Tag Archives: soccer

Women’s Soccer Win First NEC Game Of The Season

The CCSU Blue Devils Women’s soccer team has acquired its first NEC win of the season, following a Julie Lavoie goal off of a Claire Walsh corner and Danica Foglio pass on 15 minutes.

“It was great for team morale to win our first NEC game. We’ve been very unlucky in some recent games but tonight we enjoyed some good luck,” said Coach D’Arcy following the match.

Though the game was won, the Blue Devils defense was put to the test. The Mountaineers outshot the Blue Devils 16-8. Nevertheless, the employment of the counter attack from the early minutes of the game by CCSU proved decisive as they scored off a corner kick following a counter-attack. They had a great game, forcing St. Mary’s to distance shots and only one shot on goal that was saved by Nikola Deiter.

From the onset, St. Mary’s searched for the win and accumulated four shots on goal in 10 minutes. Jackie Corley and Andrea Bujacich tormented CCSU’s Deiter and company with runs on the flank. Bujacich combined pace and vision to find passes from the middle. However, she was frustrated as the Blue Devils’ defense kept her passes limited to the 25th yard line.

CCSU resorted to counter-attacks although they are used to possession football. They employed a high line from the 10th minute on and saw a pay-off in the 15th minute. Claire Walsh stepped up for her second corner in the match and delivered a curler to Danica Foglio who expertly picked out Julie Lavoie; she placed the ball in the bottom left corner of the goal to give CCSU a 1-0 lead.

D’Arcy explained that, “Injuries to DeCaro, Been, Cavallari, Christo, O’Leary, Kelley and Robinson forced us into some changes,” however, the team has been resilient,  “the players on the field were determined not to let their teammates down,” he concluded.

The lead would stick, but St. Mary’s tried its best to get back in the game but couldn’t as CCSU crowded the midfield. With a high defensive line and three midfielders to account for, CCSU forced St. Mary’s to long shots, many of which did not trouble Nikola Deiter.

The Australian keeper didn’t have the busiest of matches, but was forced into a splendid save in the second half. St. Mary’s wing back Brinley Watts ran the ball down the left flank and crossed it for Jackie Corley who controlled the shot with her right foot before firing. The astute Deiter, however, dove in on the ball moments before the shot and kept her side in the lead.

On the search for an equalizer, St. Mary’s gained a yellow card but accumulated 13 fouls. The match ended CCSU’s losing streak and St. Mary’s felt like they deserved more. This match gave the Blue Devils their first win of the NEC Season but remained at the bottom of the league with three points from six matches.

Coach D’Arcy reiterated the team’s desire to end the season with strong performances and that good performances have just started: “The overall mood is that the team want to finish the season as strong as possible. We will take the games one at a time and right now our focus is solely on performing well against Wagner on Friday.”

They will travel to Wagner on Oct 19, a team they’re tied with, before taking on LIU Brooklyn two days later.

At the Heart of Soccer’s Defense: Anthony Occhialini

By Danny Contreras

Anthony Occhialini is the number one man between the posts for the CCSU men’s soccer team.  He has registered five shutouts this season, has allowed just one goal per game, and has helped the Blue Devils to a mid-season first place ranking in the NEC.

The Montville, Conn., native remains a team man and thanked his teammates and defense for making his job easier. “Last game I didn’t have any saves,” he began in regards to the 3-0 win over Robert Morris on Oct. 7. “Our defense is solid, but we just are strong overall in the midfield and the defense and it is putting less pressure on me and we’re playing well.”

While in Montville he was named the National Soccer Coaches Association of America’s All-American as well as All-New England, all-state and all-conference.

“He came highly recommended; I mean we saw him play,” said goalkeeping coach, Christian Benjamin. “The goalkeeping community is very small and through my contacts, he came highly recommended. That speaks volume about the kind of student he is about the game, the kind of training, you know—for lack of a better word—his discipline in training spoke testament about what he would be as a prospect for us. So we signed him and had him come to Central knowing full well that he could push for a starting position, even in his first year.”

Occhialini looks up to Tim Howard, the United States Men’s National Team goalkeeper who began his career at Manchester United in 2006 before joining Everton FC the following year. “Tim Howard, just because he’s the number one goalkeeper in the world to me. His footwork and the way he practices everyday is amazing and I want to be just like him.”

In the professional world, “Tony”, as the members of the Blue Devils call him, follows London-based Chelsea FC.

While the All-American goalkeeper may be the back bone of the team, he still emphasized the group effort in the games they have played together so far.

“Christian has been helping me everyday non-stop to get me to the level I am right now,” Occhialini said. “I’m doing everything I can for this team, to be the best player and help these guys out… mold everybody around me and have the best team. Mistakes are going to happen, you can’t be a perfectionist.”

