The initial trickle for me was in 1995 when the call went out for Major League Soccer tryouts. Along with seven teammates from Chivas de Denver, I joined 180 other guys for a Denver-based talent search to field teams for the inaugural season. None of us made it, and when I handed in my bib to Kelvin Norman, he explained all he knew about the looming league. I wrote a 1,000-word description of the weekend and didn’t stop writing about MLS until the Colorado Rapids took the championship in 2010.

This blog begins following Colorado’s first victory of the 2013 season, a 1-0 home win over Real Salt Lake on April 6, 2013. My posts display in reverse-chronological order.

Note for Colorado ODP 1998 guys: Jump to this link to access useful links: http://patrickshea374.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/bumper-stickers-vs-filibusters/. The rest of this blog is pretty scattered.

September 13, 2014 — A few days before Labor Day weekend, I loaded my soccer gear for the 1,000-mile drive from Denver to the International Friendship Cup of Iran in Irvine, California. I had 30 hours to find the path to the Deep Creek Hot Springs before picking up the manager and a few players at LAX. I saved the soak for the drive home.

Celebrating its 27th consecutive year, the International Friendship Cup of Iran draws teams to California from all over the United States. Players come from Iran and everywhere to reunite with old friends and play a high level of elder-ball. The tournament allows up to six non-Persian players per team, and I feel honored to be among this small group. Marco was our captain, another American currently working for NASA in Florida. I’m American, and the other four were Chino Melendez (Peru), Bulcha (Ethiopia), and Chollo and Robi from Mexico. Robi nicknamed me Lato after the tournament, a nice gesture.

Arya Colorado won the over-45 division in 2013, and we made it out of the group stage of the over-50 division at the Orange County Great Park this year. But we lost the first knockout contest, a 2-0 disappointment against the eventual cup champions, ASC Houston FC. They had Arash Noamouz, a former Iranian national team player who scored the first goal for the Los Angeles Galaxy in 1996. Arash is actually 47, one of five players allowed between the ages of 45 and 50. Tournament director Hosane Zama combined the over-45 and over-50 divisions this year with the five-youngster exemption.

A few notable players and coaches at the tournament include:

Karim Bagheri, former Iranian national team player. Check out these goals:

Goal against South Korea, 2000

Goal for Persepolis

 

Omid Namazi

Martin Vasquez played too.

Three Colorado teams headed to Pennsylvania and Utah for national championships this week. Then the Colorado Rapids skunked Chivas USA 3-0 on Friday night, and Manchester United beat AS Roma 3-2 on Saturday. It was a week with 13 meaningful, good games for me. Pablo’s night of honor on Friday featured Gaby’s best game of the season and another Rapids shutout. The game already got plenty of press. The Guinness International Champions Cup drew 54,117 folks to watch some of the best players in the world at Sports Authority Field, and this game wasn’t a secret either.

But the national championships deserves some radar.

Here’s what I published on the Colorado Soccer Association Web site:

http://www.wearecoloradosoccer.com/

One still in hunt

Launch your browser early on Sunday, July 27, to catch the U-14 boys’ national championship kickoff at 6:00 on the Internet:

https://www.youtube.com/user/usyouth

The Real Colorado U-14 Boys National team will face United FA Elite from Georgia at 8:00 a.m. (ET). The game is on Field 3, but confirm the link before kickoff.

U-14 Real Colorado National Boys team

The Real Colorado U-14 Boys National team beat the Arlington SA Eagles in extra time to reach the championship game against Georgia’s United FA Elite team. Ben Shepherd scored late in the first half to put Real up 1-0, and Jovany Herrera scored in the 66nd minute to ice the 2-0 semi-final victory and give Colorado soccer a final chance for a national championship in 2014.

Catch the game at 6:00 a.m. on Sunday, July 27, 2014.

https://www.youtube.com/user/usyouth

U-15 Pride Predators Girls’ team

In extra time on Saturday, the U-15 Pride Predators Girls team lost the semi-final 2-1 to YMS Premier Xplosion 98 from Yardley, Pennsylvania. Brianna Alger scored the first goal of the game for Pride in the 20th minute, but YMS equalized before halftime and scored in extra time (104th minute) to win the championship.

