Freedom FC pro soccer team completes comeback season 5th in the nation |

Freedom FC pro soccer team completes comeback season 5th in the nation

The Freedom FC's Marco Escobar and Fabian Perez fight for the ball against the Colorado Blizzard in a home Premier Arena Soccer League match. The Freedom won 5-1, and host the PASL All-Star game at 1 p.m. Saturday in WECMRD's Edwards Fieldhouse.
Randy Wyrick| |

If You Go

What: Freedom FC professional arena soccer

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Where: WECMRD’s Edwards Fieldhouse

Cost: $5

Information: The Freedom FC plays professional arena soccer in the nationwide Premier Arena Soccer League. They host the Rocky Mountain Division’s All-Star game Saturday

To become a team sponsor, call Coach Mike Schneider: 970-390-3973

EDWARDS — Freedom FC came a long way in a short time during its comeback season.

After being dormant for a few years, the Freedom finished their comeback season 6-2, both losses on the road and both by one goal.

That tied them for fifth in the country in the 32-team Premier Arena Soccer League.

Captain Caesar Castillo is the PASL’s leading scorer with 20 goals in those eight games.

They were invited to nationals for the first time, and invited to move up to a higher-level professional league next season.

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They’re also a lesson in international relations. They fare from the United States, Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Bulgaria and Chile, as well as Vail Valley Soccer Club and local high school standouts.

Freedom FC players and coaches come from Glenwood Springs, the Roaring Fork Valley, as well as the Vail Valley.

“We’re proud of them. They put a great team on the field. They always draw well and have good local community support,” said Kevin Milliken, head of the Major Arena Soccer League, under which the PASL operates.

About arena soccer

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

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

Such as hockey players, they rotate on and off the field and are replaced every few minutes, which Coach Mike Schneider says keeps them fresh.

“It’s a physical game,” Schneider said.

Just a little heartbreak

The league hosted its national championships in Phoenix last weekend. Freedom FC was invited to make the trip — their first invitation since the team launched in 2009 — but their three top goal scorers were injured, and a couple of other key players couldn’t go. The team made the brutal decision to pass up the opportunity this year.

“It’s still a privilege to be invited,” Schneider said. “This is the furthest this team has ever gotten, and we’re proud of our guys.”

By the way, Phoenix-based Digilog from the Southwest Division beat Austin FC in the final.

The Freedom might move up a league next year, to the Major Arena Soccer League, Milliken said. The MASL is launching a league for markets that are the Vail Valley’s size, and that’s where Freedom FC would play.

“I think Edwards would be a great market for that, especially for a market that doesn’t have any pro sports. We look forward to launching that next year,” Milliken said.

WECMRD success

The Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District is dedicated to the Freedom’s success, so much that the recreation district provides its Edwards fieldhouse, which is one of the PASL’s showcase facilities.

“It was a great year for our first year back in the PASL,” said WECMRD’s Mike Staten. “We want to use this as a springboard for the 2017-18.”

The work has already begun bring skilled young players who might not be playing college soccer, but should still be playing, Staten said.

“We want the Freedom to be something that the community unites behind and supports, and for all the local stakeholders in soccer to unify behind this club,” Staten said.

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