Club Sports Report

Portland Phoenix rising fast as youth soccer program

Posted May 31, 2012, at 6:11 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — The State Cup youth club soccer season will end with its state championships Sunday and the Maine Premier Soccer Portland Phoenix will figure prominently in the matches.

Seven Phoenix teams, which played under the Maine Coast United banner before becoming part of Global Premier Soccer in 2009, are still in the field.

The Under-12 boys and girls teams will hold their semifinal matches starting at 11 a.m. Saturday and their finals Sunday at the Capital Area Soccer Club fields in Augusta.

The U-13 boys and girls will square off in their championships beginning at 9 a.m. Sunday at Deering High School on Stevens Avenue. The U-14 boys and girls and U-15 boys and girls will hold their championships starting at noon at Falmouth High School. The State Cup Committee can change the game times for the semifinals and finals at any time.

Five of the eight championships could go to the Phoenix, who will have two teams knocked off by their clubmates. Two Phoenix teams are meeting in Saturday’s Under-12 boys semifinals and two are meeting in the U-15 boys title game Sunday.

The Phoenix don’t have a monopoly on multiple entries. Seacoast United has six teams in weekend play and Blackbear United of Bangor has four. Seacoast and Blackbear merged earlier this year but maintain separate teams.

Alistair Bain, general manager and a coach for the Phoenix, says he thinks the club’s success is a combination of attracting good players and changes to the club’s makeup after its merger into Global Premier Soccer.

“It’s an evolution of the club,” said Bain. “MCU had good success. We have tried to raise the level [of play].”

Where Maine Coast United previously had good players spread among teams in their age group, the Phoenix have combined the best into “one almost all-star team,” said Bain.

The Maine age group winners advance to the Region 1 championships June 28-July 3 in Lancaster, Pa., and one Phoenix team already has qualified.

“The U-16 teams went to the Potomac, Md., tourney [a couple of weeks ago] and [the Elite boys] won,” said Bain. “That wouldn’t have been possible [in previous years].”

When the two U-15 teams, the Elite and the Strikers, square off Sunday, Bain expects both teams to battle aggressively but with a friendly type of rivalry.

“The Strikers are the ‘second’ team,” said Bain, pointing out that most of the best players are on the Elite team. “There is a bit of a point to prove on the Strikers’ end.”

The Strikers already have proved their point once, defeating the Elite squad 2-1 in the first regular-season match April 29.

Bain expected there would be a slight change in the usual practice program this week for those teams.

“Typically, we have two practices a week,” said Bain. “The first one is technical, and the second is geared more toward game play.

“I think the coaches will focus more on the game approach this week.”

While Maine Premier Soccer is based in Portland, the teams draw players from around the state.

“We have more than 400 players in the club, the most in Maine,” said Bain.

Under the Maine Coast banner, the organization drew players from Yarmouth, Portland and Falmouth.

“For the U-15 boys, we have at least four from the Bangor-Waterville area,” said Bain, “and we draw from the midcoast right down to Portland.”

Among those players is Wyatt Omsberg of Belgrade, who has made the Region 1 Olympic Development Program team competing against players from New Jersey and Virginia. Alexis Elowich of Portland is in the national Olympic Development Program U-16 camp.

“Our sister company in Massachusetts currently has two players in the national program, and I think it’s only a matter of time before a Maine player makes it,” Bain said.

Massachusetts Premier Soccer, which was the first club in the Global Premier Soccer system, has more than 2,000 players.

Bain believes the Phoenix will continue to branch out, possibly setting up satellite programs in other parts of the state as more people are attracted to the Phoenix.

“By reaching out, we see a future of more teams,” said Bain. The question, he noted, is “logistically, how can we get them?”

But first comes this weekend and another question.

“Paul [Baber, Global Premier Soccer director of football,] already has a team that qualified [for Region 1 play], and I also have a team in,” said Bain. “If both our teams win, we’ll both have two teams in, and I don’t know we’ll handle that.”

Weekend schedule:

Saturday, State Cup semis

At CASC, Augusta

11 a.m.: U12 boys, Seacoast McCormack vs. Blackbear FC; U12 girls, Central Maine United vs. MCU Phoenix Elite; 12:45 p.m.: U12 boys, MCU Phoenix Elite vs. MCU Phoenix Strikers; U12 girls, Blackbear FC vs. Velocity SC Doyon

Sunday, State Cup Finals

At Deering High, Portland

9 a.m.: U13 boys, MCU Phoenix Elite vs. Seacoast Twombly; 10:45 a.m.: U13 girls, Blackbear FC vs. Seacoast Celtic

Falmouth High School

Noon: U14 boys, MCU Phoenix Elite vs. Seacoast Blackwell; 1:45 p.m.: U14 girls, Seacoast Barcelona vs. Velocity SC; 3:30 p.m.: U15 boys, MCU Phoenix Strikers vs. MCU Phoenix Elite; 5:45 p.m.: U15 girls, Seacoast Arsenal vs. Blackbear FC

CASC Fields, Augusta

2 p.m.: U12 boys, semifinal winners; 3:45 p.m.: U12 girls, semifinal winners

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