ASF Hosts USASA All-Stars for a Weekend of Pro-Level Soccer

United States Adult Soccer Association’s (USASA) top amateur players from Region 1 came together for a weekend of soccer action. The Region 1 All-Stars arrived in Washington Twp NJ on Thursday, August 2. They trained Thursday and Friday before playing the Philadelphia Fury on Saturday and the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) Eastern Conference All-Stars on Sunday.

Region 1 Board Member, Jim Antonakas, played a key role in organizing the weekend’s events.

“My mission is to help amateur players in the region and across the country reach their goal of playing pro soccer,” said Antonakas. “When you bring guys like Matt [Driver] and Aleks [Mihailovic] you know you’re going to get professional training.

“You also get two guys that are in tune with the world of pro soccer in America,” added Antonakas. “They have the ability to identify which players have the potential to move on and play at the next level.”

NPSL Technical Director & Atlantic Soccer Factory (ASF) President, Matt Driver and USASA National Coaching Director, Aleks Mihailovic were chosen to get the All-Stars ready to play in only two days.

“It all starts with the selection process,” said Mihailovic. “The selection methods used by the coaching staff and Region 1 were spot on, it takes a special approach to unify a group in a short period of time and I believe the correct players were chosen to fill the necessary roles, which allowed us to be successful.”

The Region 1 All-Stars trained at Total Turf Experience in Pitman, NJ during their time together. Their training included a morning and afternoon session each day as well as a special Q & A session with a select panel of the Area’s most distinguished soccer minds.

“The training facilities at Total Turf were world class,” said Driver. “Andy [Logar] and his staff took care of paying attention to detail which allowed us to run a professional mini camp.”

“The Total Turf facilities proved to as versatile as it was matriculate,” added Driver.  “They provided us food via their Turfside Cafe and a conference room perfect for our panel of the weekend’s coaching staff and Lain Munro, former professional footballer and current director of the Philadelphia Union “Union Juniors” training program.”

The All-Stars’ first chance to showcase their talent and ability to play cohesive soccer came on Saturday when they traveled to Daniel Boone High School in Birdsboro, PA to play the Philadelphia Fury. The Fury returned to the US Soccer scene by winning US Club Soccer’s National Adult League (NAL) Men’s Premier Division.

The storied Fury brand is iconic to American soccer and was a member of the original National Adult Soccer League (NASL). The NASL included players and teams the became legends by the end of their careers including Pele, NY Cosmos, and Franz Beckenbaur.

Driver purchased the rights to the Fury in 2012 and it joined the Atlantic Soccer Factory family of teams that includes the AC Crusaders (NPSL) and Philadelphia Fever of the WPSL Elite League, the top level of women’s soccer in America.

The All-Star Team played well against the Fury and came away with a 4-0 victory. The Fury played well and were able to create a few scoring opportunities but couldn’t handle the offensive firepower on the Region 1 side.

“The All -Stars were very talented,” said Fury Head Coach, Joe Ricci. “They were very quick and had great technical ability and their speed of play on and off of the ball was impressive.”

“We certainly had a tall task ahead of us but I was pleased with the way the Fury played,” added Ricci. ” I was pleased with the intensity level and I believe we matched their level of play as best as we could throughout the match.”

Driver and Mihailovic both played pro soccer  in the APSL and NASL, respectively. Between them, they have coached at every level of professional soccer in America including the MLS. They know what it takes to play soccer professionally and they believe some players displayed the ability to play at that level this weekend.

“All field players performed at a high pace and goalkeepers consistently provided stability and leadership,” said Mihailovic. ” The style of play was a significant part of the team’s success. It allowed tactical flexibility and individual improvisation in appropriate situations.”

The Region 1 All-Stars next challenge was the NPSL – Eastern Conference All-Stars. The match was hosted by Oliver Papraniku and Joseph Sullivan of Jersey City Eagles (NPSL) and was played on Sunday at Cochrane Stadium in Jersey City, NJ.

The Region 1 side scored four goals once again on route to a 4-2 victory over the NPSL All-Stars led by Ngwasse Omengwasse and his four goals this weekend including a hat-trick on Sunday.

“Between the two sides, the NPSL and Region 1 were represented by 40 of the most promising soccer talents in the region, ” said Driver. “The score isn’t reflective of a great disparity of talent because Region 1 had two days to train together and the NPSL side didn’t have any. “

” I know for certain that if the NPSL side were also given professional training the score would have been closer,” added Driver. ” It just goes to show you how proper preparation, planning, and leadership gives players the ability to showcase their talents in optimal settings for success.

The NPSL All-Stars were chosen by Eastern Conference coaches and were led by Kevin Grogan, Head coach of the Jersey City Eagles and Joe Ricci, Head Coach of the Philadelphia Fury and Daniel Boone High School Boys Varsity team. The Region 1 All-Stars were selected through scouting at the Donnelly Cup and other USASA Open Cup games.

“Overall the entire weekend was a huge success and I compliment Region 1 for the proactive approach they took by supporting this event,” said Mihalovic. “A lot of credit goes to Jimmy [Antonakas] for taking the lead and the players, administrators, and coaching staff for the effort they all provided in making the event successful.”

Antonakas believes this weekend’s success and other events like this will help expand the program to the national level. He works tirelessly to promote soccer in America and owns Mass United FC (NPSL) in Boston.

“The weekend was a huge success,” commented Antonakas. ” Everything was professionally run and it was great way to jumpstart plans to take the program to a national level and include amateur players from Regions 2,3, and 4.”

For more information about USASA and Region 1 please visit www.USASA.com and for more information on the NPSL please visit www.NPSL.info.