THE LOVE OF THE GAME
On Monday, many people's thoughts will turn to love because it will be 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 indoor game.
Here are some comments that I have gathered the past few years:
John Sosa, Kansas City Comets defender
It was easy to fall in love with the game because we have a great fan base here in Kansas City. I made friends along the ride. I made friends that I can consider family. It's been 10 years of playing this game and we still see some of those fans that have seen me grow from a teenager to an adult. Some still keep up with me. They got to meet my daughter, my wife. How can you not fall in love with the game when you have those kinds of fans, those kinds of relationships that are built from it? And obviously, the game overall. It's soccer. Anytime I'm able to be in a situation where I can compete and play the game at any level, I'm going to enjoy it.
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.
Richard Schmermund, St. Louis Ambush defender
I grew up playing indoor soccer almost as much as I grew up playing outdoor soccer. I was at the Dellwood Recreation Center (in suburban St. Louis) on Wednesday nights, watching my dad play men's soccer. That's truly where my love for indoors started. ... I just fell in love with the fast pace, being in an arena and having all those fans being so close to you when you score. After the game you can mingle with the fans. As a big fan of hockey fan, I just love that quick transition back and forth. I love watching the [St. Louis] Blues, and there are a lot of these a lot of similarities. It's that quick transition back and forth. A lot of goals. I love outdoor soccer. You can possess the ball for 90 minutes and not see any goals. That gets kind of boring sometimes. I love that arena experience. The ball goes in the net and to hear that horn go off and the lights go off as well. Everybody cheering; I just love that atmosphere.
Chris Toth, Ontario Fury goalkeeper
I love the pace of the game. It's fast, for goalkeepers as well. Also, just more saves in general than in an outdoor game. I also love the special team part of it, the defensive power play, offensive power play, sixth attacker, set pieces. Just all the different teams that that is kind of like the NFL a bit. They have all these different things happening. Knowing your strengths and your weaknesses on those teams and working in areas to get better and become a balanced team. I just love those different aspects of the game.
Ricardinho Cavalcante, Dallas Sidekicks head coach
Because the game never stops. You have a lot of fun. There's a lot of goals, a lot of skills. It’s a little bit of everything. We have a little bit about futsal, outdoor. You need people who can pass, dribble and score. I love the game. When I came here in 2003 (I asked myself), "What are you doing over here?" Now, I absolutely know the game. This is why I love the game so much.
Keith Tozer, MASL commissioner
First as a player then a coach, indoor soccer fit my personality perfectly. As a player, constantly being engaged with defending, then in a split second on a counterattack was awesome for me as I was a forward growing up and a defender in the MISL, the best of both worlds.
As a coach I could be more engaged, similar to a basketball coach actively involved and constantly making adjustments. As a former hockey player, I also felt at home with the glass and boards, understood angles, board play and transitions.
Now, add music, huge crowds, superstar players and coaches with high-scoring games, physical play along with a high-octane atmosphere and I fell in love with the sport. I mean, who wouldn’t!
Robert Palmer, Ontario Fury defender
It's just crazy. I like the space, up and down. You can hit a shot that hits the wall, and it just goes in and it's a goal. The fans give you that you energy, especially their support. It's nothing like outdoor (where) you probably have the time to relax a little bit and catch your breath. Indoors, you just keep going. After I scored (earlier this season), which I thought was the winning goal, I had to celebrate because of the excitement of the time. I just ran. I don't even know where I was running to. That's why I love indoor. It gives excitement.
Luiz Morales, Dallas Sidekicks rookie forward
First of all, it was my first opportunity to play professional indoor. Little by little, I ended up liking the game; how fast paced it is, sometimes quick scoring. It gets exciting from one minute to another. It can be a completely different game. It's just that adrenalin that the indoor game brings to me that I like a lot.
Ian Bennett, Milwaukee Wave forward
It's a form of soccer that is unique to the world, if you think about it. It just brings a certain excitement that the average fan can gravitate to. I think that's what brings everything and the beauty of indoor soccer. It literally has every sport in there. Name another sport that has all these assets in just one sport. It's got basketball. It's got soccer. It's got hockey. It's got football. It's just got everything. How do you not love a game that's got four sports? We have all of that in one.
JP Dellacamera, MASL president of communications/media
Indoor soccer was one of the greatest learning experiences of my life. From players to coaches, to referees, I was able to learn so much about the game of soccer. Much of what I learned also helped me with the outdoor game. In the 1980's indoor soccer combined my two favorite sports together, hockey and soccer. I referred to the MISL at one time as hockey on grass.
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 it challenges me as a player and as an individual, how to think ahead before anything happens.
Drew Ruggles, Florida Tropics defender
It's a game that fulfills me as a soccer player. It checked all the boxes that I need to enjoy playing the game. There's the ability to be creative. You get a lot of touches on the ball. The ability as a defender to get into the attack and score goals is something that outdoors, the chances are there but there are a lot less. So as an attacking-minded defender this this game really suits the player that I am. I just fell in love with it after the first practice. I was like, wow! What is this game?
