Area soccer fans, like fans around the world, are eagerly anticipating the start of the 2010 World Cup, beginning June 11.
Area faithful have good reason to look for a much stronger showing out of this year's U.S. World Cup team.
Team captain and the most accomplished offensive player in American national team history, Landon Donovan, believes this year's U.S. men's team can be as good as it wants to be, and if it plays up to its potential, it can beat many of the teams in the world.
There will be one more warm-up game against South Africa before live Cup action begins on June 12 as the U.S. gets the unenviable task of opening World Cup play against England.
USA coach Bob Bradley feels this year's men's team's conditioning may be the best ever and is more than prepared to take on any competitor. Donovan, playing in his third World Cup, believes this is America's best chance to win since he has been on the team.
Donovan was a sensation in the 2002 World Cup but was very quiet and a virtual disappointment in the 2006 tournament and never seemed to get into the spirit of the Cup. This year, Donovan is upbeat about the American roster and its chances to really compete in this year's Cup.
He has already set records with 42 goals and 42 assists in American national team play but can truly take the reins of leadership this year for the USA and provide soccer fans all over America with some incredibly thrilling play.
Tiger duo moving on
Two Blair County standout scholastic players will be continuing their soccer career at the college level. Ironically, the two players, Dane Azeles and Alex Prosser, who have played and worked together throughout their high school years, will be going head-to-head against each other in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference.
Azeles will be with defending PSAC conference champion Slippery Rock, while Prosser will be going to Shippensburg. The two have nearly identical soccer resumes, and both were multi-year lettermen, team captains, Altoona Mirror all-stars and members of the Central Pennsylvania All-Star Regional Team. Watching the two play head-to-head may indeed be a thrill for local soccer fans. Soccer faithful should make a point to catch this fall's upcoming Slippery Rock-Shippensburg tilt.
PSU Altoona camp set
When it comes to soccer camps, there are many choices for younger players and even those at the intermediate level. Camps at the advanced level are usually difficult to find and involve extensive travel.
The Penn State Altoona soccer camp for high school students offers an alternative. The camp is for experienced soccer players who are interested in continuing their soccer career beyond the high school level. Students will be exposed to collegiate level coaching and worked in drills to improve their ability and fitness levels for the upcoming soccer season.
Students will experience training similar to preseason collegiate training playing both short and full-sided games. There even will be play under the lights at Altoona's Spring Run Stadium. The camp is open to high school players and above.
The level of soccer coaching and intensity of training at this camp will definitely make it worthwhile for older players at a reasonable cost and at minimal travel. More information about registration for interested players can be obtained at 949-5535.
Spring an upgrade
As summer play rolls in, spring soccer play winds up its action on a local and regional level. This year's play was a success in almost every aspect with area teams having strong representation in both the boys and girls age brackets from the U-10 groups up through the U-19 play.
In nearly all the age brackets, the divisions were laid out so that play this season was very competitive among all teams in the different leagues. At the higher level (U-19), many of the regional high school boys and girls teams gained great experience in playing as a team and getting younger players, primarily upcoming freshmen and sophomores, who had seen only limited play a chance to develop their game and get the competitive experience they will need for the fall. We will have to wait for the fall season to truly gauge the effectiveness of spring play.
Tom Schmitt's soccer column appears monthly in the Mirror.