Right now the junior is focused on playing for CCSU, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t soccer after college.

“I want to try, there’s always a shot somewhere, there’s a place for everyone. Even if it’s overseas, in Europe there’s Division I, Division II and III so there’s spots everywhere,” he said.

Coach Benjamin has high regards for Occhialini and commended his passion for the sport.

“He is a student of the game, always working hard trying to better himself,” said Benjamin. “He’s made amazing strides over the years to go from a very athletic keeper, a very focused and driven keeper to kind of stepping back a little bit and study the game and study his approaches. It takes a goalkeeper a couple of years to calm down and acclimate themselves to the pressures of the game, and he’s been able to handle it. He’s handled it well this season and I believe this season he’s been our most consistent player.”

Before he signed for the Blue Devils, Occhialini was a highly regarded goalkeeper with offers from major programs around the country. He considered some of them, but it was CCSU who truly offered him a realistic package which would allow his development.

“When I signed for Central, I just wanted to play and keep the level I was at. I was looking at some big schools like West Virginia and UMass, teams like that, but I knew I wasn’t going to be able to play. By the time I’d be able to play, a recruit would come in, and he would take me out,” he explained.

Occhialini lost his shutout streak of three games on Oct. 14 after a mistake made by a linesman in the Bryant game that allowed the Bulldogs a goal.

“He’s dominating the air [and] his distribution has been great. His communication has been exceptional with the back four … what really separates him from other keepers is his poise, his confidence and his maturity,” said Coach Benjamin.

He works hard every day in training and it is his dedication to the sport that has earned him the right to be at the heart of the Blue Devils’ defense and in net. “He challenges everybody in the goalkeeping core to work just as hard and to expect a lot from themselves,” said Coach Benjamin.

Occhialini is hopeful to guide the Blue Devils to the top of the NEC Championships for the first time in four years when he faces Quinnipiac this upcoming Friday.

CCSU Soccer Drops Second NEC Match-Up

By Danny Contreras

The Blue Devils lost their second Northeast Conference game, 2-0, against Sacred Heart University following a right footed free-kick from Marcello Castro in the first half, and a unassisted goal from Brian Francolini in the second half.

Following the loss, the Blue Devils remain in first place in the NEC men’s soccer league standings with 15 points out of a possible 21. They are tied at the top with Monmouth, who has 15 points of its own, but they have a better head-to-head record than that of the Blue Devils.

“The momentum was all us when [Castro] scored the free-kick. The final finish wasn’t clicking. We had two good looks at the goal that we should’ve scored,” said Head Coach Shaun Green. “I think we were the better team overall in terms of possession. We dominated most of it. [The team] had two incidents, [one], a free-kick which is a rare mistake by Tony [Occhialini] who didn’t handle the ball.”

The first half started with complete Blue Devils possession for the first fifteen minutes of play. CCSU tested the goalkeeper  with a solo effort from NEC Rookie of the Week, Eddy Bogle. Bogle broke away from three defenders to get a one-on-one situation with Fait Alex who dove to the right side of post, but his effort went wide.

Following Bogle’s attack, Reece Wilson took a chance on goal from 20 yards out, but saw his effort go high of the bar.

The Blue Devils had another great opportunity to take the lead as Jesse Menzies ran the ball down the left side of the post and crossed it for Thomas Obasi, whose efforts were once again saved by Alex.

As much as CCSU controlled the game, however, the Pioneers drew a foul from 15-yards. The Blue Devils set up a four man wall with a gap in the between the players, which Castro capitalized on to score. His right-footed effort sliced the ball from the right, curled in between the Blue Devil defenders, and stopped in the hands of CCSU keeper, Occhialini, but, he couldn’t keep the shot out and SHU led the match 1-0 at halftime.

The second half started and the Blue Devils kept controlling the game getting a couple of clear chances. One of them came courtesy of an Ognen Stamenkovik and Bogle who combined in the Pioneer box. The SHU keeper fumbled the ball, but it their stubborn defense kept the ball out of the net.

As soon as the chance came, a defensive mistake in the CCSU half allowed SHU to score as Brian Francolini marked Mamoudou Dioubate in the center field to take a high ball from Artur Jorge and slot the ball into the empty net. Dioubate tried clearing the ball with a header but misjudged the height. Occhialini came out for the bal,l but Jorge’s quick feet dribbled it past him and allowed him a clear chance on goal which he scored.

“They’re a tough defensive team. They sat a lot behind the ball. Next at home we have Quinnipiac, we need to win in order to make the play-offs. We have three games left and we need to win one in order to make the play-offs,” said Green.

