At colleges around the country, there are thousands of talented soccer players who are not given a chance to play for their school’s team. Intramural soccer is always an option, but those who have a passion for the sport and the competition may find it too relaxed and unorganized. For people like this, club soccer is an ideal alternative, and at USF, it has been a way for many soccer enthusiasts to continue playing the sport at a high level.
Each semester, the USF club soccer team plays a 5-game season against schools such as Stanford, San Jose State, Cal Poly, UC Santa Cruz, and others. During the fall semester of 2012, the USF team was successful and finished with a 3-2 record. This semester, however, things did not go quite as smoothly, as many of the strongest players left the team comprised of mostly freshmen. As a result, the team struggled, managing one tie along with four losses on the season. Still, it was an enjoyable experience for the players, and they cherished the opportunity to have fun and play competitive soccer at the same time.
“I just love soccer; it’s my favorite sport,” freshman midfielder/striker Nick Barbarino said. “It was really good to play on a team, and we really bonded because it was mostly freshmen.”
One of the highlights of the fall semester for the team was a convincing 4-0 victory against San Jose State. Also, although the spring semester season could have gone better for the team, it was not without its own certain standout moments. In a recent matchup with Cal Poly, USF fought back from a 2-0 deficit to earn a draw on a goal from Barbarino in the final minutes.
“When we played San Jose State, it was probably the best game we’ve played as a team,” Barbarino said. “It was just pretty soccer, and it reminded me of the games back in high school. And then two weeks ago, we played Cal Poly with only ten men, and we were down 2-0 but we rallied to tie it with a few minutes to go. We really banded together as a team, and that was pretty impressive.”
The Cal Poly game was also a highlight for other members of the team. Freshman goalie/defender Sean Powell said that scoring the tying goal in that contest was his “most memorable moment” of the year.
While sports seasons are usually judged by wins and losses, records do not do justice to the fun that can be had by a team and the relationships that can be formed among teammates. For the USF team, there were many positive aspects of club soccer that did not involve the outcome of the games.
“The opportunity to travel around made it pretty fun,” Powell said. “It was just cool to travel and play against other schools.”
Along with traveling, there were many other notable in-game and practice moments that made club soccer worthwhile for the players.
“In the Cal Poly game, the ref was giving the other team constant calls,” Barbarino said. “My teammate didn’t understand why they were getting all the calls, so I told him, ‘because they’re the home team,’ and then the ref gave me a yellow card! He even came up to me and said, ‘I›ll make you a spectator.’”
When the players weren’t laughing over questionable yellow cards during games, they were spending time fooling around and getting to know each other better.
“All of the guys are really nice,” Powell said. “Practices were fun because we would always just hang out and joke around.”
Now that club soccer is done for the year, many of the players will go back to participating in recreational games and refining their skills for the next season. Although they will try to put the past season’s poor record out of their memory, there are plenty of shared experiences and overall good times on the soccer field that they won’t want to forget anytime soon. While it might not be as serious as Division 1 soccer, or as lighthearted as at the intramural level, club soccer is a great way for passionate soccer players to stay active, make new friends, and compete against skilled players from other schools. And, with a team mostly made up of promising freshmen, the USF club soccer team should be looking forward to a noticeable improvement next fall, as the players grow more accustomed to playing with each other and form bonds that will last through many eventful and exciting seasons in the years to come.