Tag Archives: Soccer

MLS unveils plans for Queens soccer stadium


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of Major League Soccer

Major League Soccer (MLS) announced their rough plans for a soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park this morning, and hopes to reach an agreement with the city in the near future.

“This is a project that we have been dreaming about since the league was founded many, many years ago in 1996,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “This would be our second team in New York. This is a soccer country and this is entirely a soccer community here in Queens… Our goal is to bring the world’s game to the world’s park.”

The planned stadium is expected to seat 25,000 soccer fans, and host 20 games a year — which would be held when the Mets are not playing, Garber said. MLS would expand to create a new team for the stadium. Construction of the stadium, if approved, would create up to 2,300 union jobs; there would be 160 full-time and 750 part-time jobs once the stadium is completed.

The league hopes to reach a deal with the city soon, Garber said, and hoped a lease-agreement will be inked within the next month.

The eyed spot for the stadium is currently the Fountain of Planets, or Industry Pond, which many have called an under used area of the park. Ten to 13 acres of parkland will be eaten up in the project, Garber said, but only one acre used will be from grass areas. Garber, a Queens native, and MLS officials said they looked at a number of spots throughout the city, including Pier 40, but felt the Queens park was the prime spot for the stadium.

“We settled here in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park because we think it’s the absolute perfect place to have our 20th team,” he said.

SHoP, designer of the recently-opened Barclays Center, has been tapped to design the stadium, Garber confirmed. A concept is expected to go public in the next few weeks.

MLS is expected to reach out to the community for feedback and concerns in the next 30 days, Garber said. Community reaction to this project, and the land that will be lost, has been met with mixed reactions from surrounding communities.

If the city approves the deal, which would take 15 to 18 months and cost anywhere from $300 million to $350 million, MLS is required to replace all parkland that would be alienated by the project. The stadium would be privately financed, Garber said.

In addition to new, nearby green space, MLS has vowed to refurbish the seven soccer fields around the site — some will have to be relocated because of the stadium’s footprint. These fields would be completely renovated before construction began, Garber said.

Some of the spots MLS has looked at include the western waterfront of Flushing Creek and the land around an abandoned rail yard in Rego Park.

Garber’s goal for groundbreaking on the project is 2014, with a 2016 or 2017 opening. He said the league has been speaking with a number of potential team owners, and one could be named within the next six to eight months.

Hundreds rally against development at Flushing Meadows


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

The Unisphere was lit-up red for American Heart Month

Hundreds of residents packed into the Our Lady of Sorrows auditorium in Corona to make known that they want to keep their park.

Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the biggest park in Queens, is currently being considered for the development of a new shopping mall, two new stadiums and concert venues and several parking garages and roads inside the park.

“We are here this evening because we are going to discuss an area that is our neighbor, it means so much to us,” said Monsignor Thomas Healy of Our Lady of Sorrows.

Several people held up signs reading, “Don’t destroy our second home,” and “Don’t kill our nature.”

The Fairness Coalition of Queens, a group of nonprofit community and religious organizations, hosted the town hall meeting on Monday, September 17 to speak with the community about the effects of the potential projects in the 1,255-acre park.

Many residents are displeased with the proposed plans because they wish to keep an area that, for many, is the only open space available near home. They do not want to lose an area that many people use for both relaxation and exercise.

City Councilmember Julissa Ferreras was also in attendance, and spoke to an enthusiastic crowd about her love for Flushing Meadows.

“We understand that each inch of land we give up is an inch we are not getting back,” she said. “Today this [meeting] has shown to the world that our community does matter, and that our park is our park.”

Amongst hopeful developers are the Wilpon family, the owner of the New York Mets, who proposes to use parkland west of Citi Field to build the largest shopping mall in the city, at 1.4 million-square-feet.

Also, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) wishes to construct two new tennis stadiums and two parking garages within the park.

Danny Zausner, managing director of the tennis center, previously said that the USTA plans will not impact the spot in a footprint perspective.

“We’re taking our existing parking lots in that perimeter and building up,” Zausner said.

Finally, Major League Soccer (MLS) seeks to build a 25,000-seat stadium and concert venue, along with an additional parking garage.

Senator Jose Peralta advocates the construction of an MLS stadium, and has a number of supporters behind him.

Peralta, a Willets Point supporter who went to Monday’s meeting, says that having a new soccer field in a soccer-crazed community could only be beneficial. The number of construction, game-day and permanent jobs could be advantageous to the largely working-class population.

If an MLS stadium is constructed, the senator’s office is also looking into replacement parkland to establish nearby.

In a statement issued by the MLS, it is said that the organization is committed to securing another team for the league located in New York City, and are “thrilled about bringing the world’s sport to the world’s park.” MLS is open to working with the community to build a facility for everyone to enjoy, they said.