The Blue Devils kept pressuring the Pioneers’ defense, but they could not come up with any answers. M. Dioubate was moved to a center striker role but the SHU defense adjusted accordingly. The match ended shortly thereafter, and gave the Blue Devils its second NEC loss.

“We have to focus right now and win the next game. Our team is playing well, you know, they still have a lot of confidence and, I felt today the scoreboard didn’t reflect the better team, and I think Central was the better team,” said Green. “We’re still in first place, though, and next week we have the opportunity to make the play-offs.”

The team will take on the Quinnipiac Bobcats this Friday at Willowbrook at 3 p.m. followed by a trip to Fairleigh Dickinson on Sunday. They will return home on November 4th against St. Francis (N.Y.).

Time Spent With The Men’s Soccer Team

By Danny Contreras

Everyone has a second family. Whether it is the people you eat with at Memorial Hall or the people you party with at the club, your second family is almost as dear to you as your actual one. When I traveled to Rhode Island on Oct. 14 with the men’s soccer team, I realized how tight knit this group became in a space of two months and how much of a family these athletes had created.

The day started at 9:30 a.m. I made my way down from Carroll to Kaiser where Coach Shaun Green greeted me. We spoke for thirty minutes while he burned a movie for the team to watch on the way to Rhode Island, speaking about the tactics he devises before the matches. Green taught me how players should influence the game when they don’t have the ball, even putting some math into the tactics.

He joked with me about the teams we follow; how much of a waste Andy Carroll is at Liverpool, and how bad Arsenal performed in the beginning of the season.

At 10:00 a.m. we got on the bus and all of the players were formally introduced to me, as I shook each of their hands. We waited about fifteen minutes because goalkeeping coach Benjamin Wright ran late. As soon as he got there, Coach Green and Coach Wright teased him along with the players.

Soon after, Coach Green started the movie, which was about a fictional manager, Mike Bassett, who guides the English National Football Team to the World Cup semi-finals. The hilarious filmed calmed the airs, which reeked of tension as the game at Bryant would put the Blue Devils on through to the top of the league if they came out victorious.

While watching the movie, Mamoudou Dioubate, one of CCSU’s three captains, sat next to me with his laptop to review the video of the match against Robert Morris. Dioubate took mental notes of his performance and muttered to himself on how to improve on it.

Soon after, Thomas Obasi joined him to watch his performance. At that point, I couldn’t help but ask them what exactly they looked for in the videos. “I look for how fast, or slow I react. How my tackles are and how accurate my passing is,” answered M. Dioubate. “I look for my positioning. I’m always running all over the place so I need to know when the plays are being made,” said Obasi eagerly.

We made a stop at Uno Chicago Grill for some lunch prior to the game. We had three options for meals: pasta with chicken, salad with soup, or a salad with a wrap. For drinks we had two options: water, and water with ice. To my left and right sat M. Dioubate and Reece Wilson, and in front was Souleymane Sanogo, Steven Bailey and Alpha Dioubate.

At first, everyone sat in complete silence. I looked around nervously, a bit intimidated as the majority of them stood taller than me and I’m not used to being around tall people, but I managed to break the ice by asking them which team they followed.

The answers ranged in Premier League with Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal being the most common answers. M. Dioubate said he doesn’t follow his country’s international team because they don’t perform too well while Bailey said he should because that is his team.

“I follow Jamaica because they’re my country, and I have a lot of pride in it.” M. Dsaid he rather see good football than bad one, and laughed it off with Bailey. Our food arrived and M. Dioubate and I kept talking with Bailey and Souleymane.

We began joking around, Reece occasionally turning to me and M. Dioubate and telling him to shut up, and that he spoke too much, but everyone laughed it off and the atmosphere grew friendlier and friendlier.

We said our good-byes to Uno, and got on the bus for the quick ride to Bryant.

Once in the locker room, I sat on a couch and updated the Central Recorder Sports Twitter. I looked at Coach Green as he wrote the match’s tactics on the dry-erase board. Coach Wright and Coach Benjamin prepped the players as Bailey played his iPod from the speakers. They joked about how much nicer the Bryant University locker rooms looked from the CCSU ones. Five minutes before the game, Coach Green gave his prep talk.

“Listen up guys, I can’t remember the last time we had an opportunity to be up in first place in the league. Okay? Now I want you guys to be out there, I want to see the tenacity, the desire in every play, in every header, in every kick. You can’t imagine how it is in Manchester United, in their locker room, week in and week out, top of the league every week. They fight for top of the league every single time they step on the pitch. You want to taste what it’s like to be on the top, you got. But the hardest thing is not getting there it’s staying there.”

