Posts Tagged ‘USL2’

Lehigh Valley United Sonic v West Chester United, Wednesday 6th July 2022, 7pm

July 9, 2022

After the short stay in Lubbock Jen and I continued to head south, and we spent three nights in a cabin in the Davy Crockett National Forest in Texas. There weren’t any games going on nearby and at over a hundred degrees it was too hot to hike.

I saw some deer whilst driving into Crockett for supplies, but the only real wildlife we saw around the cabin were squirrels. Squirrels with white chests.

There were some large grasshoppers too, that appeared around the same time each evening and climbed a tree next to where we were sitting. I’d estimate that they were between three and four inches long. That’s Jen’s hand in the photo in an attempt to try and give a sense of perspective.

After the Davy Crockett National Forest we drove on to Mississippi for Jen’s Dad’s seventy-fifth birthday celebrations. With it being a large family gathering we stayed half an hour up the road at another cabin in the woods. Again, there were no nearby games and the nearest we got to any hiking was taking Roscoe for a walk in the woods.

With the party over it was time to head north to catch the boat back to England. Jen had been waiting for her passport back and it finally arrived a day later than expected. This meant a twelve hundred and thirty mile drive over a day and a half to reach our booked cabin in Quakertown, Pennsylvania.

Driving on the larger American highways isn’t too onerous but the nineteen hours or so at the wheel from Louisiana in such a short period of time wore me out. We arrived at Quakertown around five in the afternoon, giving me just enough time to empty the car before we got back in again and nipped down the road to the John Makuvek Field at Moravian College in Bethlehem.

The fixture we had driven seven hundred miles that day to get to was in the Mid-Atlantic Division of the fourth tier USL2 with Lehigh Valley Sonic United taking on West Chester United.

We left the car in a visitors parking spot outside the university offices and wandered over to where the players were warming up. The pitch wasn’t fully fenced and therefore there wasn’t really an opportunity for someone to charge for admission.

We stretched out on a grassy bank that ran the length of one side of the pitch. There were probably around another fifty spectators, most of whom appeared to be family members of the players on the home side. There was frequent and enthusiastic encouragement of the kind that I rarely hear at games in England. One wretched miscreant somehow missed an open goal and was consoled with “Alright Guys, good try, good try!” That’s something David Currie won’t have heard from the Holgate or the Chicken Run.

Both sides generally played decent football for this level, keeping the ball on the ground and trying to build patiently. West Chester, in black, were the better side though and they took the lead with a penalty after the keeper wiped out a forward whilst successfully collecting the ball. I doubt it would have been given in the UK, but, even as an ex-goalie, it seemed just to me.

By half-time, the visitors had added two more goals and could have been further ahead with better finishing and if the home keeper had not pulled off some decent saves. Surprisingly Lehigh swapped goalies at half-time, perhaps to share around the pitch-time, but the change had minimal impact and West Chester took the points with an eventual six-nil victory.

The game was the last of the American trip and two days later we were on the boat back to England. It had been another excellent holiday and whilst we didn’t have any close encounters with bears or snakes this time I enjoyed the hiking, particularly in the Colorado mountains, the wild camping and being out in the woods for most of our stay.

The driving was a necessary evil to attend two very enjoyable family celebrations and we ended up clocking nearly eight thousand miles as we did a four hundred and fifty degree circuit from New Orleans up to New York, across to Laramie and down to Colorado, then back to Louisiana again before re-visiting New York. Highlights of the driving hours were spotting a coyote trotting along in an adjacent field and unscheduled stops at places such as a Pony Express Station and the grave of Buffalo Bill.

We saw eight football matches, spread over five tiers and also five baseball games, including the Rockies at Coors Field and a variety of lower-level fixtures where the emphasis seemed as much on entertainment as a win. That’s not a bad return in seven weeks.

CISA v Flatirons Rush, Sunday 19th June 2022, 6pm

June 26, 2022

In all we spent a week in Colorado, initially staying a night in the woods, then a couple of nights at the in-laws and then four nights in a cabin at a family celebration ten thousand feet up in the mountains at Leadville. On the drive up to the cabins Jen and I were distracted by a sign for Buffalo Bill’s grave and museum. Who wouldn’t detour for that?

It was an interesting way to while away an hour with some vintage footage of the wild west shows and memorabilia. There was a book that listed his touring performances and I noticed that he played Stockton and Middlesbrough on successive nights in July 1904.

From what I can gather, the Stockton show may well have been down by the railway line across the road from Norton Aldi. I might dig a little deeper as its weird to think of Buffalo Bill having galloped around a place more commonly used these days by young kids on motorbikes. Maybe we should re-introduce bison to Norton and give the lads on their bikes a chance to round them up.

The mountains around Leadville are great for walking. We hiked a total of thirteen miles around Turquoise Lake on a trail that was mainly on the flat and benefitted from good tree cover. The higher altitude in Colorado made the temperatures much cooler and far more pleasant to hike than it had been in both Pennsylvania and Nebraska.

We also went up a big hill to a height where there was still snow on the ground. It took about two hours to get to the lake at eleven thousand feet that we were aiming for and there were some great views on the way up of the mountains behind the torrents of water gushing downwards.

Some of the group suffered a bit from the altitude and so had to go back down and I was pleased that Jen and I had been in Colorado for a few days in advance. At the lake we ate our left-over pizza from the previous night and tried to tempt the trout in the clear water to take a bite of crust. They would swim towards the splash but then decline the crumb at the last minute.