“A privately financed soccer stadium to replace a big hole in the ground filled with dirty water is a good deal for soccer fans and the park-goers who would get to enjoy the many upgrades to the park,” said Peralta.

Queens Morning Roundup


| brennison@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST

Friday: Scattered showers and thunderstorms, mainly after 5 p.m. Mostly sunny, with a high near 92. Southwest wind 7 to 13 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30 percent. Friday Night: Showers and thunderstorms likely, mainly between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 69. Chance of precipitation is 60 percent.

EVENT of the DAY: “Knocked Up” at Rufus King Park

8 p.m. – 10:30 p.m., A one-night stand results in an unexpected pregnancy for entertainment reporter Alison (Katherine Heigl), who vows to be a good mom and keep her career on track by trying to make things work with the slacker (Seth Rogen) who knocked her up. It’s anything but smooth sailing as the odd couple gets acquainted, but Alison finds there’s more to her baby’s daddy than she originally thought.  Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Teacher sues over ‘preach’ of contract

A veteran public-school teacher who was canned for calling students “racist” and referring to herself as a “Messenger of God” is suing to get her job back. Dr. Patricia Missick, who had been fined and reprimanded several years ago for verbally abusing students and for incompetence, riled eighth-graders at JHS 189 in Queens by repeatedly mentioning her close ties to God. Read more: NY Post

Carriage horse bucks itself free near Central Park, sends driver, 2 passengers spilling into street

A runaway carriage horse wreaked havoc during the start of rush hour Thursday afternoon, unhitching himself and running off before hitting a parked car near Columbus Circle. A man and woman were enjoying a ride around the popular tourist spot around 4:20 p.m. when the driver tried to merge into traffic at the circle, witnesses said. Read more: Daily News

Banned soccer players can now use Flushing Meadows-Corona Park during U.S. Open

The city banned thousands of amateur soccer players from using Flushing Meadows-Corona Park during the U.S. Open — and then back-pedalled following a Daily News inquiry. Soccer leagues, primarily made up of immigrants, have used the fields for decades but were informed earlier this year that they would not be allowed to use the park from Aug. 25 to Sept. 10. Read more: Daily News

Romney says he paid at least 13% in taxes for last ten years

Mitt Romney has paid no less than 13 percent in personal income taxes over the past ten years, he said Thursday. The presumptive GOP nominee has faced withering criticism from Democrats over the release of his tax returns, including a charge by Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid that Romney had paid no taxes for a ten year period. Read more: NY1

NYC report critical of public housing agency

The city’s public housing authority is beset by inefficient management and bureaucratic practices that contribute to a growing repair backlog of hundreds of thousands of work orders, a city-hired consultant said in a report made public Thursday. City Housing Authority Commissioner John Rhea said following the release that he will seek to overhaul the agency’s board, and officials stressed that some of the recommended changes in the report by The Boston Consulting Group were already under way. Read more: NBC New York

 

Ecuador routs Chile in front of thousands at Citi Field


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photo by Terence Cullen

Draped in a Chilean flag outside of Citi Field, Manuel Rojas stood with his father as they were interviewed by Ernesto Diaz — who Rojas said was a big name in Chilean radio.

Rojas, 18, from Bridgeport, Connecticut, predicted Chile would best Ecuador in the night’s international friendly match at the ballpark 2-1, despite the fan base being mostly dressed in Ecuador yellow — many of whom predicted the same score in Ecuador’s favor.

“[Chile fans] come to this sport even if we’re out numbered on to a million,” he said.

Rojas’ game prediction fell short, however, as Chile lost to Ecuador 3-0 on Wednesday, August 15 to the roaring cheer of thousands of Ecuador fans.

See photos from the game

Last year, Ecuador played an exhibition match against Greece — also in reflection to two prominent cultures in the city — but the game ended in a draw. This year they came back in an attempt to claim Citi Field as theirs.

From the coin toss — by honorary Ecuador captain and Assemblymember Francisco Moya — onward for the next 90 minutes, fans cheered, groaned in frustration and waived Ecuadorian and Chilean flags.

The scoring kicked off early on when Ecuador and Manchester United star Antonio Valencia fed the ball to Narciso Mina, netting the first goal past Chilean Miguel Pinto. A scream of Ecuadorian cheers resonated through Citi, leaving the stadium shaking.

All of this in the backdrop of Ecuador in a diplomatic spat with the United Kingdom over granting asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Asange.

Some hailed from these countries, others had roots there, and others were just fans of the game with unique connections to one of these two countries.

Evelyn Pallo, born in Guayaquil, Ecuador and now living in Flushing, saw Ecuador play in New Jersey a few years ago but said she was excited when she heard the team she devoutly follows was coming to Queens.

Others were coming to get a better feel for the sport and the fanbase the city has.

Steve Dordal from Bayside was stationed in Ecuador with the U.S. Navy in 1983 and said he enjoyed his time there.