The team led Bryant at the halfway mark 2-0. “It’s not over yet, not by a longshot. We haven’t taken care of business yet,” said Coach Green as soon as they got back from the half. “You’ve gotta manage the game as professionals. Amateurs are amateurs because they take risks professionals don’t. I expect you Reece and Eddy to score goals. You know why? [Because I think you’re exceptional],” said Green as he got them worked up for the game. He rather have the team angry at him and prove him wrong than not perform at all.

“We will be number one in the league tonight. I want you to forget the first half, begin this half at 0-0. I want you to believe every team in dangerous. Believe Bryant is dangerous because they are, they can be dangerous. Believe they’re dangerous, however, with that said believe no other team is more dangerous than you. The scoreboard does not reflect the difference in quality between the teams. I want you to demoralize them.” He concluded before he passed the talk to Wright, who spoke about the individual efforts each member needs to put in.

The saddest moment in the game came when Anthony Occhialini’s shutout flew away as a missed out of bounds call on the end line by the linesmen allowed Bryant back into the game with CCSU now leading 3-1. James Perkins replaced Occhialini who came back to the bench at the verge of tears, his anger flowing through his face, annoyed at the fact his record would be taken away by a mistake. He spoke to the team, about how stupid the referee was and how badly he wanted to beat him up for his mistake, but he calmed down, and accepted the fact the referee isn’t perfect, and that’s what makes the game so interesting.

The game finished and CCSU defeated Bryant 4-2. We made our way to a Rhode Island family-owned pizzeria for dinner. The team sat in a row, and I sat with them. I spoke to them about my views on the game, how well defensively they performed and how the mistakes almost ruined a great game for them. I commended them for their game the week prior where they defeated St. Francis (PA) 2-0, but these guys are their own biggest critics.

They replied by saying they sucked at that game and that all their skills were off. I laughed it off, but I imagined the pressure they must feel. To perform at this level week in week out and how it takes a toll on them. My admiration grew, but they were humble about it. They took me in as part of the team, though I personally can’t play to save my life.

Yeah, I think I have a third family. Or close to that. After all, the welcoming I received from the team, the coaching staff, made me feel at home. The trip was fun and so was the match. But the best was “hanging” with the team and finding out what exactly it’s like not only on the field, but off as well.

Men’s Soccer Wins at Bryant

By Danny Contreras

The CCSU men’s soccer team went on the road last weekend at Bryant and walked away with a 4-2 win over their Northeast Conference rivals.

The Blue Devils won its fourth game in a row following three Jesse Menzies-assisted goals from Thomas Obasi and Aaron Durr in the first half and Steven Walmsey in the second.

Steven Bailey also got his name in the scoresheet as he scored a free-kick from 30 yards out. Bryant University managed to get two goals in the second half to prevent Anthony Occhiliani and the Blue Devils from getting a third consecutive shutout.

“Offensively, I think it could’ve been 8-2. Again our defenders stepped it up big time, Aaron Durr with a great header, too,” said Head Coach Shaun Green.

Placed dead last in the league, Bryant University searched for an opening goal early in the game. Two minutes into the match, the Bulldogs had already created its first chance, but it did not trouble Occhialini.

It was the second placed team in the league, CCSU, who would open the scoring first. Following a left corner kick from Menzies, Obasi scored the first goal with a header into the top right corner of the goal six minutes into the game.

Bryant University had another chance on goal after its midfielders and forwards combined in the 6-yard box to create a good chance from the left side of the goal. The ball was lofted up in the air and almost made it in had it not been for the heroics of CCSU’s Occhialini.

Although Bryant managed to break away twice, CCSU did not let go of the pressure and increased the lead to two following another Menzies corner kick. The ball went directly to the head of Durr who centered the ball and beat the keeper to make it 2-0 Blue Devils.

The half finished with a great possession from CCSU who kept creating chances, but could not find the back of the net.

Following the half-time break, the Blue Devils tormented the Bryant defense with some incisive passing. Mamoudou and Alpha Dioubate, and Obasi terrorized with their positioning, dribbling, and passing skills.

The second half began as the first one ended, with CCSU outplaying the Bulldogs completely. A Bryant midfielder fouled Obasi on the 30-yard for a free-kick taken by Bailey. The right-back’s accuracy was again in display following a volley that ricocheted on the top bar into the back of the net to put CCSU 3-0.

CCSU’s defense faltered for a moment and allowed Bryant back in, although controversially. The Bryant defense kick-started a counter-attack that caught the Blue Devils off-guard.

However, there was a pass from the midfield that went off the field, but was not caught by either the linesman nor the official, allowing the Bulldogs to cross the ball, and score from it; effectively ending Occhialini’s 3-1 CCSU.

