CEDAR RAPIDS – In many countries outside the United States, burgeoning soccer players hone their skills with a modified form of the game known as futsal.
Four members of the Cedar Rapids Rampage indoor soccer team – midfielders Alex Megson and Alex Tozer, forward Gordy Gurson and goalkeeper Joey Kapinos – were in Buenos Aires, Argentina March 20-30, competing in one of four training camps geared toward earning a spot on the U.S. Futsal National Team.
“It was more of a learning experience for me as a player,” Tozer said. “Coming from the indoor game, me and my fellow Rampage teammates, we were kind of, ‘This is going to be in our realm, we’re used to this fast pace.’ But playing against Argentina, No. 5 in the world … it was on a whole other game. It was almost like being re-taught the game of soccer.”
Futsal originated in Uruguay in 1930 and is typically played indoors on surfaces similar in size and texture to a wood basketball court. Teams are comprised of four players, plus a goalkeeper, and use a slightly smaller, heavier ball with less bounce than is typically used in the indoor game.
“It’s kind of just starting to make some headway in the U.S.,” Tozer said. “(Lionel) Messi, Cristiano (Ronaldo), they all played growing up. They actually say most of their skill comes from that because it is definitely more of a one-versus-one type of game.”
The aforementioned headway includes the newly-formed Professional Futsal League, which in February welcomed billionaire Mark Cuban – owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks – as one of the league’s principal owners.
Keith Tozer – Alex’s father – will serve as commissioner of the PFL and has been the head coach of the U.S. Futsal National Team since 1996. He will stage one final camp of 24 players in Los Angeles before pairing the roster down to 14 for next month’s CONCACAF Futsal Championship in Costa Rica. Success in Costa Rica qualifies the U.S. national team for the FIFA Futsal World Cup, which begins Sept. 10 in Colombia.
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While the U.S. squad dropped four hard-fought exhibition contests to the veteran Argentinians, the quartet of Rampage players all said the opportunity to play with the Team USA crest on their jersey was an unforgettable one.
“For me, this was just an experience of a lifetime,” Gurson said. “When the national anthems were going on and the songs were being played before the first game, I got chills. It was one of the best feelings I’ve ever experienced in my life.”
Gurson and Tozer will be back in Cedar Rapids Saturday and Sunday as the Rampage United – the city’s new outdoor team scheduled to begin play in May – hosts a pair of player tryouts. Gurson, Tozer and Rampage indoor midfielder Bobby Hurwitz are the first three players signed by the outdoor team.
“I always want to see who the next players are that I will be playing with and who are the next players to represent this great franchise,” Tozer said. “To play for Cedar Rapids in front of those people, I firmly believe even after playing in Milwaukee, that we have the best fans in the league. Very humbling as a player and a blessing to play in front of those people.”
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