What brought Dordal, 44, to this game was an interest in soccer and desire to see what the fan base in Queens was like after hearing a soccer stadium might be coming to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

“I just want to see how many people show up and the enthusiasm of the people in the area,” he said

During his stay, Dordal said he and other sailors worked on an orphanage, where they played the game with some of the local children. Despite being much younger, he said, the children beat the American opponents and left an impression on them.

Plan for Queens soccer stadium moving forward


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

DSC_0985w

Talks of a potential soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park are closing toward a final deal, the New York Post reported, although several state and city officials would not confirm plans were nearing completion.

The final plan, a state official told The Post, would be a $300 million stadium that holds 25,000 fans. It would be completely funded by Major League Soccer (MLS) and could break ground early next year. The city would give up nine acres of the massive park for the stadium, which would be returned by the state for development elsewhere, it was reported.

MLS, however, would still have to meet with transit, city and state officials, it was reported.

News broke in late June that MLS was talking to officials for a stadium in the park. The stadium would also lead to the 20th MLS team, and the New York area’s second, after the Red Bulls, who play in Harrison, N.J.

Officials would not confirm that a deal was close, but said talks so far had been productive.

“We’ve been in close contact with MLS, we’ve met with them several times, but there are several projects going on right now in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and we have to look at them as a whole,” said Tarik Coles, a spokesperson for Councilmember Julissa Ferreras.

State Senator Jose Peralta said he was glad to hear that general progress toward the potential stadium was moving forward, and that, if given the green light, the stadium can complement other development in the area.

“It’s encouraging to hear the progress that is being made on an economic development project that will create badly needed construction and permanent jobs,” Peralta said. “With a centrally located soccer stadium that has Citi Field and the United States Tennis Center as neighbors, and an extensive transportation infrastructure servicing the area, there is the potential to create a world-class sports and entertainment destination in north central Queens that is second to none.”

Should the plan go through, it would be the second major New York soccer addition this year. The New York Cosmos were incorporated into the North American Soccer League in July, re-establishing the city’s original franchise that once had players like Brazilian superstar Pele.

Upon the Cosmos’ entrance into the league, an MLS spokesperson said the league was happy the storied franchise was coming back.

“We welcome the Cosmos’ entrance to the NASL,” she said in an email. “Having a vibrant second division is important to the overall growth and popularity of soccer in North America, and we are pleased to see the NASL add a new franchise.”

The team, the spokesperson added, could potentially play some part in creating a Queens-based MLS team.

“Major League Soccer remains committed to securing an expansion team in New York City,” she said. “The current focus is on exploring a stadium site, but we will continue discussions with several potential ownership groups, including the Cosmos, about the possibility of joining the efforts to bring a second MLS team to New York.”

The plan as a whole, however, does not sit well with all in the city. The New York City Park Advocates, which spoke out against some components of the U.S. Tennis Center renovations, said the city – more so the Bloomberg Administration – was giving up parkland for commercial use.

“The city treats parkland as a cheap date,” said Geoffrey Croft, president of Park Advocates. “They do whatever they want without any care, and it’s just sad.”

Acres of parks were being given up for commercial development, Croft said, and regular park users were feeling the brunt of it.

 

Ecuador to face Chile at Citi Field


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

It’ll be a different kind of pitch.

For one night only, the Citi Field diamond will play host to a match between the Ecuadorian and Chilean national teams on Wednesday, August 15, as the sport continues to become more popular in the city and the country.

Chile is currently ranked 15th in the world, according to the most recent FIFA standings. Ecuador is currently ranked five spots below, at 20.

At a July 30 press conference for the match, both the Consul General of Chile, Julio Fiol, and Consul General of Ecuador, Jorge Lopez, both recognized the large immigrant populations their respective nations had in Queens.

“We think the small Chilean community that is around here will come as a whole,” Fiol said. “And I take this opportunity to invite them all, as well as our Ecuadorian and Latin American friends.”

Assemblymember Francisco Moya, who grew up playing soccer in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, said at the conference that the game was an outstanding effort. He also testified to the large soccer-playing community in Queens.

“When we have two great [teams], that will showcase some of the world’s best soccer players right here in our own backyard,” he said. “I can only say they’ve done a tremendous job in the promotion of [this] game.”

This is just the third time in a year the ballpark has hosted a soccer match. Ecuador faced off against Greece at Citi last year, when Moya was named an honorary captain for former.

Days later, Italy’s Juventus FC took on Mexican team Club America, with Juventus taking it, 1 – 0.

The matches, much like this year’s, were intended to reflect the large immigrant populations in Queens, organizers said.

Soccer’s status continues to grow in the borough with talks of a professional soccer league team and stadium coming to Flushing Meadows.