“[Paul Wright and Christian Benjamin have] are very positive, very positive. Christian with the goalkeepers have given them confidence, playing at a high level.  We cannot blame them for those mistakes and Coach Wright has been amazing tactically. The players respect him immensely; he was a former player here, top scorer in the country and went on to become a professional, and they respect he knows what he’s doing and has a bright future,” explained Coach Green about his coaching staff and their influence over the players.

The Blue Devils kept searching for goals and eventually found the net again. Bryant tried to play a ball across that was intercepted by Menzies; the midfielder carried the ball to the 23-yards, passing it through to Steven Wolmsey on the right. Wolmsey carried the ball down to the 6-yard box and score to put the Blue Devils 4-1 ahead.

The game wasn’t over yet, Bryant scored a consolation goal to cut the lead down by half, but as the time ran out, so did the breaths. CCSU outplayed Bryant completely and earned three deserved points to take them to the top of league.

“We gave up a couple of goals that should’ve have gone in, but four goals, you can’t really complain with that. We’ve won four games in a row; we’ve been riding a wave. We look strong, and we don’t wanna crash anytime soon—it feels good,” said Durr.

The Blue Devils will face Long Island University in yet another table-top vs. table-bottom battle. Winning the game would give the Blue Devils a temporary two point advantage over current leaders FDU who lead the NEC League with 13 points out of a possible 18, as CCSU sits at second place with 12 points out of a possible 15.

Women’s Soccer Beats Albany in OT

The Blue Devils before the game. Photo: Kenny Barto

By Danny Contreras

The Central Connecticut Blue Devils women’s soccer team defeated the Albany Great Danes 3-2 in overtime following the completion of Brittany Jackson’s hat-trick.

“Content-wise a win is always good. We didn’t feel too good after the Holy Cross game, and we came back against Syracuse, and we had a lead and gave it up; but to tie it up in the last minute gave us the confidence for today’s game,” said Head Coach Mick D’Arcy.

Jackson scored twice in the first half before the Great Danes equalized in the second half with goals from Aubrey Vangorder and Shayla Bergeron.

“We were all pumped for the game and after we scored the first two goals it gave us confidence,” said Jackson. “But after they scored their two goals we just needed to keep our composure. And it paid off.”

Following the end of regulation time, and with just a minute remaining of the first half of overtime, Jackson completed her hat trick and won the game for the Blue Devils with the rule of golden goal applied.

Brittany Jackson celebrates with her teammate, Rosie Maguire. Photo: Kenny Barto

The match started with an amorphous CCSU midfield, losing possession in the midfield. It was Jewel Robinson, the standout star in the backline, who kept the team composed and on the ground with some spectacular defending. Rosie Maguire dropped back a couple of times to provide an extra woman on the defense as the Great Danes kept pushing on from the middle to the Blue Devils’ final third.

However as the game wore on, CCSU started to settle in, and begun some wonderful runs down the left, right and center to unsettle the Albany backline. The Great Dane keeper, Dani Britt, was tested and defeated on 13 minutes when Julie Lavoie played Jackson on the right with an incisive through pass that latched on to Jackson who put it past Britt. The white-and-blue striped Blue Devils were ahead and imposing themselves on the Great Danes, who could not respond to the possession style D’Arcy employed against them.

Three minutes later, on 16 minutes, Jackson braced the game with another goal. This time it was Maguire at the heart of the action as she played Jackson down the center of the field, into the final third of the Great Danes with a perfectly lofted high ball, which Jackson finished coolly.

Britt should’ve done better with this effort as Jackson’s ball slipped off her hands and rolled behind the goal line.

The intensity never let go from the Blue Devils and Robinson returned to her fullback ways sprinting down the center, past three players, but her speed disallowed her teammates to catch on and a cross to Maguire went out wide.

The Great Danes never gave up and continued to press on the midfield, and actually won a couple of battles but could not create chances for their lone striker, Chelsea DeVerna.

The first half soon ended with the Blue Devils leading 2-0.

The second half started in similar fashion to the first one, and CCSU paid the price as they allowed Albany back into the game. At 53 minutes, Aubrey VanGorder found some space after a misplaced pass by CCSU’s Nikola Deiter and rebounded off an Albany forward and to VanGorder, who capitalized and cut the lead in half.

The minutes passed and the CCSU looked to extend its lead, which almost happened when Maguire saw her shot blocked by Britt.

Albany kept pressing on wholeheartedly in the CCSU final third, and it paid off when a solo effort by Bergeron cut down the left flank and took her shot just off the left post.

Deiter managed to get her hand on it but could not prevent it from going in, tying the score 2-2 with just twenty minutes to go.

