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Chencinski: One Step Closer to MLS Dream

Moldova. Check.

Israel. Check.

Canada. Check.

The U.S. Check.

Tomer Chencinski has become a bit of a globetrotter over his young career, spending time in some of the world’s most diverse footballing countries.

The USL-2 keeper is now training in MLS with the Philadelphia Union.

The USL-2 keeper is now training in MLS with the Philadelphia Union.

Now Chencinski sees himself closer to yet another opportunity with the MLS Philadelphia Union. The young goalkeeper started the season with the USL-2 Harrisburg City Islanders, but impressed enough to gain a chance to train with the Union and potentially serve as their third keeper.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to say the least. I am very excited  to train at the best level in North America, who wouldn’t be?” Chencinski commented. ”I feel  like this will help keep me sharp and focused on the task at hand: to improve as a keeper. I’m just excited and eager to start.”

Chencinski finished the USL-2 season strong with 5 starts, 450 minutes played, 20 saves, and a 1.60 GAA.  It was impressive that Chencinski saw any time, considering former NYRB keeper Danny Cepero can also be found on the City Islanders’ roster.  Chencinski is an MLS quality keeper who spent the 2007 season with Toronto FC, but also counts Moldovan National Divison club FC Nistru Otaci, MISL club Detroit Ignition, PDL club Newark Inbound Express, and Israeli Premier League sides Maccabi Tel-Aviv and Hapoel Jerusalem among his former teams.

The opportunity to train with the expansion Union could prove to be a turning point in the Israeli keeper’s career.  He has been waiting for the chance to gain some exposure at a higher level and this looks to be the right opportunity at the right time. 

“Taking from my past experiences with Toronto FC and playing overseas,  it’s not a question of whether physically I can’t do it, but am I  mentally ready, and I feel that I am,” the young keeper continued. “Past experiences have helped me because I feel like I have already been there, so I’m not really out of  my comfort zone.”

The Union placed Brian Perk on waivers in early August and now have only two goalkeepers on the pro roster: Brad Knighton and Chris Seitz.  There is little chance that Perk will be coming back to Philadelphia as he was claimed off waivers by the L.A. Galaxy on August 4th. 

Neither Knighton and Seitz can hardly be considered All-Star quality keepers so there is room for improvement and room for Chencinski, who provides the Union with much needed international experience.

“I have played in some diverse places, but it helped me develop as a  player. I feel that any experience in life is there for a reason,”  Chencinski explained. “Moldova was crazy.  Israel was beautiful. Soccer there is great. The only  thing are the crazy fans. One second they love you, the next they want  to sell you.”

Hopefully Philadelphia will be the final stop on Chencinski’s self-tour of international soccer.

Richmond Sweeps City Islanders

The Richmond Kickers were back in action at UR Stadium for a Saturday evening match against the Harrisburg City Islanders. The 7 PM match, which would end 2-0 in the Kickers favor, was the third meeting between the two clubs; Richmond tied the City Islanders in the first meeting only to oust them in a 1-0 match at Skyline Sports Complex back in June. The Saturday night win extended the Kickers’ 7-2-4 record over Harrisburg by adding another in the left-hand column.

The match was underway just minutes after the hour. Four minutes into the game, Kicker forward Matthew Delicâte missed a header attempt on goal. Seven minutes later, Delicâte would set up a pass to fellow forward Edson Elcock who would score the first goal of the evening; Harrisburg goalkeeper Danny Cepero saved Elcock’s first shot only to let the rebound slide past him into the net.

Delicâte was back in tip-top shape after exiting last week’s home game against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in the 23rd minute due to a gash above his right eye. Delicâte continued his search for a goal in the thirty-six minute when his header went just wide.
Harrisburg midfielder Jason Hotchkin attempted a header following Delicâte’s; however Kickers goalkeeper Ronnie Pascale was in the box for the save.

Delicâte made another attempt in the 43rd minute of play when he took a shot just a few yards shy from the goal. The half concluded with one minute of stoppage time and the halftime performances took the field.

