The Cleveland Freeze announced today that Hector Marinaro, the all-time leader in points and goals in professional indoor soccer, will become the Freeze’s head coach for their inaugural 2013/2014 Professional Arena Soccer League (PASL) season.
Fans of the indoor game have many fond memories. Unfortunately, most of those memories are in the past. Known by many names, this version of the beautiful game focuses on bringing the game inside for fast and entertaining soccer.
In Ohio, there were many success stories when it came to the sport of indoor soccer. The Canton Invaders, and more importantly, the Cleveland Crunch and Force took Northeast Ohio by force. Big crowds in large venues were the name of the game. 10,000-12,000 fans coming out for a match went from a goal to the norm at the Richfield Coliseum as the game surged in popularity. But that bubble burst as the indoor game went from something like the “Roaring 20s” to resembling something more like “The Great Depression”.
Attempts to resurrect the sport in NE Ohio, once an important hotbed, have yielded mixed results. The Cleveland Pride came and went without anyone noticing them followed by the Ohio Vortex, which had a successful first season at the Canton Memorial Civic Center, the former home of the Invaders.
But the bad luck soon found its way into the Vortex camp as the owner and much of the staff left behind an organization that struggled mightily for three more seasons. Constantly changing venues, a revolving door of players, and financial instability left many fans of the sport with a bad taste in their mouth. You could certainly argue that the Vortex brand did more harm than good.
So who would be brave enough to brave these troubled waters to bring arena soccer back to Cleveland? An ownership group made up of coaches, retired players, and successful entrepreneurs have boldly take a step forward to bring the Professional Arena Soccer League (PASL) franchise called the Cleveland Freeze to the suburb of North Olmsted.
Snider calls the decision to bring the Freeze into the PASL as a “no-brainer” since the league has good, workable business models and 20 existing teams in the pro division alone. He hopes that the Freeze will bring about a rebirth of the indoor game here in the Midwest, providing Ohio talent somewhere to play and at the same time providing fans with a chance to enjoy the beautiful game in a new and exciting way.
Now the PASL is a smaller and more cost-effective version of the grand days of the NPSL and MISL at their peak. We’re no longer talking about crowds in the thousands, but rather the hundreds. But the game remains the same, a version of soccer that borrows from the speed and intensity of hockey and makes goals and big scorelines a reality. No more complaints about watching a 0-0 draw or getting only a goal after 90 minutes. This certainly is not for the soccer purists, but rather casual and curious fans or diehards left behind from a forgotten era.
Scott Snider and his team of investors are not afraid to take a risk, hoping that this brand and this organization can herald a rebirth of the indoor game right here in the Sixth City. But it is not going to be easy, but they are just asking for a chance.
Giving them a chance is as simple as heading out to a game at the Soccer Sportsplex in North Olmsted. The Freeze will be offering up to 1000 seats for spectators, including bleacher seats, a VIP lounge, standing room areas, and “on the glass” seating for an up close and personal view of the game. They will have a full offering of food and beverages, including beer and wine. All at an affordable price.
Some things are stacked in their favor.NE Ohiois historically regarded as a great soccer market, one of the best in the country. AFC Cleveland and recent U.S. Soccer friendlies have rekindled the area’s love for the beautiful game. Any many Clevelanders still remember the “good old days” of the Crunch and Force as Hector Marinaro and Otto Orf graced the Coliseum.
You only have to look at the struggles of the Vortex to come up with concerns, but the Freeze organization appears to be a different animal altogether.
The first thing that stands out is experience. Snider and fellow co-owner Louis Kastelic are soccer people. Snider and Kastelic both were players for the Vortex and know how to avoid those same mistakes.
Kastelic, only 26 and fresh off a successful playing career, is already making headlines as the youngest head coach in PASL history.
Snider, a goalkeeper by trade, and Kastelic, an assistant with the John Carroll University men’s soccer program, have a passion and desire to make this work unlike anything we have ever seen. The latter even has Marinaro, his boss at JCU, to lean on.
What better person could you get advice from? Marinaro absolutely shattered the record books for indoor soccer and helped bring a championship to a city that hasn’t had much luck in that department.
