It is affiliated with Orlando City Soccer Club, now a Major League Soccer franchise. A five-year deal has been signed that will see four Louisville players shared with Orlando.
The link comes in the form of Jeffersonville architect Wayne Estopinal, who is a minority owner in Orlando. He has been pushing to relocate that franchise’s USL Pro operation to Louisville since it was announced that Orlando were to be part of MLS.
Estopinal will be known to local soccer fans as the owner of Mockingbird Valley Soccer Club and former co-owner of Louisville Lightning, an indoor outfit founded in 2009 that played for three seasons. Orlando’s owner and president is Phil Rawlins, who was a director of English Premier League’s Stoke City for 14 years.
In fact, there is quite a significant Stoke City connection as the Potters are Orlando City’s sister club, while Louisville City’s new coach will be Irishman James O’Connor, who played for Stoke City from 1998-2003.
The Dubliner was a player-assistant coach with Orlando but will retire from playing duties to concentrate on his new role.
Could this be the first step in an MLS franchise for Louisville?
“We have no idea whether or not that will happen here, but the more noise we make, the more seats we fill, and the more championships we win, we have a great chance at looking at that,” Estopinal said at the announcement.
Louisville’s logo (seen above) comprises a purple bourbon barrel placed behind a gold Fleur-de-lis.
It features 14 teams this year, with expansion franchises in Colorado Springs, Colorado, St Louis, Missouri and Tulsa, Oklahoma already announced.
Games will be played at Slugger Field and Louisville City has set ticket prices at $10 to $25 per game, with season tickets costing $240 to $420, based on an expected 15-game home schedule. Tickets are now on sale to the general public at LouisvilleCityFC.com.
Louisville’s logo (seen above) comprises a purple bourbon barrel placed behind a gold Fleur-de-lis.
Premier Development League outfit River City Rovers begins its second campaign this Thursday (May 17) when it takes on Cincinnati Kings at Centurion Soccer Field, English Station Road in Louisville (7 p.m.).
The 73-team PDL, part of the United Soccer Leagues, is seen as a shop window for Major League Soccer clubs looking to discover and identify aspiring professionals.
Rovers compete in the eight-team Great Lakes Division, with the likes of Chicago Fire, Chicago Inferno, Toronto Lynx and Michigan Bucks.
The River City squad comprises players from ages 17-30, many of which play or played with college teams.
Rovers are coached by Muhamed Fazlagic, while Nathan Pitcock is the new associate head coach.
“This year we have bigger player pool and — I hope — better quality,” Fazlagic said. “We are a year older and wiser.”
“In addition to our franchise players from the last year — Ryan Smith, Dustin Downey and Peter May — we have added Two-Boy Gumede, a former UAB star; Fabricio Pittaluga, a great player from Miami; and Damir Turko from Texas A & M.
“These three alone are promising more goals this year and therefore give us a better record.”
Game day tickets cost $7 for adults and youths, while children under 2 will be admitted free (parking $2). Season tickets are also available.
For further information, check out the team’s website at http://www.roverssoccer.com
It’s a very interesting time for youth soccer in the Kentuckiana area as two entities vie to bring a US Soccer Federation Development Academy setup to greater Louisville.
Going forward, they will be known as Chicago Fire Juniors-Kentucky and will start to wear the Fire uniforms after the spring season.
Last week, both applicants were given the opportunity to show off their respective talent pools to the USSF regional technical advisor, Erik Imler, who is also University of Kentucky’s new assistant coach.
Whatever the decision, expected on April 1, the area is set to see change on the soccer fields—and off them.
Javanon and United 1996 will fill two teams in each age group on the boys’ side U13 through U18 under the Rovers Academy moniker. Girls’ teams will be added in the 2013-14 season.
The squads will play in the Midwest Developmental League, part of the National Premier Leagues, which extends the principals espoused by the U.S. Soccer Development Academy into younger age groups.
