– Dave O’Brien –
The fall season is done for some, and winding down for others. Weather was a big story this fall as we had more cancellations than I ever remember in a single season. For many teams it was hard to establish a good flow to their season and their play. However, there were areas of the country that had weather much worse than ours, so we need to be thankful that our teams were able to play and have productive seasons.
This fall marked the inaugural season for the Arkansas Premier Clubs (APC) organization. While still a member of the Arkansas State Association, most of our players were registered through US Club Soccer and our teams competed as part of APC and the Arkansas Premier League (APL). Samir and the other founding club directors spearheaded this formation. While there were some first-year bumps in the road, APC really paves the way for decisions to be made for the good of highly competitive players. There is collaboration between the most competitive clubs and that is good for soccer in Arkansas!
November 10 and 11 marked the first APC State Championship tournament. This tournament was for the upper age groups (U15 and above), whose players will play HS soccer in the spring. It was the most competitive state championship tournament I ever remember in Arkansas, with most games being very close, and quite a few being decided in overtime or PK’s. The Comets claimed 3 championships (04B Premier, 03B Premier and 00B Premier) and 3 runners-up (04G Premier, 03G Navy and 02B Red). In addition, our 04B Navy and 03B Navy won their championships of the APC Diamond Cup. The State Cup champions qualified for the US Club Soccer National Tournament in July. The runners-up qualified for the South Central Regional event in June, from which winners will also qualify for the national tournament.
After a pilot run last spring, we launched our own “Elite Player Training” (EPT) this fall, again for the older age groups (U11 – U14 will be in the spring). This is intended to give the top players in each age group 4 extra training sessions with Franklin McIntosh and guest coaches. While somewhat controversial because of its “exclusivity”, we feel like this is an important program to have in our club. It provides further challenges to our top players, who might otherwise become complacent. It also provides incentive for those not chosen to push themselves harder to reach that selection goal in the future.
With all the good things going on in our club, there are also recognized opportunities for improvement. That’s not unusual. Nothing is static in the world of youth soccer. Whether it’s changes in the overall soccer landscape, or personnel changes within our own club, we always have issues that need to be addressed between seasons. Our Board meets monthly, but during the winter we will also have some extended “working sessions” to deal with issues, look at trends and set strategy. As a Board we don’t deal with individual player issues, but if there is an issue that affects a team, age group, or larger segment of the club, please have your team manager make Samir and Franklin aware. We are also seeking a parent to replace April Legere on the Board as the Parent Representative. We currently have 1 nomination, but have left that seat open to see if other nominations are brought forward. If you have interest, please have your team manager submit your name to Samir.
Enjoy the holiday season with your families and thanks for being part of the Comets!
“Unfortunately we dropped our first match 0-2 against a strong Columbus East FC team. In the first 5 minutes we lost our sweeper to a knee injury (out for the rest the tournament) so that set us back a bit. They had some monster athletes and they were well coached. We just couldn’t overcome the 0-2 deficit in the second half. We play the very top team in the bracket Saturday evening. We are up against it but we’ll continue to battle!” - Coach Greg
Game Day 2 we play NY Stars Premier Galaxy ... the top team in our bracket. We got this!!! #goarcomets
SOUTHERN REGIONALS TEAM RECAPS!
June 21-24, our club played our annual part in representing the great state of Arkansas at the Southern Regionals Tournament by sending 5 State Champions to Greensboro, NC, once again sending more teams, from one club, than any other in the state of Arkansas. Teams in attendance this year were the U14B ‘04 Premier, U14G ‘04 Premier, U15B ‘03 Premier, U16B ‘02 Red, and the U18B ‘00 Premier. Our club can be proud of how our teams represented our state and club. A special shout out to our U14B ’04 Premier team for making it out of their group advancing all the way to the semifinals where they dropped a close match to OK Energy! Congratulations all teams for their efforts in North Carolina!
U14B ’04 PREMIER RECAP:
Playing five matches at regionals is not small feet! This team stepped up to the challenge, won their group with three straight wins, won their quarterfinal match in PK’s, and lost a hard fought match to finalists OK Energy (Oklahoma). Here’s a look at how they got there.