Kicker fans took to their feet to celebrate a successful first half and participate in halftime activities. Several youth present for the game played in a contest for the most goals scored on Kickeroo, the Richmond mascot. Following the contest, the routine HCA VA Frisbee Toss took place; fans tossed frisbees in hopes of having them hit the target.

Pascale led to Kickers to a second half start with a save in the 49th minute. Just into the 50th minute, Richmond succeeded in adding another point to the scoreboard; midfielder Gerson Dos Santos scored, Delicâte credited with the assist.

In the 55th minute, Pascale made another save from an offsides shot by Harrisburg. The City Islanders followed their offsides call with a foul near their own goal. Delicâte would take another shot that Cepero would save during the 63rd minute of play.

A foul whistled on Richmond in the 67th minute led Kicker midfielder and fan-favorite Mike Burke to push City Islander Hotchkin; the match referee dismissed the hands-on contact and play resumed.

Richmond made their first substitution of the night after the 70th minute with midfielder Stephen Nsereko coming on the field for Elcock. Just after the substitution, Delicâte tried to break through when City Islander defender Jerrit Thayer cut in to clear the ball.

A caution was issued to City Islanders defender Anthony Calvano and the game would end after three minutes of stoppage time.

The Kickers (8-5-5) will travel north to meet the City Islanders (4-7-6) once more next Saturday, August 7. With 29 points, Richmond still holds tight to the second place standing in the USL-2 division. The Kickers still remain ahead of third place Pittsburgh, of whom they defeated last week in a 1-0 match at City Stadium.

Richmond will return to UR Stadium August 14 for their final home game, and season closer, against the Real Maryland Monarchs. The match will also mark the third between the two clubs; the first resulted in a 1-1 tie; the second, 3-1 Richmond. Currently, the Monarchs hold last place in the division who are still shy of 20 points. Tickets for next weekend’s match can be purchased in advance via

As August beckons, USL-2 2010 Semifinals quickly approach. In order to secure a home seat, Richmond needs to gain as many remaining points as possible in their final regular season matches as the USL-2 runner up is guaranteed a home field game prior to the championship. Times for the August 21 match have not yet been released.

Four Leagues=Bad Idea

The past two weeks have been quite bizarre for the sport of indoor soccer. Two new leagues, the USL-I League and the ASA, announced they will begin play in 2011.

The announcement of USL’s professional indoor league was not much of a surprise considering their roots in the indoor game. Rumors of the league have been around for several months.

Three teams will begin play in fall of 2011: Syracuse (NY), Rochester (NY), and Hampton Roads (VA). I completely respect Chris Economides, but have to wonder if the USL should focus their attention on the outdoor game. Who knows what the federation is going to do with the USSF D-II Pro League next year. I think they should be working on recreating USL-1 and defending their turf against the NASL.

The Arena Soccer Association (ASA) also announced they will be part of the indoor game in 2011. The Canton, OH based league has no member clubs, but appears to have several full-time employees.  Our requests for an interview have gone unanswered.  Their website has a “Coming Soon” message and their Twitter feeds offer no new information. 

Our take on this situation is simple. The indoor game needs something drastic to guarantee its long-term survival. A merger between the MISL and PASL would be the best solution for the growth of the game. The MISL has some notoreity and the PASL has lots of clubs managed in a fiscally responsible way. It would be a perfect combination and would take the game coast to coast.   

I think the ASA and USL-I League will struggle to get teams of their own and may not be around to see the fall of 2011.  Neither league offers anything new or innovative; it is just more of the same.  Ask the Xtreme Soccer League what they think of the idea? Wait. You can’t; they folded after one season. 

One league (MISL/PASL) is plenty. No one in their right mind would think four independent leagues are a good idea. Let us leave the indoor game to the experts at the PASL and MISL and focus on growth in the outdoor game.

Where is Evan Bush Now?

Bush is now regarded as one of the top keepers in USSF D-II.

Bush is now regarded as one of the top keepers in USSF D-II.

The Cleveland City Stars lost a great deal of talent when they folded in the fall of 2009.  Most fans remember the skillful play of Teteh Bangura, but many will also remember the great potential of local keeper Evan Bush.

