PHOTO BY BOB ROCHE
Juan Sossa looks to make a clearing pass to the outside during Saturday’s friendly game with Boston at Manning Field.
By STEVE KRAUSE
LYNN –The Lynn United men’s soccer team is going upscale.
Team CEO Eric Moreno said the team, which had been playing at the amateur level with the Massachusetts State Soccer League, has accepted a berth in the Champions Soccer League USA — a semipro organization with teams throughout New England.
“The opportunity was presented to us, and we started looking into it,” said Moreno, during a break in the action at Saturday night’s “friendly” at Manning Field with the Boston Siege. “We liked how it sounded, and we accepted.”
Moreno said the team had two tryouts and had close to 100 applicants. Of the team he picked, an overwhelming majority of them come from Lynn, with players also coming from Peabody, Salem and as far away as Lowell.
There are lot of names on this team that should be familiar to soccer fans who followed the sport at the high school level in recent years. Among them are Salvador Castro, Abitalib Girdia, Yabesi Musema and Dami Dada, all of whom played for Lynn Classical; Francisco Franco (Lynn Tech), King Agbedun (English) and Moreno’s son, Eric, who played for Bishop Fenwick and Salem State.
Musema played in the Lynn Youth Soccer association, and his U18 team won two state championships. At Classical, Musema was a three-time Northeastern Conference all-star, the Rams won three league titles, and he was the league MVP. He was also a Daily item Player of the Year.
“Right now,” the younger Moreno said, “we’re in the fourth tier (of the semipro level). This is something similar to the North Shore Navigators (Futures Collegiate Baseball League) and the North Shore Generals (a Triple-A-level team in the New England Football League).”
In addition to some of the local talent, Moreno has signed players who spent most of their younger years in a country where soccer is more prevalent than it is up here.
Among them are Carlos Garcia, a winger, who is actually a returnee from last year’s club. Garcia was born in Boston, but raised in Honduras. When he came to Lynn, Moreno signed him up with his team.
German Fuentes, a midfielder-defender, began playing at a young age in El Salvador. When he came to the United States to pursue an education, he enrolled at Bunker Hill Community College, where he plans to play this fall. He has hopes of playing Division 1 soccer eventually.
Midfielder Juan Sossa’s career began in Colombia, where he played in several leagues. He caught the eye of Lynn United scouts during a local tournament, and they signed him to play. He is another returnee.
Another player Moreno is high on is defender Gabriel Rojas Perez, who began his soccer career in high school in Venezuela. Afterward he played in a third-division team in Venezuela before going to St. Thomas University in the United States. He then transferred to Colorado State.
After graduating, Rojas Perez played for Greater Lowell United, and then last season for Mass. United FC in the American Soccer League.
Moreno sees Rojas-Perez as a field general who will help mold the team together.
Agbedun was born in Nigeria, where he developed in interest in soccer at an early age. By the time he came to Lynn, he was a two-time league all-star in the Northeastern Conference, and was the Bulldogs’ captain his senior year.
Saturday night at Manning Field, the Lynn United team got a chance to stretch its legs a little in a friendly with the Boston Siege, also part of the CSL, and won, 6-2. The team plays for keeps beginning Saturday, April 29, at Manning Field against the Rockingham (N.H.) Rangers.