Several local high school boys soccer coaches must be breathing a sigh of relief with the announcement that the State College High School boys soccer coach of the past 15 years is hanging it up.
Coach John Marsden has given every District 6 boys soccer coach in Class AAAA a number of headaches over the years with the dominance of his team play, particularly at playoff time. Marsden, a four-year letterman at Penn State, former team captain and Tri-State All-American, was an excellent tactical coach, which was evident in nearly all big games. He wraps up his coaching career with a 227-81-19 record and garnering 10 District 6 titles along with a pair of trips to the state semifinals.
However, play may not get any easier for teams such as Hollidaysburg and Altoona as Danny Orton, former Marsden assistant coach, will step into the head coaching position for the Little Lions. Orton, a former professional Major League Soccer player from Liverpool, England, has an incredibly strong playing and coaching background and should keep State College as a District 6 powerhouse for years to come.
With a number of area high school soccer head coaching positions being opened this year, there is one factor that has become very evident. Those schools that have established a junior high or middle school program have high school programs experiencing much more success.
As a high school coach, I have had many freshmen and upperclassmen come out to play scholastic soccer without ever having played in a competitive game. This makes the coach's job extremely difficult as one cannot teach the experience other schools have gained during competition at the junior high scholastic level. All school boards and athletic directors without these programs need to re-examine their importance to the success of the high school program.
The USA women's national team remains No. 1 in FIFA rankings ahead of archrival Germany and Japan. The USA ladies are 11-1-1 this year and have held the top international ranking since 2008. American coach Pia Sundhage's squad will play exhibition games against Sweden, Japan, and Canada in June before kicking off the Olympic tournament in July.
The U.S. women are looking to add to their 2004 and 2008 Olympic gold and have the high powered roster to do just that. The women definitely should provide some incredibly exciting viewing for U.S. soccer fans at this year's Summer Olympics.
Meanwhile, the USA men's international team has continued to show glaring weaknesses despite some bright spots. After superstar Landon Donovan's return to the team following an eight-month absence, American fans became excited when he pulled a hat trick for the Americans in an exhibition game against Scotland and led the U.S. to a 5-1 win.
Donovan has a record 125 starts for USA. America's hope was short-lived, however, when the U.S. was picked apart by international power Brazil in a 4-1 beatdown in Landover, Md. The U.S. continued to have a weak defensive line, which has continually been exploited. This is an area USA must change drastically to be competitive in the next World Cup.
Just a thought
It would be great, at the local level, to have one of the area clubs put together a 3-on-3 tournament. These were very popular in our area when the Hollidaysburg Soccer Association ran them, and youth and adults loved competing in them. They are inexpensive, and teams can enter for as little as $100. The tournaments allowed players from novice to classic level to have an enjoyable outing playing soccer.
Tom Schmitt writes a monthly soccer column for the Mirror.