Bush served as a talented understudy to Hunter Gilstrap, but was called into action on several occassions.  He would appear in 7 matches, posting 2 shutouts and a 1.285 GAA.  He even was named to the USL First Division Team of the Week for Week 17 after a four-save performance against the Vancouver Whitecaps.  This quick success put him on the radar of several MLS and USL-1 clubs. 

The University of Akron graduate would eventually sign with Crystal Palace Baltimore. a former USL-2 club now playing in the USSF D-II Pro League.  Many project that Bush will be the starting keeper when the club opens the season on the 16h of April, even though Chase Harrison and Bush have been sharing time in goal throughout the preseason.  His intangibles, experience, and intelligence make him a complete player with loads of potential. 

Bush is quick to give credit to those who helped him make it this far.  He believes his time at Akron helped him immensely.  “They have a great professional atmosphere,” Bush stated.  “You don’t really understand it while you’re there.”  Playing for a national power in collegiate soccer clearly helps you set expectations as a professional player. Understanding the rigors of the beautiful game is also key.  “They prepare you both mentally and physically,” Bush concluded. 

The time with the City Stars was also valuable to Bush.  “I saw some situations for the first time,” Bush added.  “It was a baptism by fire.” Cleveland often suffered from defensive breakdowns, which would test any keeper.

Evan Bush would face off against fellow Cleveland native Barry Rice in a preseason scrimmage against D.C. United.  Bush allowed just one goal in his 45 minutes, but Baltimore lost 5-2.  This was just another solid performance from the young keeper.  Crystal Palace Baltimore are quite fortunate to have acquired such a talented player, one with obvious MLS talent.  According to Bush, Baltimore has the talent to compete with top teams.   It is just a matter of the squad taking time to gel as chemistry is always important on the pitch.

Where is Hunter Gilstrap Now?

Gilstrap finds a home with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of USL-2.

Gilstrap finds a home with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of USL-2.

We last saw Hunter Gilstrap in goal for the Cleveland City Stars at Middlefield Cheese Stadium in Bedford, Ohio.  Little did we know that this would be the last time we would see the City Stars on the field and in operation.  The franchise folded in December of 2009 after failing to find a buyer.  It wasn’t due to a lack of effort as Dr. Aaron Tredway did his best to sell the team, peddling the team to investors from around the world. 

Hunter played well last season, earning USL-1 Player of the Week honors for Week 5 and finding himself on the USL-1 Team of the Week three times. Gilstrap would rank fifth in the league in saves (89), minutes (1980), and games played (22).  He would finish with an impressive six shutouts. 

Gilstrap would find himself on a whirlwind tour during the offseason.  He would go on trial with Toronto FC for three weeks before finding out they would not need a third goalkeeper.  “It was a great experience, nothing but positive,” Hunter suggested.  He would gain valuable experience in the preseason, playing in two games and allowing just one goal (on a penalty kick).

Without a contract offer from Toronto, Gilstrap headed home for a week before heading to Charleston. He received an offer to train with the Battery, who were without a goalkeeper. Hunter would receive a contract offer from fellow USL-2 club Pittsburgh Riverhounds while training in Charleston.  He decided to take advantage of a good opportunity and a sure thing.

Gisltrap now finds himself as the projected starter at goalkeeper for the Riverhounds, a squad that has gone through a lot of changes.  Former midfielder Justin Evans takes the helm as head coach with only a handful of players returning from last year’s squad.

The City Stars limped through last season, but it proved to be a valuable learning opportunity for the young keeper.  Hunter spent much of the season as the captain of the squad, an impressive feat considering that veteran players (Troy Roberts, Gordon Kljestan, Pato Aguilera) also called Cleveland home.  The Riverhounds will likely call upon his leadership, talent, and experience early and often as the season nears.  Gilstrap figures to once again be an asset in the community; this time he will be doing the good work in a new place.  Hunter was named City Stars Community Service Award Winner in 2009. He will also be getting back into the field of coaching, calling it “something I love doing.”

“USL-2 is a quality league with six quality clubs, ” Gilstrap continued. “But we have an opportunity to compete for a league title.”    Pittsburgh will have that chance thanks to a proven commodity in goal.