Match 1 vs Tennessee: Germantown Legends 04 Black
Won 4-1, Goals: Edwin, Jason, Jose, Sam
Match 2 vs South Carolina: USA/MP 04 Premier
Won 1-0, Goals: Andres
Match 3 vs North Carolina: Wilmington Hammerhead Youth Football 04 White
Won 3-1, Goals: Jason -2, Ian
Match 4 - Quarter Final vs South Texas: Rise 04 Elite
Won 3-2 (PK), Goals: Jose, Andres
Match 5 - Semi Final vs Oklahoma: Oklahoma Energy FC 04 (Central)
Lost 2-1, Goals: Jose
Total Goals: Jason Aguilar – 3, Jose Alvarado – 3, Andres Soto – 2, Edwin Lara Gomez – 1, Ian Morrison – 1, Sam Shultz – 1
Again, congratulations 04B Premier for making it all the way to the semifinals!
FYI…the ‘04B Premier are currently in Colorado preparing for the USClubSoccer
U14G ’04 PREMIER RECAP:
The 04 Girls got the “Group of Death” in the U14 Girls age group. They started out with a 1-5 loss to eventual champion FC Dallas Blue, and followed that up with a pair of 0-3 losses to LNSC Eclipse Elite (North Carolina) and Florida Rush. Although the results don’t indicate it, the girls had some stretches of really good play during the event. Unfortunately, they learned that little mistakes against big opponents leads to pulling the ball out of your own net. The girls didn’t leave North Carolina downtrodden, however. They left determined, realizing the level of the elite teams is within reach. Congratulations girls on your first Regionals!
U15B ’03 PREMIER RECAP:
Friday, Match 1 vs Alabama, Win 3-1.
The first goal came from a centering cross by Johny Merlos that was put in by the opposing team in the first half. The second and third goals came in the second half as the team gained confidence. The second goal was scored by Mike Solis, assisted by Danny Barriga and the third goal was scored by Miguel Reyes, assisted by Mike Solis.
Saturday, Match 2 vs North Carolina, Loss 0-4.
The team fell short 0-2 in the first half and couldn’t recover as NC scored two more in the second half. The team did have six shots on goal by Miguels Reyes, Jose Lopez, Danny Barriga, Erik Guerrero and Johnny Merlos. During the team meeting later that night, the team learned they must work together to accomplish a win. They were determined to try harder the next day and communicate more in a positive way. The team was still in it needing a win and some help to advance.
Sunday, Match 3 vs Oklahoma, Loss 2-3. The team came out strong and scored a first half goal by Erik Guerrero, assisted by Mike Solis and held the lead going into halftime. In the Second half Oklahoma tied the game off an own goal. Oklahoma took the lead when they scored their second goal from a shot outside the box. The Comets attacked to try and level the score and were rewarded a PK when a defender handled the ball in the box. Samuel Bishop stepped up to put the ball in the net to tie the 2-2. In the final 3 minutes the referee rewarded Oklahoma with a foul inside the box resulting in a PK for them. They finished the shot and the game ended 2-3.
The team was very happy with the experience. They had a Lunch/ Meeting with the team every morning at 11am where everyone showed up had a good involvement from parents. Every afternoon the team also had stretching/training and all players showed up and were engaged in the exercises. Each player had positive feed-back from the coaches after each game and they discussed what they could do to contribute and work for a positive outcome.
U16B ’02 PREMIER RECAP:
The boys made their first trip to Regionals and it was quite an experience. The first match pitted them against Odyssey 02 from North Texas, who got to Regionals by beating the 2017 02 Boys National Champions. A closely contested match saw our keeper, Angel Ortiz, save a PK early in the first half. Odyssey then got a late first half goal to go up 1-0. Andrew Brandenburg hit a fantastic shot to the keeper's right, unfortunately, the keeper made a diving fingertip save to keep it out of the net. Brandenburg later hit the crossbar. The team was literally inches away from being up 2-1 going into half. The second half was also evenly matched with Odyssey getting a late second half goal. The final of 2-0 didn't reflect how close the match was, with Odyssey converting on chances while Comets had multiple near misses. The boys finished the match feeling pretty confident.