The game finished in regulation time at 2-2.

“It’s a young team and we live off our emotions a little bit, and you could tell that at 2-1 we were a little rattled, and after they scored the second goal it was game on for them. They were a team that looked out of it in the first half, and they were very much back into and we needed to find ourselves again,” said D’Arcy.

The Blue Devils came close to finishing Albany off early in overtime but Allison Kelley’s shot was saved by Britt who could only deflect it for a corner.

On the other end, Bergeron tried doing the same, but it was saved by Deiter, who had become a wall. Her performance started off a counter attack that was picked up by Danica Foglio who threaded a run down the center with a perfectly weighted through pass for Jackson,  who finished it even better and won the match with the completion of her hat trick.

“It was a great one for all of us. We’ve got stuck a couple of times; going into overtime, we’ve ended our last two in a draw. We got sick of the ties and we stepped it up and we kept the intensity up,” said hat-trick hero Jackson soon after the game ended.

The Blue Devils will go on a three-game road stint before returning to home play on Oct. 7 against St. Francis (PA). The game will be held at 7 p.m. at Willowbrook park.

International Soccer Storms Central Connecticut

By Christopher Boulay

It was recently announced that the New Britain Parks and Recreation Department are hosting a FIFA International Friendly between Northern Ireland and Turkey on May 26 at 1:30pm at Veterans Stadium, Willow Brook Park. This is the first international soccer match that has been in New Britain in a few years, but is surely a great accomplishment for the city of New Britain.

Soccer used to be a staple in the Hardware City, as the Connecticut Wolves, a United Soccer League club, played in New Britain from 1993-2002. Though our team is gone, having a match of this caliber will not only remind Connecticut of the importance of soccer in the area, it also could mean bigger and better things for the future.

With the buildup to the World Cup in South Africa in June, the United States is developing into a hotbed for building the game in the final run-up to the tournament. Especially with the United States playing in Rentschler Field on May 25 at 8pm. Having two of these matches right in our backyard gives us the opportunity to see a smorgasbord of world class talent in a very short period of time.

With soccer support building very quickly in the United States, and in Connecticut specifically; what used to be a rare event, the amount of top-level soccer in the area may become more of the norm.

Turkey finished third in UEFA Group 5 qualifying, two points behind Bosnia and Herzegovina for a playoff place. Spain won the group with 30 points, doubling the point tally by Turkey. They were the 3rd place finishers in the 2002 World Cup. Northern Ireland finished fourth in Group 3, behind Slovakia, Slovenia and Czech Republic. The Northern Irish last qualified for the World Cup in 1986.

Though neither team is going to the World Cup in June, they will be bringing players that are quite recognizable in the soccer world. Among the Northern Irish are Maik Taylor, the goalkeeper for Birmingham City; Aaron Hughes, defender from Fulham; George McCartney, defender from Sunderland; David Healy, striker for Ipswich Town and Kyle Lafferty, striker from Glasgow Rangers.

For the Turks, they have some recognizable names of their own: Tuncay Sanli, a defender from Stoke City; midfielder Emre Belozoglu and goalkeeper Volkan Demirel, both from Fenerbahce; Halil Altintop from Eintracht Frankfurt; and Nihat Kahveci, from Besiktas.

Having these games in two weeks are a perfect way to spend the first week of summer freedom for CCSU students. But if you are a soccer fan, you probably already are going.

Even if you are not a big soccer fan, this is a great opportunity for our city, our state and for sport in the area. With two top-level soccer matches within 24 hours of each other in Connecticut, good attendance could mean great things for sport in the state for the future.

There is nothing like the atmosphere of a live soccer match. It is something that cannot be explained until you have experienced it. Check it out, you will not be disappointed.

Appreciating the Other Game of Football

By Michael Walsh

My experience and knowledge of English football doesn’t stretch far past my days playing in my town’s youth league, a few games of FIFA 10 and a handful of televised viewings. But there was something extraordinary about my visit to Loftus Road Stadium in Shephard’s Bush, London to see home club Queens Park Rangers take on the visiting Derby County.

Coming from a lifetime of supporting North American sports, particularly baseball, American football and hockey, there was something absolutely refreshing about the experience of taking in another culture’s game. The supporters there just get it. It’s their game, it’s their club and it’s their way of life. There didn’t seem to be a soul inside that stadium that didn’t understand the process.

And that dedication to their club became evident right from the kickoff. Fans would cheer and jeer at the most minor positive or negative outcomes. A good clear? That player gets a respectful applause. A good scoring chance? The stadium erupts with a rowdy response. The referee makes a poor call in the other team’s favor? You might want to cover your child’s ears for a few minutes.