Guadalajara Soccer Club of Denver

The Guadalajara Soccer Club of Denver could not overcome a three-goal deficit with 20 minutes left to play in the USASA men’s amateur national championship game in Sandy, Utah on Saturday. With the game scoreless 20 minutes into the second half, goalkeeper Cesar Garcia got a hand on a header but couldn’t keep the ball out of the net. Chivas increased pressure, suffering two quick goals in a five-minute span. With 15 minutes of regulation left and his team down 3-0, head coach David Campos changed his players to defend with three and attack with three. They scored twice but were vulnerable to the counterattack, ultimately losing 4-2.

I remember trying to watch Brazil play a World Cup game in my buddy Bruce’s basement in 1974, a section promised on Wide World of Sports. But, like cutting short the last act on Johnny Carson sometimes, they didn’t have time to pull away from the cliff diving and other crap to show us but a few glimpses of the glorious game.

As TV coverage improved, I watched more games. I drove to Guadalajara in 1986 and San Francisco in 1994, both times to catch Brazil during the group stage and watch all the other games at bars and restaurants. Since the U.S. never made it during my lifetime, watching the WC became a bandwagon shuttle service for me. Teams dropped off, and I’d choose another among the victors. I’d cheer for the sport itself instead of a specific team. I began to believe in God’s boss.

So I always dig watching the WC because I never lose. Even with U.S. success, I still find myself shamelessly following whoever plays the best. With Pele, Brazil was my favorite as a kid. Now it’s the USMNT, with an odd nod to Mexico because they became my team in the 1980s and I play on two Mexican teams. CONCACAF made me proud this year. I cheered with the Ticos at The Three Lions downtown, a team that I believe became stronger because of Snow Clasico. Mexico and USA are definitely both better now because we have been kicking the crap out of each other for more than a decade. All boats rise.

Bigger than the two teams on the field, the game ultimately outshines everything. That’s why I’m really not too sad about Brazil’s 7-1 collapse. The game evolves. Brazil will come back. In the meantime, someone needs to come up with a new way to play like Spain did and the other Euros are doing now. Maybe the U.S. will crack the code and come up with something new. Or maybe we’ll become the chameleons who always adapt fastest to all the changes in the sport forevermore, always competing near the top and learning the next best thing in soccer.

It’s hard to fact-check my gut-driven observations of the Colorado Rapids on Saturday night before, during, and after they beat the Vancouver Whitecaps 2-0 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. But the body language of players on and off the field speaks volumes about the team as a whole. Pablo’s post-game answer to a question about working Buddle and Gabby into the rotation echoed the same message that his players shouted throughout the battle.

“The most important thing for me is not one individual,” Mastroeni said. “The important thing for me is to stay true to the team. Everyone knows that. That’s why they come off the field huffing and puffing because they’re dying for each other. That’s the kind of commitment we need. It’s not about individuals.”

During warm-ups, the starting 11 popped like popcorn, appropriately peaking for kickoff. The subdued subs looked quietly ready.

Vicente Sanchez sizzled and sparkled during the game. He scored the penalty kick that Deshorn earned by out-sprinting Nigel Reo-Coker in the box. He ran after plays on defense, dribbled and distributed, and set up his own bicycle with a sombrero, forcing David Ousted to save the left-footed shot through a crowd.

When Marlon came on for Vicente, Rapids fans, coaches, and teammates applauded his effort. Gabby ran over from the warm-up zone near the corner flag to greet Vicente. He ran back alone.