Those involved, including top dogs Muhamed Fazlagic (United 1996) and Ali Ahmadi (Javanon), insist that it is not a merger of the clubs, and that both will still exist and field many teams not part of the academy.
Assistant technical director for Rovers Academy, Nathan Pitcock, said the deal between the clubs was something that happened over a matter of weeks, but was helped by good relationships between the pair.
“The two of us are similar in terms of philosophy and approach,” he said. “Both clubs have a rich history, and both are proud of what they have achieved.”
Pitcock, who was a technical director with Chicago Magic Soccer Academy for four years, said the player pool and coaching staff in the greater Louisville area both compare very favorably with that at Magic.
However, he added that it is a decision that U.S. Soccer will not make lightly.
“The Development Academy is largely subsidized by U.S. Soccer. It’s a big investment and essentially they are making a big bet with whomever they chose,” he said.
“In saying that, we feel very confident in what we have put together. We also think this is a very good fit.”
Meanwhile, Chicago Fire Juniors-Kentucky held a two day event at the University of Louisville campus, where training was conducted by coaching staff of the college, including head coach Ken Lolla, and Juniors.
Its director of coaching, John Michael Hayden, was not able to say very much ahead of the Mockingbird’s public announcement about the partnership at its Mellwood Avenue base last night (Tuesday), but he emphasized the importance of a Development Academy locally in an invite sent out to players.
“If US Soccer does determine we do in fact have enough quality players in our area, the academy would bring instant credibility to the state as a whole,” he said.
This is not the first attempt to secure a Development Academy for Louisville. Two years ago, Javanon and Mockingbird — co-owned by Jeffersonville architect Wayne Estopinal and Ted Nichols (also bosses of the Louisville Lightning indoor club) — submitted a combined proposal.
It was among more than 200 applicants across the nation to go through an extensive review process.
In the end, two Minnesota clubs —Thunder and Shattuck-St Mary’s — were chosen by the USSF.
Every year, it evaluates teams to determine which ones have the best potential to generate future national team players.
Selection is based on how applicants match up in various categories, including geographic location, history of player production, coaching staff/player pool and administrative capabilities.
The idea for the US Soccer Federation to offer Development Academy teams came to fruition in 2007. The goal was to bring the game at an underage level up to par with the rest of the world.
According to coaches, the focus is on developing the players rather than going after results.
The structure allows scouts to identify more players capable of becoming part of national team pools, and long term it is hoped to change the quality of the player at all levels of American soccer.
Participating in the current 2011-12 season are 78 top youth soccer clubs from all over the United States – including academies from many Major League Soccer franchises. They field one team in each of the two academy mixed-age groups at U-15/16 and U-17/18 levels.
The nearest academy to the Kentuckiana area is Indiana United Fire (formerly Carmel United), a two-time national champion in 2008 (U15/16) and 2009 (U17/18), which plays its home games at Butler University in Indianapolis.
USSF announced last month that it is changing the Development Academy season to a 10-month long campaign, starting in 2012-13. It will run from September through June (or July based on postseason play).
This creates a format that is similar to those followed by the elite soccer playing nations around the world as the Development Academy and U.S. Soccer continue their goal of closing the performance gap with the top soccer nations.
However, it will result in the abolition of top talent from boys’ high school soccer.
Both Kentucky and Indiana will be without representatives at the U.S. Youth Soccer national championships for the second successive year, but a few came close to making the trip to Phoenix.
Mockingbird U18 girls made it to the final decider at the Midwest Region II championships in Appleton, Wis., but lost out to FC Milwaukee, 3-1.
University of Louisville-bound Casey Whitfield — a product of Manual High School — got the lone Mockingbird goal to make her top scorer at the U18 level with seven goals in five games.
It is the first time Mockingbird has had a representative in the regional final and coach Jonathan Velotta said he was “extremely proud” of the team’s performance.
“Over the course of five games, we played with a lot of composure, focus, and commitment,” he said.
“Before the season started, our goal was to reach the regional final and to accomplish that goal is truly remarkable. We were obviously disappointed in the result, but FC Milwaukee was a deserving winner. The success of our team over the last three years has set a higher standard for girls’ club soccer, and for our club.”