Whilst there were no sporting events to watch in Leadville, Jen and I had been able to get to a football game whilst staying at David and Jackie’s house. It was a few miles away at the Randy Penn Stadium at Englewood High School and in the fourth tier USL2.

Colorado International Soccer Academy were taking on Flatirons Rush in the Western Conference, Mountain Division. It’s a division with only five teams and Flatirons went into the game in second place in the table with CISA two places below, but having played fewer of their fixtures than the rest of the division.

We arrived at the High School car park to find people tailgating. They waited until the national anthem struck up before packing up their beer and food and heading inside. Over on the opposite side of the pitch there were people who watched the entire match from their truck, saving the ten dollar admission fee. The fence didn’t obscure the view too much and by standing in the back of the truck they were able to get a perfect view.

The Randy Penn stadium looked as if it was more usually used for American Football, with the markings on the pitch and the posts still up at each end. There was also an athletics track around the pitch.

We sat in a twelve row aluminium stand that ran the length of one side of the pitch and there was a smaller, similar stand opposite that hadn’t been opened for this game. I’d estimate that the attendance peaked at around sixty.

CISA were in light blue and, I think, were an U23 side. Visitors Flatirons Rush, who were in a white and grey kit, had the best of the early possession and territorial advantage. They took the lead ten minutes in after a break left them in a two against one position and the free man neatly tucked the ball away.

Flatirons should really have doubled their lead on the half-hour from a penalty awarded after the lino spotted some skulduggery in the box. The shot came back out off the inside of the post and so it stayed at one-nil.

The second goal came on the hour when a Flatirons striker broke away and sat the keeper on his arse before rounding him to roll the ball into the empty net.

It was a niggly game and CISA didn’t take well to being behind. There were a few tackles where the foot was left in and plenty of off the ball contact. One of the home coaches was sent off for bending the ear of the fourth official one time too many and his team picked up at least two yellows for dissent.

Flatirons sealed the points from a free-kick on the edge of the box that they took quickly and whilst the CIMA defence were still trying to organize the lining up of a wall. A simple pass to a man stood unmarked in the box allowed him the luxury of knocking the ball into an open goal whilst the keeper was still holding the far post and demanding the wall moved six inches to the left.

Torch FC v Pennsylvania Classics, Sunday 5th June 2022, 6pm

June 7, 2022

After spending a couple of nights in a hut on top of a hill in Kempton Jen and I moved on to the nearby town of Buckingham. It’s another small place and less than sixty miles from Newark Airport where we’ll need to swap hire cars.

Jen had noticed that there was a heritage railway on the way and so we stopped to take a ride. The conductor was an friendly fella to chat to and despite having worked there since ’76, a relative new boy compared to some of the other volunteers. There was an old bloke sat near to us who spoke just like Paulie Walnuts. I made sure that I did nothing to upset him.

Buckingham has a nearby nature reserve and so we spent a couple of hours following some of the trails. I’d been hoping to stumble across bears and snakes like our last visit to the states, but the most we saw were squirrels and a heron. It was still a worthwhile wander about though and with plenty of tree cover we managed to spend most of our time in the shade.

One of the other advantages of Buckingham was that there was a fourth tier fixture scheduled for the evening of our arrival and as it was only twenty-minutes down the road we popped along. Torch FC were taking on Pennsylvania Classics in the Keystone Conference of the National Premier Soccer League. It’s a short competition with the eleven teams in the league playing each other just the once and all within a seven week period.

The game took place at Pennridge High School. There wasn’t a fixed price for admission but a suggested donation of ten dollars a head. Whilst it struck me as expensive for a fourth-tier game, we’d paid twice that for third-tier Richmond a few days earlier and so I coughed up. We were given a free programme which was a pleasant surprise.

Refreshments were better value with Jen getting a one dollar pretzel whilst I went big on a two dollar hot-dog.

I learned from the programme that Torch FC are a sort of Christian missionary project, a ministry through sport. Prior to the national anthem, which was sung by the club president from the commentary box, there was a prayer thanking God for providing a sunny day suitable for football. I’m sure there are plenty of football fans that will offer up a prayer during a game, more likely in respect of the result rather than the weather, but I’ve always thought that if there were any gods listening they’d have better things to do than get caught up in sporting events, particularly obscure ones.

Having said that, I’ve probably got better things to do most of the time than attending lower tier fixtures, so who’s to say that gods don’t have a similar mindset and are happy to prioritise prayers for minor leagues over major pandemics.

Once again, the pitch was cluttered with markings for a variety of sports in different colours. I reckon that six different activities took place on the pitch, including lacrosse. One benefit, I suppose, was that the ref was able to avoid pacing out ten yards at a free-kick and instead simply referred the players to the American Football one-yard markings to determine the placing of the wall.

Torch were in white with an orange trim, whilst Pennsylvania Classiscs were in a dark blue and teal kit. The players were all very polite, some of them referring to the ref as ‘sir’. We should adopt that in England.

Not a lot happened for most of the first half. Torch rattled a post a few minutes from the break before opening the scoring a couple of minutes into added time when the keeper flapped at a cross and someone tapped home from close range.

Torch doubled their lead on the hour before Classics notched a couple of goals to level the scores with fifteen minutes remaining. The points went Torch’s way though with a disputed late penalty that led to off the ball head-butting and a distinctly un-Christian reluctance from those involved to turn the other cheek.