Long after the final whistle, most of the 14,798 fans had left the stadium, but Cooke was running players through the warm-down. Even though Marlon and Edson put in time on the field, they ran multiple sprints from penalty box to penalty box along with the unused substitutes. Gabby lagged behind on every sprint, significantly alone. His body language says he’s not fully fit, he has a compromising injury, or he’s not feeling part of the group for some reason. Jose Mari was in street clothes, but he congratulated every player. Berner was at the end of the field going through his own goalkeeper workout, but Marc Burch, John Neeskens, and Thomas Piermayr raced hard with Marlon, Edson, and Gabby.

The first team, meanwhile, circled the field for a long time. Cooke let Marlon and Buddle go, and after the substitute sprints ended, everyone joined the jogging cluster except Gabby. He finally took up a caboose position by himself, set apart from the group while slowly circling the shortest route six or seven times. Marlon rejoined the group near the back, talking with Dillon Powers. Gabby remained alone. I don’t know what it means. The Rapids looked worthy of MLS Cup on Saturday, and it’s not hard to imagine an even more powerful performance with a fully engaged Gabby. Imagine him firing off bikes like Vicente or otherwise pulling off plays worthy of designation. Gabby is a mystery to me, with answers far more complex than body language can convey. 

Which frothy water phenomenon will win tonight? The moon is barely waxing, so we won’t see tidal whitecaps from Vancouver. Run-off is still moderate, so I’ll give the edge to the Colorado Rapids.

Both teams have  22 points. Dillon Serna’s suspension ends after the game, so we won’t see his wily, quick feet on the field at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Otherwise, Sanchez and Buddle are available. Gabby is primed to show us prime form again, and Deshorn has settled into a scoring rhythm (Silverbacks-smack notwithstanding). The group looks primed to shine.

Alianza de Futbol tournament at Riverside Soccer Complex at Fort Logan (http://soccerfieldsofcolorado.com/fields/riverside_soccer_complex_at_fort_logan). I watched all the men’s games yesterday, fast and furious.

The game at 3:30 had hail, lightning, and rain, so it’s at 8:00 today instead.

All the teams look good.

Real Salt Lake will travel to Atlanta Silverbacks Park for a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup qualifier on June 14.

The Colorado Rapids will host the Orlando City Lions at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on June 17.

The winners of these games will face each other. Perhaps we’ll be adding an asterisk to this year’s Rocky Mountain Cup competition if we see Real Salt Lake in Commerce City on June 24 or 25.

Hold your horses, however. Orlando City (USL Pro, tier 3) spanked the Tampa Bay Rowdies (NASL, tier 2) 4-1 to earn a trip to Colorado on June 17. Remember, the Lions dispatched the Rapids last year, and the club will be jumping from the third-tier USL Pro to MLS in 2015. Against the Rowdies, Kevin Molino scored twice. Austin da Luz added a goal in the 22nd minute, and Adama Mbengue pumped in another. It was 4-0 at halftime. Molino has been called up for friendlies with Trinidad and Tobago.

Chris Klute came from the Silverbacks, and Eric Wynalda is still the coach of the Tier 2 team.

Cinderella can dance all night.

Real Salt Lake defender Nat Borchers knows about Cinderella surprises. Following a 3-1 loss to the Portland Timbers at Rio Tinto Stadium on June 8, Borchers shared his thoughts about a potential Rapids-RSL fifth-round matchup in the U.S. Open Cup.

“We’re not even close to that yet,” Borchers said. “We’ve got to worry about Atlanta first. Of course, we always like the chance to win some silverware. But it’s not an easy road when you’re starting in Atlanta cross-country. We’ll give it everything we’ve got.”

The former Rapids defender grew up in Pueblo, Colorado and knows the path up the ranks of American soccer.

“We’ve struggled against USL teams,” Borchers said, “partly because we don’t know the teams very well.”

Case in point: The Silverbacks play in the North American Soccer League, theoretically a notch below MLS and one above USL Pro. This is the beauty of the Open Cup. It challenges the blurry lines between all the rising levels of play in the United States.

Borchers might not know where all the teams fall in the theoretical pecking order, but he understands it doesn’t matter.

“Those teams get up for it,” Borchers said. “They battle. They’re really tough games. It’s not going to be an easy game.”

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.