Vail team rolls through L.A. tournament | VailDaily.com

Vail team rolls through L.A. tournament

Special to the Daily

VAIL, Colorado – Masters players from Pepi’s Soccer Club played five games in two days, and as the weekend waned their strategy consisted of what to do after they won.

They traveled to U.S. Santa Barbara to play in one of the nation’s top masters tournaments earlier this month.

They enjoyed two moments of revelation:

First, they beat some of the best masters level teams in the Los Angeles area. They won four of their five games and finished second in a field of 24 teams.

Second, the Pacific Ocean is cold.

“We finished the last game, walked over one block and jumped in the Pacific Ocean,” said Daryl Goehring, who helped put the trip together. “It was a good ice down for the muscles.”

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There were no substitutes; not enough guys. Everyone had to play every minute every game.

By the way, the term “masters” applies to players mature enough to have first-hand experience with a 1969 Mustang Mach 1. They’re over 40, at least over 30.

The Santa Barbara tournament is one they’ve been eying at for a long time, Goehring said. They play a masters tournament every January in Las Vegas and talk to guys who play in Santa Barbara each summer. It sounded great, and this was one of those times when things are as good as they sound.

UC Santa Barbara college soccer coach Tim Vom Steeg runs it. Most college coaches run summer tournaments so they can bring recruits to them, show them around their beautiful campuses, and in Santa Barbara’s case show them a student body that looks like a super model staging area – a legitimate recruiting tool when you’re dealing with 18-year-old guys.

The Pepi’s people are masters players, and college is a happy memory. They won’t be signing up for a comparative literature class, not even at UCSB. They went to Santa Barbara because it’s fun, and when you’re over 30 or 40, you understand that fun really is the meaning of life.

So, the Pepi’s pack jumped on a plane. Getting a team of guys away from their day-to-day lives and their careers and families – whom they all love – and onto the same airliner creates a sense of sympathy for what Moses went through getting the Children of Israel from Egypt through the wilderness and into the Promised Land. Even the part about going through the wilderness, except in the desert between here and Santa Barbara is Las Vegas. The Children of Israel didn’t have an oasis at the Mirage hotel.

The Pepi’s pack took their flight of faith with nine guys and no goalie. They were sitting in a Santa Barbara restaurant Saturday morning before their first game with those same nine guys and still no goalie, asking the wait staff if they knew any soccer players who might want some weekend action.

Asking that in Santa Barbara is like sitting in Vail and asking if anyone skis, or asking in Aspen if they know anyone snooty and pretentious. They did.

The Pepi’s people were joined by a couple former college standouts, one with professional experience in the North American Soccer League. To know what the NASL was, you have to be able to remember when eight-track tapes were said to be the last word in audio technology.

These two guys were really good.

And it turned out to be Fiesta Week in Santa Barbara, when the city celebrates its Spanish heritage. Those roots run deep and are worth celebrating. Between games, the Pepi’s pack participated in the celebration with a tall glass of their favorite carbonated beverage – or possibly two.

These Pepi’s players are guys from Vail, Aspen and Denver who used to play against each other. A half dozen years ago they gravitated together for some National Cup veterans tournaments and now they’re a team. Steve DePalma came from back east to play. Doug Schwartz was here. Josh Pitman is now the soccer coach at Mesa State, and he made the Santa Barbara trip.

It doesn’t take them long to get in synch. It’s like wandering out of a roomful of friends and strolling back in a year later with, “Now, as I was saying.”

Anyway, the Pepi’s pack played two games Saturday and played really well.

They won their first one 3-2 over Napoli from San Luis Obispo, opening the game with the nine guys who were in the restaurant, and ending with 11.

They lost to the LA soccer club 2-1.

“The team that beat us was a great side,” Goehring said. “It was a good close game, but we just ran out of gas.”

Sunday saw them open with an outfit from the Los Angeles area calling itself Argentina. A late goal gave the Pepi’s pack a 2-1 win.

They blanked Agoura F.C. from Los Angeles, 2-0, in the semifinals. They beat Blackwatch, another Los Angeles team, 3-1 in the finals.