.

Cepero, who played college soccer for the University of Pennsylvania, was the goalie coach at Florida Gulf Coast University for the last two seasons. His MLS career spanned three seasons with the Red Bulls in which he made 15 appearances. The Baldwin, New York native also made 33 appearances for the Harrisburg City Islanders.

Two other MLS goalies have notched goals since Cepero’s bounced shot on the football-lined turf of Giants Stadium: Columbus Crew netminder William Hesmer off a corner kick against Toronto FC in October 2010 and Houston Dynamo’s Tally Hall, who scored in a CONCACAF Champions League match in October 2009.

Louisville would have the edge on the pitch, too

Alumni

 

College basketball’s main event of the year is happening this weekend and while that isn’t of any real importance to North American soccer fans there are a handful of pro soccer players who will have more than a passing interest in the outcome of the games being contested in Atlanta.

Few, if any, will be rooting for Wichita State for any reason other than rooting against their opponent or pulling for the lowest seeded team remaining because Wichita State does not field an intercollegiate soccer team (Before you hate, know that the University of Kansas is in the same boat for men’s soccer).

Louisville, the overall No. 1 seed in the basketball tournament and sentimental favorite after the gruesome on-court injury suffered by Kevin Ware in the regional final, would also be the favorites if a team of alumni were fielded among the four schools.

Six Cardinals alumni currently take up spots on Major League Soccer rosters and a seventh, Montreal Impact draft pick Paolo DelPiccolo is attempting to work his way up in the system of the Bundesliga club Eintracht Frankfurt.

The Louisville six include 2012 Rookie of the Year Austin Berry of the Chicago Fire, Revolution rookie and No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Ferrell, DC United’s Nick DeLeon, Columbus Crew forward Aaron Horton and the LA Galaxy’s Greg Cochrane and Kenney Walker.

Michigan has three former Wolverines in the pros, including Soony Saad of Sporting Kansas City, the Columbus Crew’s Justin Meram and Kofi Opare, the 24th overall pick in the 2013 draft by defending MLS Cup winners Los Angeles Galaxy.

Syracuse, meanwhile, has claims on just one former Orange soccer player playing at the highest level in Montreal Impact midfielder Patrice Bernier.

Louisville soccer also holds the edge in conference titles with three, to Michigan’s one, but the two schools are equals when it has come to the college game’s biggest stage. U of L and Michigan both made their first and only trip to the Final Four of college soccer in the 2010 College Cup in Santa Barbara.

As dominant as Louisville looks out of the remaining four schools, when you look at  the full field that kicked off March Madness last month, the Cardinals don’t even come close to matching the star power or the roster numbers. Of the tournament teams, UCLA leads the way with 23 players in MLS and abroad, Akron is second with 18 and Indiana and North Carolina each have 14. Maryland, which missed out on the main postseason basketball tournament, has 17 players on rosters in MLS and abroad.

College Spring ‘Season’ Underway

News

 

If you blink, you might just miss the college soccer season going on right now, if in fact season is even the right word for it.

Since college sports are an either/or arrangement – either you play in the fall, winter or spring – college soccer contests its regular season from August to December but holds a spring season that falls somewhere between the start of the MLS regular season and the beginning of the Professional Development League, where many of the college game’s standouts compete through the warmer weather months.

The season is short, as in 4-7 games short and the games are more or less friendlies with other schools, professional teams and at times even international teams. Reigning D-1 champions Indiana University have an annual meeting with Mexico’s U20 team, for example, and Drexel University’s team hosted USL PRO side Harrisburg City Islanders (using all trialists) a couple weeks ago.

The only reason I knew about Drexel’s meeting with City Islanders a couple weeks ago – my frozen toes probably wish I hadn’t found out about it – was through an email from the Harrisburg club. As far as the athletic department’s website (proudly displaying Jeff Parke’s photo) was concerned, the game never happened. This isn’t uncommon.

If you look at the websites of many of the country’s top programs, you’ll be lucky if you find even a schedule of the games much less details of where and when you can watch the games. This is unfortunate because, exhibition/friendly or not, there are some fun match-ups involving future stars of MLS, national team and international teams that don’t occur at all in the regular season.

Like Indiana University facing the U-20 Mexican National Team, fresh off its CONCACAF crown, on Sunday, April 28. Or the recent battle between North Carolina and the NASL Carolina Railhawks (they drew 1-1) and the Sunday morning game the University of Maryland had with DC United on March 10 (couldn’t find a score anywhere on this one) to name a few.

Some other interesting spring match-ups include:

  • A rematch of the 2011 College Cup final, UNC vs Charlotte on April 13th in Greensboro
  • Akron, led by first-year head coach Jared Embick, travels to College Park to take on Maryland on April 27th
  • The Terrapins also hosted USL PRO squads Richmond Kickers yesterday and will host Harrisburg on April 5th.
  • Creighton travels to Denver to play new Mexico on April 27
  • University of Louisville travels to St. Louis to take on the Billikens on April 7th

Those of us who dream big when it comes to college soccer have visions of the spring season one day being expanded to create an Apertura and Clausura type arrangement for the college game, but when we wake up reality suggests that’s as likely to happen as college football moving its regular season to the spring. For now and into the foreseeable future this informal, under the radar, dare I even say underground season, will just have to suffice until we can begin the official countdown to the College Cup (at PPL Park this year!) in August.

