Freedom FC brings pro soccer back to the valley | VailDaily.com

Freedom FC brings pro soccer back to the valley

If You Go

What: Freedom FC professional arena soccer

When: 3 p.m. Saturday

Where: WECMRD’s Edwards Fieldhouse

Cost: $5 adults, $3 kids

Information: The Freedom FC plays professional arena soccer in the nationwide Premier Arena Soccer League. For sponsorship opportunities email coach Mike Schneider at SGROUP51@msn.com.

EDWARDS — Some college coaches rolling through Eagle County stopped at the Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District’s Edwards Fieldhouse to catch a Freedom FC practice. They stayed longer than they’d planned because these guys are fun to watch, finally shaking hands all around on their way out and telling coach Mike Schneider that the Freedom had the best players in the state.

Schneider agreed, enthusiastically.

“I think they’re right. We do have the best players in the state,” Schneider said.

Freedom FC this weekend brings professional soccer back to the Vail Valley after a two-year absence. The season opens at 3 p.m. on Saturday at the Edwards fieldhouse.

The coaches are good …

Schneider’s coaching resume is extensive. He coached high school ball in Denver, played and coached for Deportivo Peru, Deportivo Juarez and the Denver Kickers, all top-flight Front Range teams.

He also coaches Freedom FC and the Vail Valley Soccer Club’s U14 boys.

As good as he is, he may not be the best coach on his own staff. Goalie coach Luciano Cruz played and coached with club and national teams in Honduras.

the players are better

Of course, coaches are only as good as the players they field.

Cesar Castillo is probably the best player you know.

Castillo, an Eagle Valley High School graduate, dominated local and state leagues for years as a kid, and is still considered by many to be among the best players in the state. He was recruited to play junior college ball at Cerritos College in Los Angeles. He transferred to the University of California at Santa Barbara, where he played for a year and a half, then finished his bachelor’s degree at Fort Lewis College in Durango. He played professionally with the Colorado Rapids and the Colorado Springs Switchbacks.

Castillo is a Freedom FC original, joining the team for its inaugural season in 2009, when he was a senior at Eagle Valley High School. These days, he’s with the Gallegos Corp.

Rene “Goku” Zeyala started playing with the Freedom a few years ago, after playing for national youth teams in Honduras before landing in the Vail Valley a few years back.

Five Freedom members were full scholarship college players. Most of the rest are that good, but sometimes life happens instead of college.

Players come from Glenwood Springs, the Roaring Fork Valley and of course, the Vail Valley. They had two weeks of tryouts, cutting 33 hopefuls down to the final roster of 20 — three goalies and 17 field players.

“All our players are local and almost half have played at the collegiate level,” Schneider said.

Players and coaches come from the United States, Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Bulgaria and Chile.

About arena soccer

Arena soccer is a little like playing soccer inside a pinball machine. They play the ball off the wall, the nets behind the goal and each other.

Six field players and a goalie per side fight for turf in an area about the size of a hockey rink.

Like hockey players they rotate off and are replaced every few minutes, which Schneider says keeps them fresh.

Freedom FC competes in the PASL – Premier Arena Soccer League – the Major Indoor Soccer League’s development league, their version of AAA baseball. Teams play regionally, and the regional champions play for the national title.

On a few occasions the Freedom was within one game of the national finals.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.