Several elected officials confirmed the city was in talks with Major League Soccer (MLS) about a potential team coming to Queens. It would be the second MLS team in the metropolitan area, along with the New York Red Bulls.

While there are not contingent plans for a stadium, or what would be the league’s 20th team, officials and MLS said they are confident and excited to explore bringing a new team to the area.

And only a few weeks ago, at Resorts World Casino New York City, former FC Aston Villa star Ian Taylor spent a morning with some 30 members of the South Queens Boys & Girls club to teach them fundamentals of the game.

“We are thrilled to work with Resorts World Casino New York City and give a special experience to children from the South Queens Boys and Girls Club,” Taylor said at the event.

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

EVENT of the DAY: 14th annual free summer concert at St. John’s University

This year the Queens Symphony Orchestra presents “La Traviata” at the 14th Annual St. John’s University Summer Concert. Wednesday, August 1, at 7 p.m. on the Queen’s Campus Great Lawn. No charge and no tickets are necessary, just bring your lawn chair or blanket and enjoy live opera under the stars, there’s no better way to spend a warm summer evening.

[Click here for more info] or to [submit an event of your own]

Neighbors say empty lot in Queens is a nuisance

Some residents of Whitestone, Queens, say that an undeveloped six-acre lot has become a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other creatures. The developer, Whitestone jewels, broke ground on the land about 4 years ago when they planned to build more than 50 homes. Read more: [Fox 5]

Queens homeowner says root of tree problem still exists

A huge, 100-year-old tree sits right outside Mickey Garnploog’s house in Woodside, Queens and he says it’s slowly but surely uprooting. Read More: [NY1]

Turnaround schools revert to old names

The city has retreated from part of its turnaround plan for 24 low-performing schools, telling principals the schools will keep their original names. A Department of Education letter to principals outlined the change in strategy regarding the names, and offered guidance on how to get the schools in shape before September. The schools affected include John Dewey High School in Brooklyn and Newtown High School in Queens, among others. [NY Times]

Queens’ new top architect

Derek Lee, the Buildings Department’s new Queens Borough Commissioner, started his second stint this earlier this month as the borough’s top architect. Lee, who oversees more than 15,000 blocks of houses, work sites and developments, said his top priority is safety. Read More: [NY Daily News]

Soccer’s worldwide popularity stretches to Queens

From the friendly pick-up games to a growing number of leagues and tournaments, soccer fever is high in Queens. It’s a summertime favorite for many immigrants, who play in the shadow of Citi Field and parks and playgrounds across the borough. Read More: [NY1]

Op Ed: Soccer stadium would be a major league score


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

moya headshot

BY ASSEMBLYMEMBER FRANCISCO MOYA

With Major League Soccer (MLS) looking to expand in New York City and a growing population addicted to the world’s game, the time has come for a dedicated soccer stadium within the city. And there is no better place for it than in the park where my father taught me to play soccer as a young boy: Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

Currently, the closest MLS team is in New Jersey. For the last few years, MLS leadership has shown an interest in an expansion team within New York.

But the big question remains: Where will this future team play? In recent weeks, MLS has made clear its interest in building a soccer specific stadium, built with private dollars, in Queens.

A soccer-only facility in Queens is the perfect location for many reasons. Most important of all, the fans are here. As the son of immigrants from Ecuador and a lifelong soccer fan, I know first-hand how passionate Queens residents are about soccer. In cities with successful professional soccer franchises, new immigrant communities form the backbone of the fan base, including D.C. United and the Los Angeles Galaxy. The same would surely happen in Queens. Finally, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is a prime location—within easy reach of the entire city by public transportation and Long Island and home to the busiest international airport in North America.

A dedicated soccer stadium would also benefit the people of Queens, both financially and culturally.

For starters, building a world-class soccer arena in Queens would bring between 2,000 and 2,200 good-paying construction jobs, with tens of millions infused into the local economy. Going forward, Major League Soccer matches, international exhibition games and other events would bring needed dollars and 300 full time and 900 part time permanent jobs to the borough. MLS reported that a similar soccer-only stadium in Kansas City will have a $500 million annual economic impact.

Soccer would also have indirect and profound benefits for the people of Queens. Consider the increased emphasis on healthy alternatives for children and the improved focus on after school recreational opportunities. And a pro team would bring world-class soccer players right to our neighborhoods, giving the next generation of children a sense of hope and instill the confidence needed for our kids to be successful.

As the momentum behind Major League Soccer in New York City continues to grow, it is time to act. The people of Queens are ready, willing and able to support a team. It begins with a dedicated soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

 

City, MLS in talks to bring soccer to Queens


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Elected officials and soccer fans alike are hoping that they city does not pass on a soccer stadium in Queens.

The city has been in talks with Major League Soccer (MLS) to build a stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and bring what would be the league’s 20th team to Queens, a state official said. Currently, MLS runs a 19-team league across North America; 16 teams in the U.S. and three in Canada. The stadium would hold somewhere between 20,000 to 25,000 fans.

