Charleston or Chicago, It’s All Black and Gold
By Jeff Kassouf
For most professional soccer players, the offseason is a time to rest, recover, and prepare for the next. Many players welcome the break from the grueling demand of six or eight month seasons involving dozens of matches and hundreds of training sessions. Others, however, just want to play more.
Randi Patterson, Stephen Armstrong, and Lazo Alavanja are three familiar names to fans of the Charleston Battery, the USL-1 side that found its way to the U.S. Open Cup Final last season. Alavanja has been with the team for four seasons and Armstrong for three. Newcomer Randi Patterson enjoyed a successful first season with the Battery, scoring eight goals in 25 games.
His performances were so impressive, in fact, that he gained attention from indoor teams.
Indoor soccer goes largely unnoticed by the general public, but for the soccer-faithful it offers a chance to watch a twist on the world’s most popular sport. For the players, it is a chance to hone their skills year-round without searching far and wide for employment.
Patterson will join Alavanja and Armstrong in Chicago, where all three will be teammates on the Chicago Storm, the professional indoor soccer team that now plays in the Xtreme Soccer League. Chicago’s season kicks-off Sunday against the New Jersey Ironmen and ends in early April, just in time for the three to get back to Charleston for the USL-1 season.
The trend of playing in both the indoor and outdoor seasons is nothing new, but it is one that is becoming increasingly common.
“There are a handful of guys on the Storm that always ask about Charleston,” Armstrong said. “There are always a few younger guys in Charleston asking about the indoor league. It’s just whether or not they make the effort to go to tryouts or they have a good enough outdoor season where the indoor teams are interested in them.”
Patterson is a player who had a good enough season, and joins the ranks of other notable indoor-outdoor players. J.P. Rodrigues, now with the Milwaukee Wave, is one of the best young talents in indoor soccer after tallying 30 points in his rookie season and also plies his trade with Miami FC of the USL First Division.
Chile Farias is also a name that might be familiar with fans of the outdoor game. After bouncing around Major League Soccer and the United Soccer Leagues, he is now in New Jersey playing with the Ironmen.
The National Indoor Soccer League, the other half of the break-up of the old MISL, also boasts year-round players. Ryan Pierce and Jonathan Greenfield play for the Baltimore Blast, and names such as Anthony Maher and John Barry Nusum of Philadelphia may sound familiar.
The transition obviously involves a quicker speed of play in the tight space, but Armstrong suggested that the biggest adjustment may be the hard turf surface, which he said is taxing on the body. There is also the aspect of playing off of walls, something Patterson is enjoying after his first week of training.
“I like it a lot – kicking off the wall, taking a lot of shots,” he said. “It is just a great experience and I’m loving every minute of it.”
There is also a personal adaption that must be made, as most players have to switch cities between the indoor and outdoor season. Finding housing and getting to know a new city is hard enough, but a Chicago winter is a far cry from a South Carolina summer.
“It’s a bit cold up here,” Patterson said with a laugh. “I am from New Jersey but this is ridiculous.”
Armstrong, however, is much more accustomed to the lifestyle after years of switching cities. He also likes the big city, having grown up in one in Cape Town, South Africa.
“I’ve enjoyed it,” he said. “I don’t know how much longer I will do it but I have definitely enjoyed the variation. I love the summers and being close to the beach in Charleston. People say it is not ideal to come to Chicago in the winter because it is so cold, but I just enjoy being in a big city again.”
For the time being, Armstrong will continue to play both indoors and out. Both he and Randi Patterson said that a combination of factors lead players indoors, including economical reasons and not having to look overseas for a team in the offseason. Armstrong sees the indoor game as a unique opportunity, one very different from traditional soccer.
“They are just both so different,” Armstrong said. “To me they are almost just different sports.”
The trend of players taking part in both seasons is continuing to increase in popularity, and Armstrong noted that indoor teams are always looking for fresh talent such as Patterson. According to Patterson, it is an opportunity to extend his horizons. His attitude is similar to that of many other players around the country who continue to look for an opportunity on the indoor level.
“I am just working hard and trying to prove that I can play on the indoor level,” Patterson said.
Jeff Kassouf is a staff writer for The New Paltz Times and a freelance writer who covers soccer, and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org