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The Butler Did It: Super-Y? Because it makes sense

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It’s not often coaches in competing organizations agree on things. But in the case of the Super Y-League, members of the New York Freedoms, Brooklyn Knights and Blau-Weiss Gottschee are unified.

“The Super Y-League’s intent is every week to give a quality opponent, so that way not only does (a player’s) ability have to be on but also they have to also be prepared mentally,” said Milton Espinoza of Blau-Weiss Gottschee.

The Super Y-League has been in existence since 1999 and the effects are being felt locally now.

Although there is still a lot of confusion around the Super Y-League, it was not formed in an attempt to overthrow well-established leagues such as the Cosmopolitan Junior Soccer League or the Long Island Junior Soccer League.

Simply put, the league is for the elite youth soccer players to compete against other elite soccer players on a weekly basis.

“I looked around (the LIJSL) and while it has provided a great service to soccer, the competition was very much spread out and so was the talent,” said David Price of the New York Freedoms. “The Y-League is an idea of getting everyone together and forming a basis of good teams while not interfering with the regular club teams around Long Island, Queens and Brooklyn.”

There are four Super Y-League teams in the New York City area — three in Queens alone — and I can attest the soccer is superb.

One glance at rosters of the local clubs shows a bevy of the top high school players in Queens, including Richie Lesmes, Carlos Moncaleano, Ariel Castellanos, Jason Knese, Michael Moncada and Ferney Ruiz, who were all named to TimesLedger All-Queens soccer teams.

I’ve attended three Super Y-League games (an Under-14 Freedoms vs. FC Westchester game, an Under-16 Gottschee vs. FC Westchester match and a U-17 Brooklyn Knights vs. PDA match) in the past month and each game was better than about 75 percent of the high school games I’ve seen through the years.

In one such match — the Gottschee/­Westchester game at Mitchel Athletic Complex — I saw a remarkable goal by Flushing’s Mohammed Mashriqi, who dribbled for about 30 yards, fought off a foul and hit a sublime left-footed shot past the keeper from about 30 yards out.

“To me, every game that I’ve ever been to I would pay to watch,” said Espinoza, a former Molloy standout. “Most of the clubs have lighted facilities to play at night. I think the kids know when they step on the field there’s a level of importance to the game. The excitement level is there, there are already natural rivalries in the league.”

But as with just about everything in youth soccer, politics is involved.

Since the league is so new, many players are having difficulty choosing between playing in the CJSL or the LIJSL — and hoping to advance to the state cup — or the new, and in my opinion improved, Super Y-League.

Many decide to compete in both, which makes for a crowded club schedule that includes upwards of 60 games for some players during the summer months.

According to Espinoza, there’s just one thing keeping many of the elite teams and players in the old leagues.

“If it wasn’t for the state cup, I think all those clubs would be in the Y-League full-fledged, meaning they wouldn’t do anything else,” he said. “Obviously, they would go to tournaments and travel abroad, but the (state cup) is preventing the teams from really making that commitment. So what ends up happening is they have to play in a league that will get them eligible for the state cup.”

Ah, the state cup. Rich in history, the state cup is still the ultimate goal for many club soccer players.

But why?

For many it’s obviously the glory of being a state champion, but there’s also that opportunity to compete in the regional and maybe even the national championship against top clubs they normally wouldn’t face.

Well, guess what? You get that on a weekly basis in the Super Y-League. Some of the best clubs in the country, including Gottschee and FC Delco, play in the Super Y-League. And while there is always an exception, a majority of the games are decided by one or two goals.

The Super Y-League model of playing 20 to 26 games during a season that runs from Jan. 1 to Nov. 7 follows more of a professional model. (The actual playing season varies from region to region and the spring and summer are still likely to be the main seasons in the Northeast.) In this model, these athletes can play one game a week and train three or four times instead of vice versa.

The league was formed to better identify the better players, who will likely make up future World Cup teams. Instead of holding open tryouts for its Olympic Development Program players, the Super Y-League plans on identifying those special players in their natural club environment.

But once again, there is controversy and confusion in the ODP process.

“We’re all here to identify players, and both organizations should be working together,” said Mike Windischmann, the technical director of the Super Y-League’s Metro Division. “I think the whole idea is to develop national team players and if one or two players are discovered it's all worth it.”

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by email at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

Posted 7:22 pm, October 10, 2011
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