CHICAGO (May 13, 2009) – The U.S. Paralympic Soccer National Team was in Zeist, Netherlands, for a week-long training camp from May 8-16 that included four matches against the Paralympic teams of Netherlands and Russia. After creating a roster of 12 players from a February camp of 21, coach Jay Hoffman used the week to measure the abilities of his team. Faced with two highly experienced opponents in Netherlands and Russia, Hoffman’s focus for this camp was not so much on results as on improving his young team’s experience.
“We saw some steady improvement over the games," said Hoffman. "I think that's extremely important, especially given the situation we’re in.”
Hoffman is referring to the incredible amount of youth on this team as nine of the twelve players are under the age of 25.
“We’ve got a couple players with lots of experience, some with a little international experience, and five with no experience,” Hoffman said. “But overall I think it [the trip] went well, and I think it’s something that was needed”.
After dropping its first game against a formidable Netherlands team 12-0, the U.S. had a lot of work to do but only a few short days in which to do it. They faced Russia on May 12, finally getting on the scoreboard with a Marthell Vazquez strike in the 7-1 loss. That game started a hectic but encouraging close-out to camp as the rematch against Netherlands on May 13 was a 6-2 loss with U.S. goals scored by Vazquez and midfielder Josh McKinney. Wrapping up the competition with a second leg against Russia, the U.S improved with goals from Vazquez and Shaun Schetka in a 10-2 loss. Vazquez, a 22 year old forward from Long Beach, Calif. ended the camp with three goals in four games.
With veterans on the team that have been part of the program for many years, there is an interesting dynamic between the older and younger members of the team, whose age difference can be as much as 14 years. But this gap has been a positive for the team, according to Hoffman.
“The chemistry’s been good,” he said. “The older guys were very helpful in the sense that they work with these guys, they like them, and they’re there to help them out. They’re very understanding.”
Part of the reason for this age gap is the challenge of finding new players for the program, forcing several veterans to play on the team for many years. Paralympic National Team coaches have been creative in finding new recruits, using every avenue they know of to reach out to disabled athletes across the country.
“Because we’ve been involved with the USSF and the coach licensing programs, we’ve always had a bit of an opportunity to talk to coaches and tell them about the Paralympic program, ask them if they know anybody,” explained Hoffman.
With increased participation and awareness across the country, Hoffman hopes the program will bring more skilled athletes into future camps.
The biennial CPISRA (Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreation Association) World Championship for Paralympic soccer that was slated to be held in Netherlands this September has been taken off the schedule. The primary competition for Paralympic soccer teams is the Paralympic Games, the next edition of which will be held following the 2012 Olympic Games in London. The USA's best performance in the Paralympics came in 1996, when the team finished fourth after losing 2-1 to Spain in the bronze medal match.
Referring to the world championships, Hoffman said “I think everyone realizes the importance of it, to help grow our sport and to raise awareness, and at the same time, since we are a Paralympic sport, we want to make sure that the product we put on the field in 2012 is a good one.”
“I certainly would like us to have a world championship, because these guys here, they need to face that extra international competition.”
Regardless of the status of the world championship, Hoffman plans to run a camp for the first two weeks of August, possibly inviting other nations to come play his team.
To be eligible for Paralympic soccer, athletes must be ambulatory and have a diagnosis of non-progressive brain damage that is associated with motor control dysfunction such as Cerebral Palsy, traumatic brain injury or stroke. More information about eligibility and the classification of athletes is available at usparalympics.org.
U.S. Paralympic Soccer National Team Training Camp Roster
May 7-16, 2009
|Boarman, Bryce||D||09/29/90||Colorado Springs, Colo.|
|Creasey, Nick||M||01/09/91||Richmond, Va.|
|Jones, Chad||D||05/25/92||Virginia Beach, Va.|
|McKinney, Josh||M||01/18/79||Cary, N.C.|
|Morales, Moises||M||08/27/93||Chula Vista, Calif.|
|Nyman, Alek||D||04/24/92||Centennial, Colo.|
|Schetka, Shaun||M||08/22/98||New Brighton, Pa.|
|Vazquez, Marthell||F||04/08/87||Long Beach, Calif.|
U.S. Paralympic Soccer National Team by Position
GOALKEEPER (1): Keith Johnson
DEFENDERS (5): Bryce Boarman, Chad Jones, Sean Matsey, Alex Nyman, Jason Slemons
MIDFIELDERS (5): Nick Creasey, Tom Latsch, Josh McKinney, Moises Morales, Shaun Shetka
FORWARD (1): Marthell Vazquez
U.S. Paralympic Team Schedule
|May 9||Netherlands||0-12 L||-||KNVB Sports Centre; Zeist, Netherlands|
|May 12||Russia||1-7 L||Vazquez||KNVB Sports Centre; Zeist, Netherlands|
|May 13||Netherlands||2-6 L||Vazquez, McKinney||KNVB Sports Centre; Zeist, Netherlands|
|May 15||Russia||2-10 L||Vazquez, Schetka||KNVB Sports Centre; Zeist, Netherlands|