As a student of the game, it was really cool to have an opportunity again to learn soccer in this different arena, quote, unquote. It just it turned into a new passion of mine. There's so many little details and intricacies of the game that you can explore. It's little things that can elevate your game and can make you dynamic. It's fun to be creative and express yourself. But it's also a game where you have to have this short-term memory turn around. It's so fast paced. It just keeps you engaged the whole time. It's got everything that I need from outdoor, but combined with the physical side, this fast-paced, high-scoring game that you don't get really anywhere else.
There's no other game like it. You invite people to these games, and they're fans for life. It just speaks volumes from a player's standpoint. I'm going into ninth my ninth season. I don't think anyone does anything for nine years without enjoying it.
Giuliano Oliviero, Milwaukee Wave head coach
From a fan's standpoint it's end-to-end action. The chaos that the boards create 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.
Nick Perera, Tacoma Stars forward
It's fast paced, it's fun. It's a game that allows you to really put together a bunch of skills. But I think the most fun of it is the mental stimulation. You've got to be tuned in every single second. You can't take a moment to rest. Every scenario has a couple ways of playing. There's definitely an experienced way of playing it and there's off the cuff way of playing it. It's one of the most attractive parts of the game. There's always something to analyze.
It's an ever-evolving game of chess. Think about playing chess, and then somebody takes the board and spins it. That's how I feel about indoor. There's just always something. There's a moment in which you can call a timeout. What does that mean? Should I have used it now? And maybe I should have saved it for later? They've already called the timeout. There's only one left. There's just so much to analyze. In an outdoor soccer game, you might make a change and you might not notice that change because it's just a like for like. But in indoors you can make a split-second change and it could flip the entire game on its head. It could just completely be a dramatic one.
Adam Becker, Tacoma Stars coach
Here in Tacoma, we've got the Tacoma Soccer Center. It's a local hub of just so much talent. We all grew up playing there when we were six-, seven-years-old, all the way up through our 20s and 30s. Some of us have been blessed to be able to get to the next level, whether it was a semi-professional league or the pros. ... I love it because it's something that I cherished from the youth all the way up to an adult age. It was always something different that you did in the wintertime when the weather was sloppy outside here in the Northwest .... always raining, dark and cold. You got to go indoors and there's less guys on the field. It's tighter spaces. It's 10 times as fast.
I love the mental piece. It's a thinkers' game. You don't have 100 yards to run all this open space to get through. You have to really be technical. You have to be very witty and just smart with your movement, smart with the ball. It's just a different game. It's hard to explain. I don't know about other teams in the league but for guys in Tacoma, it's a way that you can still compete at the highest level. It's just a very unique sport.
Clay Roberts, Florida Tropics head coach
This is such a unique game and unique meaning exciting, electric and fan friendly. I love the arena game because it's so different than the outdoor game. Sometimes the excitement level of an outdoor game if you're not attached to a certain team that you're cheering for and just a fan of the game, sometimes you could possibly get bored with the game if you see a game with no goals over 90 minutes. So just the enjoyment of knowing that every game there's going to be multiple goals, there's going to be multiple, exciting moments keeps you on the edge of your seat. That's how we try to play with our team. It's a game that you can go to, not knowing the opponents, you're going to have a great time.
Jimmy Nordberg, Ontario Fury head coach
I love the speed of it. I love the tempo. I love the craziness of it where you could go on a breakaway, 3 v 2 advantage, shoot the ball, barely miss or the keeper gets a touch on it and it goes off the wall Now it's a counter attack the other way. I think this game is unbelievable. It's a huge product that these people need to see because once people get out and watch the game, they're going come back again. I love the skill. I love the intensity that players play at, and the willingness that these players give to make the sport so much fun. There are great players in this league, and there's great soccer going on.
This is such a unique game; exciting, electric and fan friendly. I love the arena game because it's so different than the outdoor game. In an outdoor game, if you're not attached to a certain team that you're cheering for and just a fan of the game, sometimes you could possibly get bored with the game if you see a game with no goals over 90 minutes. So just the enjoyment of knowing that every game there's going to be multiple goals. There's going to be multiple exciting moments that keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Ramone Palmer, Kansas City Comets forward
It's just the atmosphere it brings. I grew up playing outdoor soccer. There's no indoor soccer in Jamaica. The first time I saw a professional indoor game, I was just amazed with the atmosphere and energy and everyone just getting involved. It comes down just to the atmosphere, and the excitement and the entertainment side of it, the multiple goals, high-scoring games. That's what I love about it. And the fact that everyone can enjoy it from the youngest kids to an old person.
Franck Tayou, Ontario Fury striker
The fact that I can get on the ball as much as possible. Playing outdoor soccer, I didn't get on the ball as much as I wanted. With indoor soccer, I am always on the ball. If you have one bad shift, you come off the field and 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 about indoor soccer is [that] 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 live moments that honestly not many can say they have.
I love this game because it has given me the platform to express myself, given me the opportunity to be somebody, mean something to people and to be able inspire them. I get messages from fans, from kids, from grown men, that have followed my journey. They appreciate how resilient I am and how they have taken stock with it. It's 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.
Michael Lewis, the editor of FrontRowSoccer.com, can be followed on Twitter at @SoccerWriter. He can be reached via email at Michael@FrontRowSoccer.com. His book Alive and Kicking: The incredible, but true story of the Rochester Lancers, will be published soon.