Assemblymember Francisco Moya has been advocating for the stadium. A dedicated soccer fan since childhood, Moya said a stadium in the borough’s largest park would be an economic and cultural boon to the area.

Citing accessibility to mass transit and the soccer culture in the surrounding neighborhoods, Moya said the stadium would be an economic boost for the borough, as well as an affordable venue for soccer fans — the cheapest ticket for a game, he said, would only be about $20.

The stadium would be privately financed and not affect taxpayers, Moya said. It would be built over the defunct pools in the park, he said, with MLS revamping the park’s soccer fields if the project goes through.

An MLS spokesperson said there were not any contingent plans for a soccer stadium and gave the following statement:

“Major League Soccer remains committed to securing a 20th team for the league that would be located in New York City. We are thrilled about the prospect of being in Queens and bringing the world’s sport to the world’s park,” the spokesperson said in an email. “We are in exploratory discussions with the city and with Queens officials and look forward to working with the community to build a world class soccer facility for all to enjoy.”

Councilmember Julissa Ferreras, who represents some of the neighborhoods around the park, said she’s met with MLS and looks forward to working with the league. At the same time, she said it was important potential projects also take civic needs into consideration.

“I have a series of meetings scheduled with Major League Soccer. I am excited about this opportunity,” she said. “However, it is important to ensure that any plan is fair and considers the needs and concerns of the community.”

The Wall Street Journal — when it first broke the news that plans for a stadium were in talks — noted the arena could become a competitor to Citi Field just across the park.

The ballpark hosted a soccer match between Ecuador and Greece last year; Moya, who is of Ecuadorian descent, was made an honorary captain for the South American country’s team.

And though he said he would fully support a Queens team, he said his allegiance would always remain with his beloved Barcelona, a Spanish team with a worldwide following.

Germany fans disappointed in loss to Azzuri


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

As their team fell to Italy in the Euro Cup semi-finals Thursday afternoon, Germany fans that poured into Zum Stammtisch in Glendale banged tankards of beer against wooden tables as they saw their hopes dashed.

The restaurant has been hosting Euro Cup 2012 viewing parties, to the delight of German-American fans in the neighborhood.

Steve Brunner said Zum Stammtisch has been a meeting place for residents and German fans in the neighborhood to cheer on their team over a few beers.

“[Soccer is] part of the German culture and you get a feel of that when you’re in this place,” he said.

Brunner’s own interest in soccer developed four years ago when he was in the Black Forest for a family wedding. He and his uncle decided to visit Munich, where they saw Germany play Austria — and instantly became a fan.

The restaurant has brought in decent sized crowds for games that are normally played in the late morning or mid-afternoon.

“We’re getting 80 to 100 people,” said Werner Lehner, who owns the restaurant along with his brother Hans.

Lehner said Zum Stammtisch especially gets a crowd when the German National Team is playing, bringing in familiar friends and dedicated fans from the neighborhood.

After Italy scored its second goal, the packed back room – with a 10-foot projection screen – was filled with boos and the sounds of fists banging on wooden tables.

One fan screamed, “Do they have this referee’s family tied to a tree somewhere in Europe?”

Spanish La Liga Week 24 Roundup


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Real Madrid were fortunate to maintain their double digit lead in the race for the La Liga crown in Week 24, after a resilient Rayo Vallecano side made life very difficult for the league front runners.

Los Blancos were able to overcome Rayo 1-0 thanks to a beautiful back heel finish by Cristiano Ronaldo – easily one of the top goals of the campaign thus far. Rayo appeared the more interested side for a large part of the game, with Piti hitting a post and Michu being denied by a last minute tackle by Sergio Ramos in the first half.

Madrid manager Jose Mourinho reportedly admitted his team was lucky to escape with three points. Rayo not only held a larger percentage of the possession – 54 percent to Madrid’s 46 percent – but they also had more than double the corner kicks, 12 to five.

The teams went into the break with the match at a scoreless draw, but Madrid’s greatest goal threat put them ahead in the 54th minute, when Ronaldo collected a loose ball in the box and powerfully propelled a shot with the back of his foot through a crowd of defenders, past Rayo keeper Joel and into the far corner.

Despite a myriad of second half scoring opportunities for Rayo, substitute Jose Maria Callejon should have sealed the game for Madrid nine minutes from time – when Ronaldo’s cross found him alone in front of net – but the Spaniard’s touch on the ball sent it dribbling past the post and out for a goal kick.

Late game heroics by Lionel Messi kept Barcelona from slipping further behind Real in the standings, as the Blaugrana bested Atletico Madrid 2-1 at the Vicente Calderon.

