Local pro soccer club Freedom FC returns to the WECMRD Fieldhouse Saturday | VailDaily.com

Local pro soccer club Freedom FC returns to the WECMRD Fieldhouse Saturday

EDWARDS — The Freedom FC may be the best collection of soccer players you personally know.

The local team is in second place in the nationwide Premier Arena Soccer League and have the top goal scorer in the league, Caesar Castillo.

The next three Saturdays, the team plays games in the Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District's Edwards Fieldhouse. If they win two of those three matches, then the Freedom advances to next month's nationals in Phoenix.

The Golden Strikers are in Edwards Saturday for a 2 p.m. game at the fieldhouse. The league's All-Star game comes to Edwards on March 25.

The recreation district doesn't charge the team for field time.

"We get to play in a $10 million facility in this small town," Freedom Coach Mike Schneider said. "It's more state-of-the-art than anywhere else we play."

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Yeah, they're that good

Schneider has been coaching soccer for decades at all sorts of levels, from high school to professional, but says he has never seen a collection of players like this.

"I think we have some of the best players in the state," Schneider said. "All our players are local and almost half have played at the collegiate level."

Players and coaches come from the United States, Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Bulgaria and Chile. 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 and the Roaring Fork Valley, as well as the Vail Valley. The team had two weeks of tryouts, cutting 33 hopefuls down to the final roster of 20: three goalies and 17 field players.

All hail Caesar

Castillo is as good as you remember. He 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 played junior college ball at Cerritos College in Los Angeles. He transferred to the University of California in Santa Barbara, California, where he played for a year and a half, then finished his bachelors 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 works for the Gallegos Corp.

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

Nationals bound

The Freedom is 5-2 on the season. The two loses were both by one goal, both heartbreakers.

"That can be brutal," Schneider said.

The team was in Colorado Springs last Saturday playing for first place. The Freedom trailed 3-1, but tied it 4-4. Colorado Springs scored with less than a minute left to win, 5-4, and hold on to first place.

The Freedom still controls its own destiny. If the team wins two of the next three games, they qualify for next month's nationals in Phoenix.

About arena soccer

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.

Arena soccer is a little like playing soccer inside a pinball machine. They play the ball off the wall, off the nets behind the goal and off 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 on and off the field and are replaced every few minutes, which Schneider says keeps them fresh.

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

If You Go

What: Freedom FC professional arena soccer

When: 2 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. They host the Golden Strikers this Saturday.

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