SeaWolves top national team in OT in debut
So how well did the Orlando SeaWolves’ dress rehearsal at the Silver Spurs Arena go last weekend?
It went well.
Like, “We beat Brazil” well.
Yep, that’s what the scoreboard said after a full day of heart-pounding, ball-kicking, board-booming indoor soccer action.
Raphael Tobias’ shot in the third minute of overtime found the back of the net as the SeaWolves’ preseason roster of players downed the Brazilian National Minifootball Team, 3-2, Saturday night, to send a crowd of about 1,000 fans home happy.
Earlier in the day, the Colombian National team took down the Brazilian Under-21 indoor team, 6-5, in the “undercard match”.
It was just a preseason game, and a chance to make sure everything inside the arena, on and off the field, worked as planned. On the field, Coach Tom Traxler needed a chance to get on the field, with a roster of Major Arena Soccer League veterans mixed with those coming from the traditional outdoor game, and work together.
“These are all veterans of this game,” said Gordy Gurson, a MASL veteran who scored the first SeaWolves goal. “We went down, 1-0 and 2-1 but we stuck through it, got another goal then were lucky to get a set piece in overtime.”
Traxler, who played in the 1980s for the told Tampa Bay Rowdies, coached many years at Winter Park High School and has been around the Orlando City Soccer Club on its broadcast team, said his eyes were made wide-open Saturday in his pro coaching debut, but said the SeaWolves will be ready to open the MASL season on Nov. 30 against the St. Louis Ambush.
“No pressure, you’re first time coaching the professional indoor game and they tell you to play Brazil. Okay, guys that have been in this game for a long time. It’s a lot different than the outdoor game. We were good defensively, I thought. Where we gave up the goals, that can be fixed. We’ve been together for a week. This is a great start.”
Chris Kokalis is a team co-owner, the general manager, and the man who was on a walkie-talkie before the game making sure the pre-game show was ready to go acted like an assistant coach late in the game against Brazil on the bench. He said the fans who attended “got a show.”
“Tom and the boys stepped up and made a statement. But we’re still new,” he said. “It was a good first step but we have a long way to go. Hopefully we build for Nov. 30.”
New was the word of the night. Soccer is soccer, but when it moves indoors it gets to be a little like hockey. There’s a penalty box where players who transgress go, so there’s power plays (Orlando was 0-for-2). There are timeouts in the MASL.
“Never worked on a power play. Never called a timeout, and we had to talk about when to use them,” Traxler said. “We’re going to experiment with a few things.
“It’s been a real team effort. I’m leaning on these guys all the time, who’ve been playing this for years, talking to them … Piotr Sliwa, Gordy Gurson, Joshio Sandoval, and they have been brilliant working with the guys new to the game.”
Jonathan Mendoza, Lewis Neal, Luke Boden, and Tyler Turner all came from the Orlando City system, and at any one time three of them would play together for stretches.
Boden called his “rookie” indoor game “exciting and fast paced.”
“It was nice to finally play in a game and get a good look at indoor soccer, and really enjoyed it,” he said. “It’s so different, the boards, the speed of plays, the different set pieces, and learning the edges of them to get extra goals while learning all the new rules. And it’s always good to win. It’s been an all-around good experience thus far.”
Gurson said fans will see a faster-paced game once MASL play begins.
“It will definitely be a physical game,” he said. “The league will be full of younger, fitter players.”