Velotta added that the success of the ‘93 girls at regionals will undoubtedly raise the profile of MVSC both locally and within the region.
“The players on this team have served as great role models of our younger players and have raised the standard for all of our teams. The team has had consistent success against some of the best clubs in the nation for the past few years and helped our club gain more credibility.”
Javanon, meanwhile, had three teams make the semifinal stages, two of which had local representation.
Two-time national finalist Javanon ‘92 boys, featuring Jeffersonville’s Trevor Bruner, lost their last competitive game on penalty kicks to KCFC Force in the U19 age group.
Javanon ’94, with the Southern Indiana trio of Nick Blackwell, Matt Kelecy and Jordan Vejar amongst its ranks, was edged out, 2-1 by Grand Rapids Crew of Michigan, who went on to retain its crown.
The fourth team to get past the bracket stages was Javanon ’97 girls, which lost to Kings Soccer Academy of Ohio South 3-1.
Of the 14 Region II champions crowned, eight were from Illinois, two each were from Minnesota and Michigan and one each came from Kansas and Wisconsin.
For “Illinois,” read Chicago, with Eclipse Select (three, all girls), Fire and Magic (two each) and Sockers FC (one) dominating.
So should those involved in the game in Kentucky and Indiana be disappointed about not having a representative or two at the past two national championships, or was success in the past just a case of teams punching above their weight?
There were some interesting comments on the HoosierFutbol.com website forums after the event.
“Straight Up” said that the lower populated areas, including Indiana, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and Kansas, will generally be less successful than some of the more populated states and cities, such as Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Missouri.
“Indiana’s 91s, 92s, 93s and even the 94s all had way above-average success at regionals,” Straight Up said. “And if you look at the results this past time, there were quite a few teams in favored positions on the last day of pool play, only to fall short. Indiana soccer is alive and well. We are not Illinois and we never will be unless our population density changes with respect to our counterparts.”
“Reality” said other states play a more physical, more intense style of soccer at an earlier age, while another said there are too many clubs, diluting the talent.
Kentucky seems to be in the same boat, but has fared better in recent years, especially in the older boys’ realm, where it has a full pool of the area’s best players to choose from in the U16-U18 levels because of the absence of a development academy.
Many see academies like Indiana United as the way forward for elite player progress. But whatever their advantage, they eliminate the cream from playing for a club in the U.S. Youth Soccer championships.
In Louisville, having more teams play in the Midwest Regional League and top tournaments has helped some squads compete with the best on a year-round basis, preparing them for state, regional and possibly beyond.
Other than the achievement of Mockingbird ’93 girls, going out to a defending regional champion while playing with 10 men and being a goal up (a la Javanon ’94), or missing out on a final berth due to penalty kicks (Javanon ’92) suggests the game in these parts isn’t in too bad a shape.
And then there’s United 1996, which has emerged as the main boys’ force in Kentucky after it took four of the seven state titles between U13 and U19 this year.
None of its teams got out of the bracket stages, and while founder Muhamed Fazlagic told “Kick It” they were “very pleased” with their performance as a whole — given the number of injuries to impact players — they were also slightly disappointed with their U16s, a team of which much was expected.
“I don’t think they reached their performance level at all at the tournament,” he said. “All other teams had a much better tournament in every aspect.”
The future is bright, though, said Fazlagic, as recent local success — especially in the past two years — has attracted a great number of athletes to the club.
“We will not change much in our philosophy, where the main objective is individual player development. But with an improved players’ pool, I think we are much closer to the title at the regional level,” he said. “My personal prognosis is that it will happen in a two-year time frame.”
Which seems to give credence to the dilution suggestion, perhaps. That is, that talent is there, albeit on a smaller scale to the Chicagos of this world. And all that needs to happen with that said talent is if you want to beat the best and bring in the hardware — whether you agree with or not — is to have it deeply concentrated at fewer clubs.