Messi had a goal called back early in the first half after referee Perez Lasa ruled the Argentine controlled the ball with his hand – an offence for which he received a yellow card – but Dani Alves opened the scoring in the 36th minute. Messi eluded three defenders to lay the ball wide to Cesc Fabregas, whose cross found an unmarked Alves in the box for an easy finish.

Radamel Falcao brought Atletico level in the 49th minute by finishing Gabi’s corner, but Los Rojiblancos were destined to be denied the draw by the brilliance of Messi nine minutes from time.

The Ballon d’Or winner sent a stunning free kick curling over keeper Thibaut Courtois and into the far corner of the net for a magnificent goal. The play was not without controversy, however, as Atletico asserted they were still assembling their wall when the free kick was struck.

Despite going ahead early, third place Valencia were undone 2-1 by Sevilla in front of 50,000 supporters at the Mestalla.

Alberto Costa put the hosts in front in the 25th minute with a blistering, low strike from roughly 25 yards away that found the left corner of the goal.

Sevilla responded just nine minutes later, when Jesus Navas’ cross from the right found the head of Gary Medel in the center of the box.

Navas ultimately burned Valencia a second time by providing the decisive goal in the 70th minute. The Spaniard struck an easy finish after Frederic Kanoute’s pass found him alone in the six yard box.

In a clash of European hopefuls, Levante restored some semblance of order in their season by defeating Espanyol 2-1 at the Cornella-El Prat.

Espanyol came into the match behind fourth place Athletic Bilbao only on goal difference, while Levante were a mere point behind Los Leones.

Valdo put Levante ahead in the 24th minute when he received Arouna Kone’s pass in space and fired home past Francisco Casilla.

The frustrated home supporters were forced to wait until the 75th minute for an equalizer, when Kalu Uche headed home Joan Verdu’s floating free kick from the right side.

Ruben Suarez’s free kick from 30 yards restored Levante’s lead with less than two minutes remaining – proving to be the decisive play and providing the Valencia-based side with a gripping victory.

Villarreal – with their heads now above the relegation zone – rescued a point in a suspenseful 2-2 draw against Athletic Bilbao at El Madrigal.

The hosts struck first 10 minutes from the start thanks to a lovely free kick by captain Marcos Senna. The match went into the break with Villarreal in front, but Bilbao responded 17 minutes after the restart when substitute Fernando Llorente delivered a calm header to the back post.

The visitors captured the lead a mere four minutes later, in the 66th, when Markel Susaeta broke free on a counter attack and fired past keeper Diego Lopez.

Villarreal wasted no time in equalizing, as substitute Nilmar scored a rebound goal in the 68th minute after Bilbao keeper Gorka Iraizoz failed to hold a relatively weak strike by Alejandro Martinuccio.

Malaga thrashed lowly Real Zaragoza 5-1, with four goals in a span of 21 minutes. The La Liga bottom dwellers, who have now lost 15 matches thus far this campaign, took a shocking lead on Carlos Aranda’s goal in the 23rd minute, but Sebastian Fernandez headed home an equalizer for Malaga on the stroke of halftime. An own goal by Paulo Da Silva sparked Malaga’s onslaught, prompting subsequent strikes by Martin Demichelis, Isco and Jose Salomon Rondon.

Elsewhere in Spain, Osasuna stayed in the mix for a spot in Europe by defeating Granada 2-1 with a pair of first-half goals.

José Antonio Dorado Ramírez’s own goal cost Real Betis two points, as they tied 1-1 with Getafe.

Real Sociedad leapfrogged Mallorca in the La Liga standings with 1-0 victory provided by Imanol Agirretxe’s 79th minute goal.

A penalty by Christian Stuani in the 74th minute provided Racing Santander with a 1-1 draw at home against Sporting Gijon.

Pass it on: QC soccer star looks to inspire


| smosco@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Queens College Athletics/Brian Ballweg

Every star athlete remembers that moment when a coach or teacher impacts their life in such a way that it changes the way they think about sports. Coaching mentors have a way of doing that – they can shift the gears in an athlete’s mind with a few timely and inspirational words.

Some college athletes use those motivational moments to achieve in-game glory, while others stretch the meaning and apply it to life after school.

Andrea Slavin knew what she wanted to do with her life long before her days as a soccer star at Queens College began winding to a close. Slavin, 22, saw her future in physical education as an elementary school student.

“My life has always been about giving myself to people and helping them,” said the Queens College senior. “There is no feeling better than the feeling when someone learns something because of you. If I’m a teacher and the kids leave better than they were when they started, that’s all I can ask for.”

Slavin has a way of altering situations for the better. When she graduates from Queens College, the Floral Park resident will own the school’s scoring record in women’s soccer with 42 goals in 52 games played.

“Whenever I get the ball, my first thought is to score because that’s my job,” she said. “When the ball is at my feet, if I know that I can score, then there is no other option. I don’t even think about it. And after I score, it’s just a big sigh of relief.”

