AP NEWS

Years after soccer peak, another shot at the goal

February 23, 2019

The best soccer player I know hails from Japan.

Visions of his soccer prowess still cut across my daydreams from time to time.

Yusuke-san (last name omitted for privacy reasons) was much taller than me in college, but just as slim. He didn’t look like your typical soccer player or athlete.

He earned the respect of the Division III college soccer team at the school I attended and had true technical ability. He hit passes most players wouldn’t even see if watching soccer on the television.

In college I had to train like Goku in Dragon Ball Z (before he spars with Perfect Cell) to stay competitive with players like that. But no matter how hard I tried, I was only just able to hang – I would never quite get over the hump to the next level, unlike Goku.

Nevertheless, with 10 years on my body, and a belly that is now shamefully larger than a soccer ball, I once again found myself among some good soccer players at the Med City FC tryouts.

Med City FC plays in the National Premier Soccer League. It’s an amateur soccer side that will enter its third season on May 7, in a non-league match at home at Rochester Community and Technical College Regional Stadium. The season runs through July.

It was a last-minute decision to participate in the event. Having bicycled and rowed religiously this winter – and run sparingly – I was in no shape to last long at the tryout.

I’ll spare you most of the details of my own attempts. Suffice it to say, 22 was a long time ago. I played out of position on defense, as I refused to take my favored right wing position from a player actually trying out. Team owner Frank Spaeth said I wasn’t the worst player out there, but it was obvious no one escapes the never-ending march of time.

It’s easy to lose confidence and feel unmoored when you realize how truly you’ve betrayed your own body, and find it betraying you in turn upon a soccer pitch, a place that once felt like home. To have known something so intimately and then lost such a grasp as life goes by.

Fortunately, there was plenty for me to be excited about, as I watched the rest of the players. I didn’t run into anyone of Yusuke’s caliber (he was, after all, one of the best youth Japanese players during his time in high school). But there were plenty of hopefuls who may make Med City FC’s next season great.

Two of the six standouts for me happened to be teammates in Nebraska at Hastings College.

Aidan Buryska from Owatonna was one. The ‘keeper made some excellent reflex saves, holding onto the ball instead of parrying it away. And the 20-year-old is not even the starting ’keeper on his college team.

Buryska tried out last year but was injured. He came back for another shot because a college teammate from Norway wanted to try and stay in the area and see if they could make the team.

“As soon as I could walk, basically, it was soccer,” Buryska said. He then acknowledged the high level of play on display during tryouts.

Med City will only choose about 10 people from the tryouts to add to a backbone of 12 to 15 players from the previous two seasons. Over the past two years, Med City has been a favorite to win the league or gain a playoff spot. So far, they’ve failed to do either.

They have also lost longtime captain Midhat Mujic, who formed another amateur soccer team in Rochester in November.

But the players on display have given Spaeth some hope.

“I certainly saw at least a good handful of players I think have the potential to play with us,” Spaeth said.