Our boys faced Georgia's Concorde Fire North Elite in the second match. In a very physical match (meaning, multiple uncalled fouls) Georgia was up 4-0 with about 15 minutes to go. The ref finally called one our way, citing the Georgia player for handling the ball in the box. Andrew Wagner converted the ensuing PK and the boys got their second wind. Less than five minutes later Harrison Kitson knocked home a beauty from a corner kick, and we were down 4-2 with 10 minutes to go. The boys continued to press but the Georgia keeper was up to the task, making save after save. Another loss, but also a closely contested match.
The third match was against the Lobos Rush Premier from Tennessee. Despite playing their hearts out they couldn't convert and our Comets took a beating. They went home without a win, but with a lot of valuable experience. This experience will no doubt help them in the future when they are in high pressure situations.
U18B ’00 PREMIER RECAP:
Making their fifth straight trip to Regionals, the 00B had the experience, but they also knew they were in an uphill battle to advance out of their group play. When there’s all sorts of obstacles in your way, from not having your trainer/coach (Andres) with you, to the level of opponents your facing, to early morning game times, and not fielding a full-roster from the state tournament, we knew it would be a difficult task. Having said all of that, the team approached it with wonderful attitudes and great levels of desire.
The first two matches saw our boys playing the two Regionals Finalists from 2017, with one of those being the 2017 National finalist, FC Dallas 00B Premier. Our first match had us up against 00 NCFC Elite out of North Carolina. They were the finalists from Regionals 2017 and they were big, strong, and fast. They came out from the start and our boys battled as best they could. The scoreline of 0-5 was a bit flattering as we gave up an own-goal, a questionable PK, and two easy goals.
Going into our second game on Saturday, we were matched up against the 2017 National Finalists, FC Dallas 00B Premier, so we knew it was going to be difficult from start to finish. We changed a few things in the lineup to better match-up with FC Dallas, and it actually worked. Our boys came out with a great level of desire and a high work-rate, battling for every loose ball and taking chances against the bigger stronger and more experienced opponent. As the game wore on, our boys gained confidence. Goalkeeper Esteban Chavez came up big time and time again as FC Dallas tried to break through our line of defense. Led by Ethan Stockdale, our backline held firm and allowed our midfielders to take chances. We moved Willy Hernandez, normally a defender along side Stockdale, up top to start the game and his height and ability to win the ball helped us in attack. Our center midfield trio of Javier Solis, Christian Marroquin, and Jose “Japa” Vego worked tirelessly to challenge and win the ball, and keep the ball, from the talented FC Dallas midfielders. Midway through the first half we had a throw-in deep in our offensive half of the field. Eli Jackson threw the ball to Japa in the box, Japa made a sick step-over move that sent the FC Dallas defender swiping at air and then unleashed a rocket to the upper 90 back corner over the outstretched arms of the 6’5” FC Dallas goalkeeper. Our players and bench erupted in cheers! The lead gave our boys life and energy as we continued pushing forward. With three minutes left in the half, FC Dallas played a ball back to their goalkeeper, who slipped. Newly inserted Nixon Aguilar quickly pounced on the loose ball, touched it away from the diving keeper and then dribbled into the net for a 2-0 lead. Then, with one minute left in the half, FC Dallas scored off a corner-kick as we finished the first half 2-1 in favor of us, but they had all the momentum going into the second half. Our boys regrouped, found energy, and battle the full second half and not just sitting back. We attacked, we met FC Dallas head-on, we frustrated them, we missed more chances, we were throwing our bodies in front of shots, and we were rewarded with our biggest win ever at any event.
With the win, we had a chance to advance out of our group stage. All we had to do was beat WHYFC White (NC), a team that had lost 0-3 and 0-4 in their two matches. Unfortunately, the boys spent a lot of energy, emotionally and physically, in that FC Dallas match. Our third and final game was a 0-4 loss and we were headed home.
Having said all of that, if we had to win won game at regionals, that was the game to win and they’ll remember it for a lifetime!
Again…congratulations to all of our teams for their efforts at regionals. WELL DONE!
