By Will Martin
The World Cup of 2014 is about to go into high gear with qualifiers and elimination matches to take us well into July. The number of watching parties throughout the world should make for some fun times and crazy shenanigans. Here in Dallas-Ft. Worth Texas that will be no different.
In a decade and a half of attending most if not all sporting events in the DFDubya you make friends along the way. John Bick I first met in 2003 when he was doing great things alongside my friend/mentor Chip Kisabeth-now involved with FC Dallas. Mr. Bick was very involved with the Allen Americans at their inception circa 2009-2010 before the titles came to them back to back.
On a whim I received an email from John Bick two weeks ago to come attend a soccer match at LaGrave Field. LaGrave Field? They only play baseball there, right?
Father’s Day 2013 I had the pleasure of throwing out the first pitch before a Ft. Worth Cats game. Got to sit in the old dugout suites next to the benches where the players sat. I noticed how run down the ballpark was. So much history there for over a century. Little did I realize…
This year over Memorial Day weekend I received another invite from John Bick to check out a soccer game with a new team in the South Central Conference of the National Premier Soccer League. A league with over 80 teams!
With so much attention placed on teams across the world for soccer and with a strong team following/tradition out Frisco way for FC Dallas why not some soccer of the minor league variety in Ft. Worth Texas and at LaGrave Field. A place with so much history you can hear the walls talk late at night.
May 9 the season debuted with two games in three days with the FW Vaqueros FC at LaGrave Field against the defending South Central Conference Champions Tulsa Athletics followed by the North Dallas Liverpool Warriors. Mark Snell summed up that weekend as follows.
“Opening weekend will be a real treat for our fans,” coach Mark Snell said. “Our first match ever will be against the conference champion Tulsa Athletics. We hope our style of technical yet fast paced soccer will match up against their experience. We will have no time to rest as two days later we face what will be a natural cross-town rival in the Liverpool Warriors.”
“Fort Worth possesses a powerful hunger for all levels of soccer,” Tobias Xavier Lopez, director of business operations said. “The Fort Worth Soccer Group is thrilled to be able to add a new opportunity for the young athletes to showcase and refine their natural gifts in front of this exceptional community. The journey for both the players and the community begins Friday May 9 at LaGrave Field.”
It was a game they would lose 5-0 after trailing 1-0 in the first half.
“We knew that they were a very direct team and are still a little bit disorganized in the back so we wanted to sit a little deeper and limit the space behind our defense,” Vaqueros coach Mark Snell said. “We did fairly well. They really don’t have many ideas, just launching the ball but we were very naïve in our defending.”
And begin it did with attendance at 2,716 for Opening night and another 2,300 strong on May 11th. This was followed by a tough stretch of road play in Oklahoma City and Joplin Missouri May 23rd and May 24th with Fort Worth on the short end of back to back 2-1 defeats.
Damien Rosales your goal scorer in minute 55 at OKC. Hilton Ngwa in the 70th minute in the land of the Demize. Joplin would get both of their goals in the space of three minutes at 15 and 18 of the first half.
“Again two soft goals early hurt us,” Vaqueros coach Mark Snell said. “I feel like we dominated possession and once again fought hard to comeback.”
Slow starts have been the early going story for the FW Vaqueros. A draw against the Warriors May 11th 2-2 placed the Vaqueros at 0-3-1 coming into their match with Dallas City FC for the 1st leg of he Trinity River Cup May 29th at LeGrave Field.
Saying yes to John Bick I came to Ft. Worth for a tenth time in two weeks-IRL and Colonial notwithstanding-to LaGrave Field unaware of all the renovations that had been put into the place. New dugouts, new seats, new concessions, and a new sport to be added into the field of play.
Walking around the field taking pictures and shooting video I was taken aback by the level of energy that sizzled within the friendly confines. Dallas City FC took an early lead in minute 12 on a Karhim Gattaz goal. Dallas City scored again late in the match for a 2-0 defeat to fall to 0-4-1.
Despite the start to their inaugural season Coach Snell sees a lot of positives.
“I thought the team played well. We stuck to our game plan,” Vaqueros coach Mark Snell said. “Overall, pleased. Not many teams can dominate a team being a man down and I think we did that. I think we were a little unlucky we should have scored three or four goals.”
Besides being impressed with all the new amenities placed within this great ballpark it is this writers unabashed opinion that soccer in Fort Worth will only get bigger and better in time.
Especially when you add an instant rivalry with a Dallas team.
In addition to coach Mark Snell handling the FW Vaqueros FC there’s also the dynamic duo assistance of one time SMU Goalkeeper Coach Paul Hason and assistant Casey McLean to the mix. Situation win-win!
“First and foremost, I am passionate about player development and creating opportunities for players who aspire to play at the highest level which happens to align with the vision of Fort Worth Vaqueros FC,” Hason said. “I enjoy contributing and being involved at the ground floor of an organization such as the Fort Worth Vaqueros FC which is going to make a positive impact in the Fort Worth community.”
“Casey McLean was recommended to us to help identify players during our six open tryouts and subsequent invitation-only player combine,” Snell said. “Right away it was clear he and I saw eye to eye on the type of players we wanted to select. He also shares the same playing philosophy so it was a perfect fit.”
McLean has been a part of the Ft. Worth fabric since 2002 when coaching at LD Bell then taking his expertise south to Mansfield Timberview in 2004, remaining there since.
“Being a part of the Fort Worth Vaqueros is a great opportunity. Working with great players as well as being a part of a growing professional organization from its inception is both challenging and intriguing,” McLean said. “My hope is to bring another set of eyes and ideas to the fundamental process that coach Snell is working to instill. I think this club is a wonderful opportunity for the residents of Fort Worth and Tarrant County but more importantly it is an outstanding opportunity to develop and grow the soccer community in this area, and I am happy to be a part of it.”
Even though I was privy to watching the Vaqueros fall 2-0 to Dallas City FC on May 29th everything about the birth, growth, development, and approach to this program made sense. June 20th will be their next home game mere hours after USA plays in a World Cup match.
Its also going to be Fathers Day. One year to the week I was at LaGrave Field throwing out a first pitch. My thanks to John Bick for throwing out this first pitch pitch, soccer style!
6/7 @Dallas City FC 7:00 p.m.