For the Love of the Game

by Michael Lewis

On Friday, many people's thoughts wander to love because it is Valentine’s Day.

Saying that, we thought it would be interesting to see why some of the movers and shakers of the Major Arena Soccer League -- on the field and off -- love the beautiful arena and indoor game. 

They love the speed of the game and the environment it sets for the fans.

Here is a sampling:

Ian Bennett, Milwaukee Wave forward
First thing obviously, I feel blessed playing this game. Indoor soccer has given players and myself a platform to showcase our talent. It is a unique game. It's a lot of action. It's a just a game if you're a fan, if you're a player, Some always say, especially you ask kids: "Oh, I like playing it," or "I don't like playing, I like watching it." I think this is a first sport that I think you can actually like playing it and watching it. It's really unique in that way. You've got your baseball. Some people like to play it, other than to watch it. It's the same thing with outdoor soccer. Obviously, I love soccer, but if you talk to the general public, "I like playing soccer more than watching it." I think indoor speaks to the masses with that. I think actually watch it and they love to play it. So that's a definitely a huge factor and amazing for myself to be a part of.

Gary Boughton, Rochester Lancers co-captain and midfielder
I love the environment, the atmosphere, that indoor soccer is unlike any other sport. The fans being able to be so close to the action all the time and interact with the players because they have the opportunity to be right up against the glass or sometimes in arenas, when there is no glass. The music playing, the fast pace, the overall atmosphere that comes with indoor soccer. Sam [Fantauzzo, Lancers owners] says it all the time. It's a party and its fun to be a part of.

Kraig Chiles, San Diego Sockers forward 
I love the indoor game because it's fast paced. It's high energy and it gives me an opportunity to continue to compete and be with my friends and compete at a high level. I think indoor soccer is an unbelievable game, and it's a very Americanized game and undervalued in the U.S. market right now. Playing futsal at a high level and playing outdoor at a high level, they're different sports. Indoor soccer is fun for me.

Nacho Flores, Kansas City Comets defender
I love the technicality of the game; how technical you have to be to play this game. I just love the game. I really love it. Waking up in the morning knowing that I have to go and play and play soccer and go into an important game that weekend, it just keeps me in love with the game. Waking up every morning to just play around with what I love. It's what I love about this game.

Dom Francis, Harrisburg Heat midfielder
For me it was being able to play. I was stuck in the mindset: do I want to play professional outdoor or do I want to play indoor? When I tried out for the Heat, I said, "Hey, this isn't too bad." I had never really heard of the indoor game before. Indoor in England is really different. There's really no set way of playing. I always told people that if you were good enough and mentally strong you should be able to play indoor and outdoor because there's always the question of outdoor players not being able to play indoors and indoor players not capable of playing outdoors. But my side of it was if you're a smart enough player, you should be able to play both and if you're technically good enough.

Leo Gibson, Kansas City Comets player-coach
I love this game because it’s exciting, it's very exciting. Having played indoor and outdoor, indoor is different. It just keeps you on the edge. As a player, it keeps you close to being perfect. There's very limited room for errors, so it just keeps you thinking. If you're in the middle of a game, you have to be tuned in. You have to make decisions. You have to do everything within a blink of an eye. I've been blessed to play it. I enjoy every single minute because its challenges me as a player and as an individual, how to think ahead before anything happens. I love it because it’s so exciting and it's fun.

Edgar Gonzalez, Monterrey Flash midfielder
I never knew about indoor soccer. I had never played indoor soccer, but when they invited me, I fell in love with this sport. You need speed, a lot of tactical skills, to be intelligent. I love that. You have to play a lot; you have to play well to have a good performance in indoor soccer. I expect to be working hard and trying to learn every day. I expect to be part of this league for a lot of years.

Edgar Martinez, Turlock Cal Express goalkeeper
I love the fast pace, I love the action, I love that every shot can happen in five seconds. Outdoor, it's slow for me. I don't like outdoor like that anymore because it's too slow for me. I like action. As a goalie, all I want to do is block shots and help my team, my teammates. The first game I saw I didn't know it was a professional feeling until Art [Pulido] had owned the California Express. That's when I went to see a game with him and I'm like, "Oh, I can do this, too." My thing was outdoor. After i started playing indoor, outdoor was too slow for me. So, I just started focusing on indoor, started getting better, started learning the game more. As I go, I'm pretty sure that there is a lot to learn. I'm a veteran pretty much. I know a lot of things already, what a goalie is supposed to do, how the game works, how the system works.