Amazingly, the record belongs to Slavin even though she has never played a full season for the Knights as a result of injury.

She was always able to play through pain, only missing a couple of games here and there. But last season, Slavin suffered a torn meniscus, and for the first time, an entire season was taken away from her.

“That was the last thing I wanted to hear. When that season was taken away, it was one of the most devastating things I’ve ever experienced,” she said. “With every other injury I was always able to push through, but I just got to a point where I just couldn’t play.”

Not playing that season was a difficult decision for Slavin. Skipping that year meant that she would have to register for an extra semester at Queens College and miss out on finishing her college career with the girls she started with.

But sometimes the most difficult moments in life turn out to be the ones that shape us the most. It was that experience of sitting on the bench and keeping her teammates’ spirits high that helped to solidify her talents as a coach and motivator.

“The girls said it was important to hear my voice and that I was there with them,” she said. “They were hurt too that I couldn’t play with them.”

Slavin was able to come back from that injury and eventually break the record. She did it without fanfare – only telling her parents after she got home – because she didn’t want her teammates to think she was only playing for personal glory.

The soccer forward now moves on to coaching in an attempt to inspire a new generation of athletes. Slavin was recently chosen to coach soccer in a program focusing on positive youth development through sports. Up2Us, a national nonprofit coalition, plucked Slavin from the soccer field to serve as a Coach Across America at America SCORES NY in Summer 2012.

“I’ve never volunteered before and I’m nervous, but I couldn’t be more excited,” she said. “The rest of my life I’m going to work with kids and be a role model and improve their skills – so this worked out great.”

Sports were always a way for Slavin to let go and relieve stress – now she wants to give others that same opportunity. She also wants to be that coach, the one to flip the switch in a young athlete’s mind.

“For children who don’t have a great home life, I hope I can make a difference,” she said. “Hopefully I can be someone they would remember.”

Spanish La Liga: Week 18 Roundup


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

There were tight matches at the top of the Spanish La Liga in Week 18, with Barcelona and Real Madrid narrowly escaping with three points following hard fought bouts.

Madrid faced a defensively resilient Mallorca side in front of 20,000 fans at the Iberostar Estadi on January 14. After a 39th minute goal on a glancing header by Tomer Hemed, the Madridistas found themselves in the unfamiliar position of playing from behind. Los Blancos controlled possession for the majority of the game (73 percent), but beyond a Sergio Ramos header that struck the post, they found it challenging to break down the stingy Balearic Island side.

Los Merengues were able to ultimately equalize in the 72nd minute. Mesut Ozil found Gonzalo Higuain behind the defense on the left side of the box, after which the Argentine calmly chipped the ball over the outstretched arms of Mallorca keeper Dudu Aouate. After getting their first taste of goal, the visitors went in search of a winner, and Cristiano Ronaldo nearly provided one with a thunderous long-range strike that jolted the crossbar. Madrid concluded their comeback six minutes from time, when Spanish starlet Jose Maria Callejon blasted a rebound that fell to his feet passed the out of place Aouate.

Reigning champions Barcelona also met stiff competition at the Camp Nou in the form of Real Betis. The Blaugrana were ahead 2-0 by the 12th minute thanks to an open netter by Xavi and signature Barcelona ball movement leading to an easy goal for Lionel Messi. Andres Iniesta stormed at the Betis defense and found Alexis Sanchez on the left wing. Sanchez delivered a pinpoint pass across the box to the 2011 FIFA Ballon d’Or winner, whose touch sent the ball racing passed Betis keeper Castro.

The Verdiblancos fought back to equalize with strikes by Ruben Castro and Roque Santa Cruz – the first goals surrendered by Barcelona at home all season – but the Seville-based club was undone by a second yellow card issued to Mario in the 70th. Sanchez restored the lead by displaying his powerful right foot on a brilliant strike in the 75th, which Castro got a hand to but was unable to keep out of his net.  Barca struck four on a penalty by Messi four minutes from time.

Valencia was stunned by 14th place Real Sociedad at the Mestalla, where they had previously lost only once thus far this campaign. Despite dominating most statistical categories, the home side was thwarted by a 56th minute goal by Antoine Griezmann.

Elsewhere in Spain, Atletico Madrid added to the misery of Villarreal with a 3-0 thrashing at the Vicente Calderon. A brace by Radamel Falcao and an 80th minute goal by Diego further buried the sinking yellow submarine, now placed second from the bottom.

Sporting Gijon topped Malaga 2-1 in thrilling fashion. After Ruud van Nistelrooy equalized for Malaga in the 87th minute, Oscar Trejo gave Gijon the victory in the 90th.

Osasuna’s 11-game unbeaten run at home came to an end, as Los Rojillos were bested by Racing Santander 2-0.

Athletic Bilbao thrashed fourth place Levante 3-0 with a brilliant first half that left them two goals ahead at the break.

