by Michael Turton
Solid first season for adult soccer league
Beacon’s adult soccer league just wrapped up a successful inaugural season, and organizers are already planning the encore — in two weeks.
“There was always a game somewhere if you wanted to find it, but nothing organized and regular,” said Evan Whitson, one of five United Football Club of Beacon board members, reflecting on Beacon’s lack of adult soccer in recent years.
The changed in July, when UFCB kicked off a seven-game season. Each of the league’s eight teams faced each other once. It culminated with a tournament on Tuesday (Aug. 30) at Memorial Park.
In a playoff between the four teams with the best records, New York United defeated regular season champ Sam’s Realty, 3-2, to claim the league title. Among the four other teams, Beacon Footie edged the Commandos, 3-2, for the consolation.
The league follows FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) rules, but with modifications for recreational competition. Games are an hour and played on a half-size pitch, with teams fielding seven players plus a goalie. Unlike in professional games, substitution is allowed on the fly.
Some of the eight teams were established before the league was created; others were assembled from a pool of available players.
“A lot of people wanted to play but didn’t have a team,” said Fernando Ahumada, another board member who sponsored Fernando’s Commandos. Players must be at least 18 years old; the oldest is in his 60s, he said.
The first year resulted in a large gap in the standings, with Sam’s Realty finishing 6-1 and the last-place Commandos losing all seven of its games. “We’re going to try to make it more competitive, adjust as necessary,” Ahumada said.
Goalkeeper Kellen Sela of Boca Juniors looks for a call during a game against Trax Attacks (in pink). (Photo by S. Pearlman)
Organizers hope that next summer, the league will have two divisions, twice as many games and more players. That will improve competition and friendly rivalries will begin to develop because teams will play each other more than once, he said.
Players had an additional rival this summer — the weather. “The 100-degree days, especially at the beginning, were pretty rough,” Ahumada said.
While many of the players have competed for years, Ahumada doesn’t think experience is necessarily the key to a good team. “Often, experience isn’t as important as how well players gel,” he said. “You don’t have to be a great player, but you’ve got to be a great teammate.”
Many players are from Beacon but also surrounding communities such as Philipstown, Newburgh, Wappingers and Fishkill.
League directors Evan Whitson and Manny Kotzias meet with the referees before a match. (Photo by S. Pearlman)
“We have players from nearly every nation that plays soccer,” Ahumada said. “We have many Latino and Afro Caribbean players, guys from Senegal, Ghana, Colombia, Ireland.”
The league is coed, although only one woman played this summer, Ruthie Tropeano, 29, from Beacon. Ahumada said there has been discussion about forming a women’s division if there are enough players.
Whitson, 50, a former All-American at Virginia Wesleyan University who played professionally for three seasons, says he likes that the league is “grassroots soccer,” much like what Beacon had when he was growing up.
“The excitement is there, no matter what,” he said. “I’ve played in front of 50,000 people and in front of no one, but when you step on the field, it’s game on.”
Bo Bell, 49, who lives in Cold Spring, didn’t play soccer until age 13, but went on to play for Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, as a freshman. He’s been playing for fun ever since. “This league is cool because it’s community,” he said. “It’s for fun and for bragging rights.”
Guri Kooner of Boca Juniors advances the ball against Bryce Rodriguez and JR Negron of the Trax Attacks. (Photo by S. Pearlman)
Kellen Sela began playing when he was 5. Now 22, the Beacon resident plays for Baruch College in New York City. He said the league kept him active over the summer and “I got to play with some of my friends.”
Justin Piciacchio, 19, from Wappingers Falls, got his start in soccer at age 4 and later played for Beacon High School. He played over the summer with his father, Alan Piciacchio, one of the league founders.
The fall season kicks off Sept. 13. Register at unitedfcbeacon.com/registration.