In American sports, I’ve found fan bases of both major and minor league teams to be a mixture of diehard fans, those who will applaud when a defenseman on their hockey team makes a nice keep in at the blue line on a power play, and casual fans, those who will run to buy a pretzel when Alex Rodriguez is coming to the plate with the bases loaded late in a game. But the QPR supporters all seemed to understand. Etiquette and knowledge were first rate inside Loftus Road Stadium. It was a refreshing alternate to the business-first sports model North America has adopted.

And even though the Rangers play in the Football League Championship, a step below the Premier League that hosts some of England’s best clubs, the fans stick to their blue and white striped players through thick and thin. The club finished 11th last season and currently sit 18th this year, not far from the threat of being in the relegation pool. The team hasn’t seen the Premier League since it was relegated in 1996 and has spent time since then playing in various tier two leagues. This kind of passion is hardly rivaled anywhere else.

More than just the atmosphere of sitting among the 12,569 devoted and energetic supporters on the dreary and rainy night impressed me. The game itself was more exciting than I imagined, with QPR dominating play the majority of the game. After a few misses and huge saves from the Derby keeper, the Rangers finally netted one during stoppage time at the end of the first half. It sent the crowd into an absolute frenzy, one that I could not help join.

I found myself becoming more and more fond of the Rangers and their fans throughout the rest of the game, and it’s not because they share their name with my favorite hockey team, the New York Rangers. With a raucous crowd and supportive chants soaring through the stands, QPR struggled to keep the lead, giving up a goal to Derby. You could feel the unease of the dedicated supporters around the stadium as the referee made a couple of questionable calls that infuriated fans young and old, leading to the use of a few expletives.

The game eventually ended as a 1-1 draw, a rather unsatisfactory result from an amazing experience. Fans filed out of Loftus Road Stadium and into the rain before departing into the rather quaint neighborhood surrounding it.

I admittedly won’t become a diehard fan of the game or the club from one lone experience. What I have gathered is a new respect and engagement level for everything the game of football means to the people that live and breath it. I’ll most certainly be tuned into this year’s FIFA World Cup and I’ll mostly certainly play FIFA 10 more often than before, but I probably won’t return to many soccer games unless I’m lucky enough to head back to England.

A Trip to Loftus Road

By Christopher Boulay

For someone who is very familiar with the English version of football, what we call ‘soccer’ in the United States, when I found out that I had the opportunity to go see a match during my trip with my British Journalism class over break, I knew that this would be special.

I have seen my beloved Liverpool F.C. play Glasgow Celtic F.C. in 2004 at Rentschler Field, as well as having seen the United States play Latvia during their “send-off match” before the 2006 World Cup. If you read The Recorder often, you probably notice that a majority of my writing is soccer-based, so it is a passion of mine.

Queens Park Rangers, a London club, played their league counterpart Derby County F.C. in the Coca Cola Championship over Spring Break. The match was big, as though both clubs are pretty much out of the race for the promotion play-off, they both still have a bit of a fight for the hope to stay afloat in the Championship. Going into the match, QPR was 17th and Derby was 18th, with only a point separating each side.

We were staying in the Bloomsbury section of London, not far from Loftus Road, QPR’s 19,000-seat stadium in the West London section of Shepherd’s Bush, and we would only be on the Underground for a short time. We got off of the tube and made our way toward the ground, and then we started to see nothing but blue scarves, kits and jackets…we had arrived.

The pubs on the street were filled with blue and white-clad supporters eating their ceremonial pies and drinking pints of what I imagined was incredible beer. Turning the corner, the city atmosphere was gone, and the feeling of a residential, tight-knit community was prevalent all around. We met up with the crowd marching toward the bright floodlights and the excitement built.

Tickets were a bit steep, £30 for an adult, and £20 for anyone 21 and under. That’s approximately $44 for an adult and $30 for anyone 21 and under. It would prove to be absolutely worth it.

Queens Park Rangers' Loftus Road

The food was very English, to say the least (not that I expected anything less). Steak and kidney pie with potato chips and a Carlsberg made for a well balanced dinner. Ironically, alcohol is sold at the ground, despite the Football Association (the governing body of English football) having a ban of alcohol at all football grounds. The actual ban isn’t the sale of the alcohol, but the prevention of being able to bring the alcohol into the stands. A weird rule to say the least, but it was definitely a cool sight to see fans line up in the tunnel around the stand to eat and get a couple drinks in before the match.

The weather was typical, driving rain. The field conditions were treacherous, but nothing that the average English footballer wasn’t already used to. The match began with a roar and loud applause for every player that marched onto the pitch. Though, despite the home crowd being much bigger, the Derby supporters came with well-rested voices, as the hour and a half train ride didn’t damper their spirits.