Franklin McIntosh Selected To
US Men’s Under 18 Coaching Staff
Franklin McIntosh, Academy Director with the Arkansas Comets, has been named to the U.S. U18 Men’s National Team Coaching Staff for their eight-day training camp this summer.
McIntosh will join head Coach, Omid Namazi, working with the best U18 players in the country as they train at the state-of-the-art $75-million-dollar National Training Center in Kansas City.
"This is a great honor, not just for me, but for the Comets program as a whole. This will bring recognition for our club and area and I'm honored to be selected." McIntosh said.
"Not many clubs can say they have a national staff coach within their program. It's a huge achievement for anyone." Arkansas Comets staff said.
McIntosh joined the Arkansas Comets in 2017 as the Academy Programs Director.
-- 4/30/18 --
From a weather standpoint, it doesn’t seem like we’ve hit spring yet, but for many teams the spring season is about two-thirds complete. Aside from what’s been happening on the field (which is the most important thing), here is what’s been happening off the field:
From a weather standpoint, it doesn't seem like we've hit spring yet, but for many teams the spring season is about two-thirds complete. Aside from what's been happening on the field (which is the most important thing), here is what's happening off the field:
• April Legere (03G team) accepted the Board position of Parent Representative. Former President Greg Shultz was slotted into the new Coaching Representative role. That position will be filled by election of the coaches in August (i.e. start of the new soccer year).
• Scott Collins will join our Board as an advisory member. For those that don’t know Scott, he is a former Comets player (90B) and coach. He was an assistant coach for the Razorbacks and more recently Florida Gulf Coast University. He is now working for a college recruiting service. Scott will bring a lot of insight to the Board, not just collegiate insight, but also what successful clubs in other parts of the country are doing.
• We are piloting an “Elite Player Program”, which is just being done for the girls side at the moment. This is being done with players selected for additional, high-level training with Franklin McIntosh. With the decline of the Arkansas ODP program, we are seeking a way to provide the top players the extra challenge they need to keep developing. Ultimately we hope to develop a program that can challenge the top players to keep improving, and offer incentive for all players to strive toward a higher level.
• The biggest news, however, has been the announcement of the Arkansas Premier Clubs alliance. If you haven’t read the press release, please do so here. This is a tremendous move for our club, and for competitive youth soccer in the state of Arkansas. I’ve been involved in youth soccer in Arkansas as a coach and administrator since 1993. This is the first time the top clubs have all joined forces for the good of the players and the game. We will still be competitors, but will also work together to improve the environment for players, coaches and referees! Of course everything looks great on paper. We now have to execute together to make this successful. I’m sure it will require some changes and improvements over time, but if the soccer minds of the clubs all work together, the benefit for the players will be tremendous!
That’s all the news for now. Here’s what is on the horizon for our players and teams:
State Cup for the younger teams happens May 19-20.
Tryouts for next year are May 29 and 31. Don’t forget to register online (click here).
Our high school players will finish their HS seasons. Hopefully many of them will finish in Razorback Stadium playing for a State Championship.
Don’t forget Comets Appreciation Day at JBGB, on Sunday, June 3, from noon – 6pm. This should be a great day for current players, families and alumni. Many games and competitions are planned for that event.
Enjoy the rest of your season, and best wishes,
Welcome Spring and sunshine...and rain!!! Hopefully teams are starting to come together for outside practices and even games as the spring season is upon us! We're looking forward to a great season!!
I wanted to share that our Comets Board has been working extremely hard during the “offseason” to implement a few positive changes that will only help as we move forward as a club. New bylaws are in the works and currently with an attorney. As I mentioned in my last letter, we are also restructuring the Board, which will now consist of 7 voting seats and a dynamic number of advisory seats. Two of the voting seats will be annually elected positions, one to represent the coaches, and one to represent parents.
We will fill these two positions for the remainder of this soccer year, and then re-elect them in August. Thereafter they will be elected by the soccer year. The coaches’ representative will be elected at a coaches meeting. The parent representative will be selected from nominations made by the teams. Each team may (i.e. not mandatory) nominate 1 parent from their team as a candidate. You can make this nomination via email to Samir (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Again, this is an interim process for the remainder of this year. Next year we will have a parent committee who will elect one member to sit on the Board.