 

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Louisville building the ‘Taj Mahal’ of college soccer

Stadiums

 

College soccer still has a steep hill to climb to being taken seriously by avid soccer fans in this country who detest the college game’s stopping clocks, frequent substitutions and short season, but the stunning new facility moving from artist rendering dream to shovel-in-the-ground reality at the University of Louisville should be seen as a step in the right direction.

A soccer-specific facility that’s already earned the nicknameTaj Mahal” in local media is coming to the Kentucky city in the fall of 2014 and based on the artist renderings it’s an absolute beauty.

Boasting a planned capacity of 5,300 and resembling an actual stadium (as opposed to the field with a couple sets of bleachers of so many college programs) the $17.5 million facility will be not only the rival of every other college program in the country when it opens in fall 2014 but will make professional teams like the Harrisburg City Islanders swoon.

The animated artist renderings, set to the tune of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck,” were released back in August but it almost didn’t seem plausible that a university would be committing so much to a “non-revenue sport” until I read the news today of an eye doctor’s $5 million donation to the project. A project wouldn’t be attracting that kind of capital – all but $3 million has been raised – if it wasn’t really happening.

Based on their media comments, the good doctor, Dr. Mark Lynn and his wife, Cindy, don’t sound like avid soccer fans as much as hardcore Cardinals backers who have bought into the latest in the university’s ambitious and possibly unprecedented efforts to have the finest collection of athletic facilities in the nation.

Planned for the university’s sprawling complex of athletic fields off I-65 that includes the massive Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium and facilities for baseball, softball and other “non-revenue” sports, the stadium will literally be a showpiece for soccer visible from the heavily traveled interstate. One media report threw out the number 77 million impressions a year to give an idea of how on display it will be.

The opening of the stadium will also coincide with the school joining the Atlantic Coast Conference so soccer powerhouse University of North Carolina will be among the first visitors to see how well the sound of the Louligans supporters group’s voices travel in the new environs.

The city of Louisville, ranked 42nd largest in the country for its metro area, has only the PDL club River City Rovers calling its sports-mad city home so a showpiece like this should help raise the team’s profile, enlist more Louligans to the cause and add to the pipeline of talent men’s coach Ken Lolla has drawn – Andrew Farrell, Austin Berry and Nick DeLeon to name a few – with the ho-hum digs they currently call home.

Now if they could just get the NCAA to adopt the FIFA rule book, maybe a revolution really would be brewing in Derby City.

College soccer losing two division one programs

News

College soccer is kind of anomaly in the world of soccer. Its sordid history of experimentation, loose affiliation with governing bodies and refusal to change some of the senseless traditions it holds onto – like the short season, unlimited substitutions, the clock that counts down and stops – makes it a throwback to the complicated history of the sport itself on American soil that Major League Soccer has mostly shed on its path toward relevance.

Quirky as it is, college soccer has a legitimate place in the culture of America’s universities even if most of the demographic that now overwhelming loves the sport almost as much as the NFL won’t be found at a game. The attendance figures bear that out – 4,000 fans a game is enough to put a team near the top of attendance figures for the whole country and even a bad crowd at an MLS game would rank as one of the highest attended games all season. Attendance at the women’s game is even more dismal.

All of this, unfortunately, gives merit to the “non-revenue” tag placed on the sport whenever conversations of funding come up, something that has been frequent with the economic recession and continued debate over unpaid athletes earning large universities untold millions for their play on the field and marketing prowess. As a soccer and baseball fan, I cringe when I hear the term because it sounds degrading even while questioning the need for sports to be intertwined with education at all.

At heart, I believe in the separation of sports and education, but I’m also a hypocrite so when I read headlines about two Division 1 soccer programs facing the axe at the University of Richmond and the University of Towson I immediately ready my pitchfork. As it turns out in both of these recent cases, the soccer teams are being sacrificed along with other “non-revenue” sports like baseball and track and field over official statements about funding cuts and title IX (keeping the number of men’s sports teams even with the number of women’s teams) and speculative accusations (in the case of Towson) of a desire to direct more money toward propping up football and basketball programs. Cue the “most scholastic athletes go pro in something other than sports” public service commercial.

In the case of the University of Richmond, men’s college soccer will lose one of its best nicknames – the Spiders – and a team dating back to 1975 that produced former MLS defender Craig Ziadie and enough of an impression to gather 3,366 members in its “Save Richmond Soccer” Facebook group. The loss of Towson’s team means the end of the lengthy tenure of coach Frank Olszewski, a mainstay in the program since 1982, and a team that dates back to the 1920s.

For the game, it’s the loss of two programs that contributed to the greater good of the sport on American soil, that we as supporters – backward counting clock stopping and endless substitutions aside – should lament while also being served notice that our school, the one we really should make a point to try and see play at least once a year, could be next.

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