The Derby Rams’ faithful sang for the entire match, actually outdoing the home crowd. This wasn’t a big surprise though, as with the size of the stadium and the loudness of the local supporters, Derby had no choice. Not that they would have it any differently, though.

QPR had the majority of the first half chances, including a flurry of near goals in the first five minutes. The Rangers showed whose house it was quite well in the first half, both on the pitch and in the stands. Adel Taarabt whipped a pass to Lee Cook to get the home side on top right before the halftime whistle, which made the crowd absolutely erupt, a feeling I haven’t experienced at a match in years.

Halftime came and went, and because of the late goal, there was a buzz about the crowd, and it seemed only a matter of time before QPR got one or two more. Derby supporters were attempting to get their club back into it with the ever-familiar chant of “Come on Derby!,” which was answered with the extremely amusing response from the QPR fans: “F*ck off Derby!”

Some of the things said in both frustration and jubilation by the home crowd aren’t printable in this publication, but anyone who is a football supporter the world over, just think of some of the most amusing things you have heard while in the stands, you will know exactly what I mean.

Even a string of absolutely awful calls by the referee got the crowd very upset, going as far as chanting “The referee’s a wanker” repeatedly multiple times during the second half.

The match would turn a bit negative for QPR, as Derby was able to equalize in the 67th minute, from a nice goal from Shaun Barker. The supporters began to worry. Even a small boy behind where I was sitting was becoming impatient, yelling at every little thing that happened on the pitch.

QPR had one more quality opportunity with five minutes remaining, which everyone, including myself thought would go in. It was all for naught, as the ball sailed and struck the crossbar. The match ended 1-1, not helping either club in their attempt to finish in a respectable position in the table, but it was far from a boring match.

One thing that I realized by being in a foreign place, seeing the supporters on their home turf, is how diehard the fans are. There is something about football supporters when they are in their environment that makes them like no other. The energy is unmatched in any sport in America, and this comes from someone who is probably too much of a sports fan.

But sports fans all speak two languages: success and despair. Though the club played well, the supporters were in full-fledged panic mode. One supporter came up to me with a very worried face and said, “We are not out of the relegation battle yet.” Another I overheard saying, “I come here every match and give everything for this club, and yet they still find ways to disappoint us.”

These people absolutely love their club. There is just something very special about such a tight knit community that know no sport but their own, and no club but their own. It is incomparable to any sporting situation in America because of this. You don’t have to be a huge soccer fan like I am to enjoy an experience like this. You just get taken up by the crowd and can’t help but love it.

Liverpool may be my first love when it comes to football, but after watching this match at Loftus Road, there will always be a little place in the far corner of my heart that will be for QPR.

D’Arcy Awarded Coach of the Year

By Christopher Boulay

CCSU women’s soccer coach Mick D’Arcy has been awarded with the Northeast Conference Coach of the Year award, his fourth ever, and first since 2005.

“I’m a great believer that ‘to the victor, go the spoils,’” D’Arcy said. “And usually at the end of the regular season when the coaches are voting, my vote will usually go to whichever coach has won the regular season, or one that has had a massive improvement from the year before. But I think it is one of those awards that goes to the coach of the team that won the league.”

Though Coach D’Arcy is happy with the award, he directs the credit given to him, to his team, whom he believes did the hard work.

“It’s nice. It’s an honor to be recognized by your peers. It sounds like a cliché, but it really is a recognition of what the team has done,” said D’Arcy.

CCSU had a rough start to the season including a five-game losing streak. But they were able to rebound and surge through the NEC regular season, getting up to first place with a dominant late-season showing.

“I think it takes a little time to absorb and look at the bigger picture,” D’Arcy said. “Overall I think when we look back at it, we will say the team certainly overcame a lot of hurdles. Not only were we winning games, but anybody that came to see us in the last month was pretty excited to see the kind of soccer we were playing, it was fun, it was attractive.”

The Ireland native is the Women’s soccer programs winningest coach and helped the team finish 10-0-1 in the NEC, as well as an appearance in the NEC Tournament Championship game, where the Blue Devils lost in overtime to Monmouth, 1-0.

“To go unbeaten [in conference] is a great achievement,” D’Arcy said. “Just to be able to say that we beat every team in the conference is a significant thing to do. There’s always gonna be days where someone isn’t feeling well, the chances don’t go your way, or a couple of referee’s calls you don’t get, where you are likely to lose a game. To go through all of those games without a loss, I think says a lot for the team.”

This was the eighth-straight time that the team has qualified for the NEC Tournament.