The daily Astorian. (Astoria, Or.) 1961-current, April 20, 2017, Page 9, Image 19

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    APRIL 20, 2017 // 9
Continued from page 8
victim of its own success. It collapsed a couple of years ago under the
weight of its two or three best teams.
Local soccer culture, however, nourished by the Hispanic commu-
nity, continues to fl ourish.
At least three distinct, but complementary, mens’ soccer leagues
have evolved locally since La Liga’s demise, each with its own ap-
Stroll by St. Mary Star of the Sea gym most any Sunday night, and
you’ll hear gym shoes squeaking on the hardwood fl oor, punctuated
by the frequent muffl ed concussion of cannon shots on goal. Inside,
Alcones have a slim lead over Arnie’s Café. Come on in, have a seat.
The second half has just begun.
A few years ago, the parish was exploring ways to make its gym
more useful to the community. Someone asked Gustavo Velazquez.
“You’re talking to the right person,” he said. Velazquez had
coached youth soccer at the Lower Columbia Youth Soccer Associ-
ation and, for 12 years, Astoria High School soccer with legends Bois-
vert and Bill Patterson. He saw an opportunity to create a local futsal
“My son was going clear to Portland each week to play,” he said.
“Why don’t we start a league here?”
Futsal — played, often on a borrowed basketball court , by teams
of fi ve, with smaller goals and an appropriately deadened, smaller
ball — rewards excellent technique: quick touches, precise passing,
frequent shots, agile goalkeeping.
At Star of the Sea, games start at 5 p.m. and continue on the hour
until all eight teams have played. After 10 weeks, a short tournament
between the top teams follows. Then teams reorganize, and, two
weeks later, another season begins.
Velazquez organizes, referees, plays, opens the gym, turns out the
lights and builds relationships among folks from a diverse community.
“Everybody is welcome to play,” Velazquez said. “This is for the
whole community, not just the Spanish speakers.”
Futsal players and fans, grateful for the gym’s shelter in winter,
look forward also to games outdoors. Dave Plechl, a former NCAA
player at Portland State and the coach of the youth soccer associa-
tion’s U18 team North Coast United, admits: “Playing outdoors with a
full-size ball in springtime air is where people want to be.”
So, with the support of the Oregon Adult Soccer Association and
the youth soccer association, Plechl has arranged a six-team league
that plays Wednesday nights, two games at 6 p.m. and another at 7:30
p.m., through June 14. Teams of seven play on a half-size fi eld, a
natural extension of futsal. “Lots of decisions, lots of touches, lots of
scoring opportunities,” Plechl said. He, like many players, continues
to play futsal Sunday evenings.
“Two competitive events a week is about what people want,” he
said. “It’s good for the community. A lot of friends play against each
Team Real played Team Astoria in 2015 at the Warrenton Soccer Complex.
A player celebrates a goal during a soccer match in sum-
mer 2010 at the Warrenton Soccer Complex.
A young family member plays near the fi elds
during a La Liga game in summer 2010.
About the time the spring outdoor season ends in Warrenton,
another begins in Cannon Beach, where Wednesday evenings families
gather to picnic and visit, and watch their friends and neighbors play
soccer, eight to a side, on the long, slow grass of the city park fi eld.
Leo Luna, who years ago, at 13, may have been the youngest play-
er ever in the men’s league, organizes one of the six Cannon Beach
“We’re not athletes. We don’t do this for a living. We laugh with
each other. It’s something to do besides working. But there are mo-
ments of brilliance.” He laughs. “I scored a bicycle kick one time.”
New fans will fi nd the soccer is satisfying, and the company is
A player reaches back for a kick during a La
Liga game in 2010.
Two players battle for the ball in 2010.