As a Board we place a lot of emphasis on fiscal responsibility, and we operate on a lean budget. The financials are reviewed at every Board meeting. Our Treasurer, John Wright, has done a great job of redoing our financial reporting, making it more easily understood. Below is a pie chart that represents our last fiscal year (Jul 2016 – Jun 2017). You can see from this chart where the club money (i.e. not team money) is spent over the course of a full soccer year. As you can see, we operate with very low overhead. Last year 86% of our expenses directly impacted our players and coaches (i.e. not Aministration/Office).
The pie chart shows a full year because a partial year does not give the complete picture. Many expenses are frontend loaded while others (like coaching) play out over the course of the year. However, this year is following the same financial pattern.
SPRING SEASON –
The spring season is kicking off for our younger teams. Many teams were active over the winter months with indoor leagues and/or training. Hopefully everyone has a great spring season!
On Sunday, June 3 our club will host an event at JBGB, in Fayetteville. This event will be for current and past players, coaches and parents to get together and enjoy some fun and fellowship at that great venue. More information will be forthcoming.
Based on fall results we currently have 3 teams that have qualified for Southern Regionals, 1 that has qualified for President’s Cup Regionals, and 2 that have qualified for US Club Soccer Nationals. Hopefully we will add to those totals with the younger teams this spring.
Best wishes and enjoy the spring season!
NEXT LEVEL WINTER LEAGUE CHAMPIONS!
With the end of the year approaching I wanted to update everyone on recent and ongoing efforts in our club, and celebrate our successes over the last year.
To start with Greg Shultz has stepped down as the Board President due to his very demanding work schedule. Greg did a fantastic job in that role over the last 2 years, and we thank him his service and leadership. The Board asked me to assume the President role, which I agreed to do on an interim basis. This is my 3rd stint as President of the Comets, and I think this is a critical time for the club. We must prepare for the future, while preserving the values that have allowed us to successfully serve the youth of NWA (and beyond) for the last 24 years. We are spending the offseason reworking our bylaws and Board structure to do just that.
2017 was a great year for our club. Now is also a good time to reflect on the club’s successes and highlights in 2017. These are just a few:
- For the 2016/2017 year we had 7 State Champions and 3 Runners-up.
- 6 Comets teams represented the club and state at Southern Regionals, and 2 represented the club and state at President’s Cup Regionals.
- The 99 Boys went to the Finals of Southern Regionals, losing 1-2 in the U18B Finals. They are only the 3rd team in the history of the club to advance to the Finals of Southern Regionals.
- The 04 Girls won the U14G division of President’s Cup Regionals, and then represented the club and state at Nationals in Florida. They are the first team in club history to advance to a US Youth Soccer national tournament.
- Our club joined the newly formed Red River division of the National Premier League and 13 of our teams participated in that league, which boasted teams from AR, OK and NTX. The 03 and 04 Boys teams have secured the top spots in their age groups, which will qualify them for US Club Soccer’s national tournament in July, 2018.
- Samir continued to expand and develop the Arkansas Club Development League (ACDL) which served teams from U11 to U18.
- 7 of our teams won their respective divisions of the ACDL, and several other finished as the top AR team in that league.
- The club provided 6 college scholarships to outgoing players to help with their freshman year tuition.
- 4 of our current 99 Girls have committed to play in college next year and more are still going through the recruiting process.
- Franklin McIntosh joined the club as a Coaching Director for our younger ages (U8-U12).
- The girls side of the Junior Academy expanded greatly under the dedicated direction of Shenan Boit and Shauna Bowen.
- We administered 3 free summer camps that provided good community service, as well as exposure for our club and expanded registration for our youngest age groups.
- The club hosted a very successful community food sale for the Alvarado family, a family that has been part of our Comets family for years, and is battling lengthy medical issues.
Before we know it the spring will be upon us. Our younger teams will crank back up, and our older players will move to their respective high school teams. The younger teams will play their State Cups in May, as will the 99 Boys who will return some current college players. Also in May the HS-aged teams will reconvene and prepare for upcoming summer events, including those going to regional tournaments.
With all that ahead of us, I hope everyone has a peaceful, relaxing holiday season.