Marcelo Moreira, Rochester Lancers goalkeeper
Before I came back, I was in the stands and I watched the game. What I love is the halftime shows. It keeps you having fun, the bounce house. The game by itself is fast. It's back and forth. It's not boring. It's cool to watch behind the scenes, see the fans, people having fun -- soccer balls they toss when they score, t-shirts, mascots. There is love in indoor. It's a family thing. Kids have fun. We have a lot of goals. The game is fast, with a lot of back and forth. It is a great experience. The environment is amazing. I love it. 

Jimmy Nordberg, Ontario Fury head coach
I love the pace of it. It is a fast-paced sport. The balls are constantly going up and down the field. The transition movement, the subbing, is exciting. For the fans, it's such an Americanized sport because there's high scoring and loud arenas. The tempo of the game is fun. So, I just fell in love with the intricacies of it and the small little things that you've got to do to win games or to change the games -- put players in the right position. It's just a fun, fun, sport where the ball is constantly moving. You can be on the attack. It can go off the board then you're on an counterattack with numbers out, it is so fast paced.

Giuliano Oliviero, Milwaukee Wave head coach
You know what? From a fan's standpoint its end to end action. The chaos that the boards creates is different from outdoor soccer, is just so exciting. It just adds to the excitement for a fan. The smaller playing space creates so many more goals and exciting moments in the game.

Arturo Pulido, Turlock Cal Express owner, assistant coach
Back in the '90's when I went to my first Sacramento Knights game. I saw the high action that was going on. Then I made my own indoor facility in 1997. I just went from there. This game is totally exciting. People didn't think it would hit in the Central Valley where we're at. It just grew. It has grown tremendously in this area. There are so many indoor facilities now, where I was the only one. This has been embedded in me for quite a few years already.

This is the only thing I do now, for the last 12 years. indoor soccer. Whoever thought I would be living off a sport that I like. When I started with the Sacramento Knights, I got a chance to start scouting for them. When the California Cougars started in 2005, I scouted players for them, and it just grew from there. I ended up with my own franchise, of all things. ... I haven't felt I have come to work in the last 10 years.

Tatu, Mesquite Outlaws coach, one of the sport's greatest goal-scorers
"It's action and it's a very thoughtful game. You have to think faster than you do outdoor. The time and space are limited. So, there's quickness. It's full action all the time. It's up and back. That’s what excites me. I'm a fast-paced individual, so I love it. A lot of opportunities. a lot of ooooh. Sometimes I love outdoor. Don't take me wrong, I'm a soccer fanatic. I can enjoy the outdoor game with ball possession. I can enjoy a 0-0 outdoor game because I understand the tactical and          understand the formations. The indoor to me is completely the opposite. I like the go-go-go attitude. Of you leave your seats you're going to miss something because something is happening all the time whereas the outdoor game, my God, sometimes the game's being played in the middle of the field. It's 10 passes and turnovers, another 10 passes and turnovers. Indoor, it's completely the opposite, or should be the opposite. It's furious, it's action, it's attitude, it's up and back. It's emotion. That’s what I love. That’s why I fell in love with game. As a forward, you know you're going to have at least two or three opportunities in a game. Outdoor you get one and sometimes it's over if you don't capitalize on that one. Indoor, "Hey I missed this one, but don't worry. it will happen another few times."  And that's the fun about it. There are a lot of opportunities and that's what makes it exciting.

Franck Tayou, Ontario Fury striker
Well, I would say the fact that I can get on the ball as much as possible. From playing outdoor soccer, I didn't get on the ball as much as I wanted to. With indoor soccer I am always on the ball. If you have one bad shift, and you come off the field, you have the opportunity to reset your brain and as soon as you step on the field again. You can make a difference. One of the things I love indoor soccer is because everything that I have today and everything that I've become is because of this game. I never imagined in my life that I would be playing indoor soccer or doing the things I have been able to do with this game. I got to represent the United States futsal team, beach national team, got to travel the world. I got the opportunity to just live moments that honestly not many can say they have. Every time I think about the final in Sonora when there was 14,000-15,000 people screaming MVP and I scored is something that gave me chills every second I think about it. It is an emotion that honestly you have to be there and experience it to understand what if feels like. I love this game because it has given me the platform to express myself, given me the opportunity to be somebody and mean something to people and to be able inspire them. I get messages from fans, from kids, from grown men, that they've followed my journey and they appreciate how resilient I am and how they have taken stock with it. Its mind blowing and I am forever humble. I'm not exactly sure how long I will be able to play but I can honestly say that I have enjoyed every second of it.

Kyle Trimble, MASL referee
I played in the league. That's one way I love it. The main reason is that it's fast paced, so fast, quick decisions. For reffing, you've got to be spot on, you got to be 100 percent focused at all times. It's a great feeling that you've got to be out there knowing that you have to be 100 percent right.