Granada was beaten by Rayo Vallecano 2-1, and Sevilla and Espanyol played to a scoreless draw.

Bottom dwellers Real Zaragoza, who had managed only 10 points before the weekend, were unfortunate not to secure their third win of the season after an own goal by Javier Paredes 11 minutes from time gave Getafe the 1-1 draw.

Queens College senior to Coach Across America


| smosco@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Up2Us

This Floral Park resident and Queens College student is a star on the soccer field. A forward on the school’s women’s soccer team, the Knights, Andrea Slavin is a gamer with the accolades and skill to carry her to the next level.

For now, “the next level” is an opportunity to introduce the benefits of sports to the next generation of athletes. Slavin was recently chosen to coach soccer in a program focusing on positive youth development through sports. Up2Us, a national nonprofit coalition, plucked Slavin from the soccer field to serve as a Coach Across America at America SCORES NY in Summer 2012.

Born out of its partnership with the East Coast Conference (ECC), Up2Us places 260 coaches and is the only program of its kind to provide AmeriCorps coaches in over 100 disadvantaged communities across the country. These coaches serve kids through a wide range of traditional and nontraditional sports, inspiring academic success, healthy lifestyles and self-esteem among boys and girls and showing young people that sports can be a turning point in their lives — physically and emotionally.

“I’m passionate about sports, because it’s been a constant variable in my life that has given me great self-confidence,” said Slavin. “As a child, and even now, sports were a way for me to feel as if I had a purpose and gave me importance.”

Slavin will be working with young people through America SCORES New York, a nonprofit organization that strives to empower students in urban communities using soccer, writing, creative expression and service-learning. With teamwork as the unifying value, America SCORES New York inspires youth to lead healthy lifestyles, be engaged students and become agents of change in their communities.

In 2010, Slavin was named to the NSCAA/Adidas NCAA Division II Women All-East Region third team. This followed her selection as a 2009 second team all-East Coast Conference all-star. Andrea led the East Coast Conference in goals scored with 15 and finished second in the league with 35 points. In her 38 games as a Knight, Andrea has 33 goals and 74 points.

“I am so passionate simply because I am my happiest when I am active and playing sports,” she said. “Plain and simple, sports make me smile, and I believe every child deserves the chance to smile.”

Up2Us supports a national network of close to 500 member organizations in all 50 states. These organizations serve 20 million youth through sports. Members share best practices, advance initiatives that extend opportunities to new players and deliver quality programs in underserved communities where there is a tremendous need for constructive outlets for youth. For more information, log on to www.up2us.org.

“We are thrilled to welcome Andrea to our Coach Across America team in Summer 2012 and hope she is the first coach of many as a result of a partnership with the ECC and Up2Us,” said Paul Caccamo, executive director of Up2Us.

City’s best take the field in Mayor’s Cup


| smosco@queenscourier.com

© NYC & Co/Peter Borghard

Soccer stars from Queens and across the city put their skills on display and netted a good time in the 2011 Mayor’s Cup Soccer All-Star Game on November 19 and 20.

The New York City Mayor’s Soccer All-Star Game took place at Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn and brought out more than 150 of the best high school senior soccer players from the Public School Athletic League (PSAL), the Catholic High School Athletic Association (CHSAA) and New York City independent schools.

Queens players like Constantin Pougiouklidis from Bayside High School, Seth Rothbaum from Cardozo, Hannah Fertig from Bayside, Stephen Reid from St. Francis Prep and many others got in their kicks during the two-day display of top city talent.

In the first game of the day on November 19, CHSAA defeated the PSAL by a score of 4-1 with Casey Collins (Archbishop Molloy) leading the attack for the CHSAA with two goals and Wendy Avendano (St. Francis Prep) and Shannon Rubin (Notre Dame Academy) each chipping in with a goal apiece. Serene Drakes (Cardozo) scored the lone goal for the PSAL. In the second game of the day, the PSAL defeated the CHSAA by a score of 1-0 with Juan Colorado (FDR) from the PSAL scoring the decisive goal.

The championship games took place on November 20. In the girls’ game, the PSAL defeated the independent schools by a score of 4-1 as defender Breanna Brukalo (McKee/Staten Island Tech) took home the MVP award after an outstanding defensive effort. Deanna Kvetkoff (Susan Wagner) scored two goals, while Melissa Lijo (Port Richmond) and Megan Caccavale (LaGuardia) each scored one goal for the PSAL. Shannon Rhodes from Packer scored for the independent schools.

In the boys’ game, the PSAL prevailed once again by defeating the independent schools by a score of 4-0. Julian Gilbey from Bronx Science scored one goal and took home the MVP honors. Juan Colorado (FDR), Steven Mensah (Tilden) and Pierre Roody (Beacon) also scored for the PSAL.