Snider and Kastelic are joined by three other investors, forming a strong and stable ownership group that has as much experience in the business world as they do on the field. And they are committed to Cleveland and NE Ohio in a big way.
“I grew up on the Cleveland Force and the Cleveland Crunch,” Snider commented. “We want to honor and respect the game and build something new. Something that offers unique, affordable winter entertainment.
Giving back is going to be a big part of the Freeze’s involvement in the community. Snider has plans for charitable organizations to gain revenue from 50/50 raffles, ticket sales, and exposure at Freeze home matches. Community camps and clinics are also planned for the future. All of this is done in a love for NE Ohio and Cleveland.
“Cleveland is in a Renaissance,” Snider added. “It is such a great time to be involved in Cleveland.”
And it is a great time to be involved with soccer. The World Cup in Brazil is less than a year away. The EPL is getting record ratings numbers on U.S. television. The growth of soccer in every outdoor league has reached unprecedented levels. But how will that translate to the indoor game?
If anyone can pull off arena soccer in Cleveland it is going to be Scott Snider and the Cleveland Freeze.
Graziani, from Imperial, Pennsylvania, recently finished his first season with the Xavier University Musketeers where he made five appearances as a freshman. In high school, Graziani was selected to the All-Section and All-Conference teams in 2009, 2010, and 2011 for West Alleghany High School. In 2011 he was chosen as a member of the All-State team.
As a youth player, Graziani grew up playing for Beadling Soccer Club where he helped his teammates reach two PA West State Cups. Graziani was a member of ODP Region 1, playing competitively in European countries such as Italy, Croatia, and Slovenia.
Combs, a defender, started all 16 games this season as a sophomore for the Mount Union Raiders. He was also a four year player at Pickerington North High School.
McClay was a four year letter-winner at Canal Winchester High School and was First Team All-District in 2001. He also participated on the ’84 ODP State team.
In college, McClay was a two year letter-winner at Wilmington College and participated on Miami University Club team for three years. In 2007 and 2008, McClay played for the Cincinnati Excite, a member of the American Indoor Soccer League. In 2009 and 2010, he was a member of the Chicago Storm Reserves and played for the Professional Arena Soccer League side Ohio Vortex in 2011 and 2012.
Zanesville Athletic is excited to welcome these three talented athletes to the club. If you are interested in trying out for Zanesville Athletic email for more information.
Martinez, one of the Storm’s starting midfielders in their successful 2012 season, signed to play indoor in one of America’s two professional leagues. He joins two other United Sports International Organization players in the professional ranks. Carlos Aguilar was the first player when he played with the Lancaster Rattlers in the PDL before eventually signing with the Rochester Rhinos of USL PRO. Miguel Ibarra, who went in the 2nd round of the 2012 MLS SuperDraft to the Portland Timbers, signed with the Minnesota Stars of the NASL.
Martinez started playing at the youth level with some of the most competitive club teams in the San Fernando Valley. He played in the Surf Cup, the Dallas Cup, and the National Cup before going on to a successful college career at L.A. Mission College, Kansas Wesleyan University and California State University of Los Angeles. While at L.A. Mission, Martinez won MVP and First Team All-Conference honors as his team won the Western Conference title. He also won a conference title at Kansas Wesleyan.
Martinez continued his pursuit of a career in soccer as he spent time with the Southern California Seahorses and the Ventura County Fusion of the PDL. He also spent some time playing with the El Salvador U-21 National Team before once again returning to the PDL with the Rattlers, who rebranded to play as the Storm in the NPSL. Martinez spent the 2012 season with the Storm and helped his team to a successful inaugural year in Santa Clarita.
Martinez, who has a good sense of the game both on and off the field and the ability to execute quick and efficient play, should be an excellent addition to the Bolts.
Bolts head coach Bernie Lilavois was quick to agree.
“Jayro really stood out in training camp as a hard worker in the midfield with his constant defensive pressure,” Lilavois stated. “He also has a quality offensive side to his game and fits well into our possession style of play. He has been a great pro for us early in our season.”
The Santa Clarita Storm will be holding tryouts January 5 & 6th in Santa Clarita. For more information contact the team at [email protected] or go to their web site at www.fcscprosoccer.com.