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The Sports Journal

Top Amateur Soccer Team to Play Home Games at CCSU

Connecticut’s only team in North America’s preeminent amateur soccer league will be playing its home games at Central Connecticut State University’s recently renovated soccer stadium.

CFC (Connecticut Football Club) Azul, guided by former CCSU and Connecticut Wolves star Steve Coxon, will play 14 games, seven at CCSU, during a season which runs from mid-May until late July.

The team competes in the Premier Development League, a circuit for college stars and aspiring professional players, which operates under the umbrella of the United Soccer Leagues. USL has been administering leagues for men and women at elite levels of play since 1995.

CFC began as a localized premier girls soccer organization in 1999 and has expanded to meet the needs of all players from 8- to 19-years-old throughout the state via its eight branches. It delved into the highest level of women’s amateur soccer in 2007 by establishing the CFC Passion, which has played in both the W League and currently the Women’s Premier Soccer League.

CFC Azul endured a nomadic first year, splitting home games over five locations – high school fields in East Haven, Southbury and Wilton, as well as Tunxis Mead Park in Farmington and Veterans Memorial Stadium in Willow Brook Park.

The team had hoped to call CCSU home last year but the field wasn’t available.

“[Coxon] is a Central alum,” CFC Azul general manager Robin Schuppert said. “We had a connection and we wanted to use it last year but we couldn’t play there because it wasn’t safe. We practiced on their football field.

“Now that it’s done, we can play there. That was the plan all along and we’re glad. We think it’s a great facility.”

Schuppert said he hopes to attract fans from all over the state.

“We think New Britain is at the center of our market,” he said. “We can attract Hartford people and New Haven people.”

Coxon, a 2012 Connecticut Soccer Hall of Fame inductee, played at CCSU from 1987-89.

“We first started talking to [CCSU men’s head coach] Shaun Green,” Schuppert said. “He brought Steve over to the U.S. [from Newcastle, England]. We knew who to talk to. We got a tour of the facility and it was top-notch.”

Coxon played for the New Britain-based Wolves after graduating from CCSU and coached the Farmington High girls for seven seasons (1999-2005, 116-10-7 record, 2 Class L titles), which helped him craft a positive reputation with the state’s soccer-playing youth and their parents, a reputation that serves as the CFC’s foundation.

CFC Azul presently is in the process of holding tryouts for the 2013 roster. The team went 6-5-5 last year, finishing fifth in the Northeast Division of the PDL’s Eastern Conference.

Many of the players had local ties through either their hometowns or college affiliations, among them UConn goalkeeper Matt Sangeloty of Farmington, former Wethersfield High and University of Hartford midfielder Robert Brickley, the University of Hartford’s Patrick Boucher of Cromwell and CFC Azul’s leading goal scorer Ryan Kinne of Naugatuck.

Boucher and Kinne were called up by the New England Revolution last June to play for the MLS team’s reserve side. Kinne was the Revolution’s third-round choice in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft and played 10 games with the Rev’s reserves.

CFC Azul is coached by David Kelly, a former Wolves teammate of Coxon’s who lives in West Hartford and coaches at Southern Connecticut State University.

“When [Coxon] and I got together at the end of last season to review our inaugural season we both had nothing but praise for what Dave Kelly did,” Schuppert said. “Dave instilled a sense of professionalism that the entire club benefitted from. He is the right man for this job and I’m extremely excited for our second season.”

CFC Azul made the news recently by partnering with the Houston Dynamo of MLS and the Quinnipiac University soccer program for “Soccer Night in Newtown” on January 7. The event, staged to help the town’s citizens recover from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting of December 14, featured more than 40 MLS players and gained national media attention.

CFC Azul will host I-91 rival, the Western Mass Pioneers, in the season’s first home game on May 18. The other six home games are: June 7 (Ottawa Fury); June 8 (GPS Portland Phoenix); June 15 (Vermont Voltage); June 22 (Seacoast United Phantoms); June 29 (Western Mass Pioneers); July 6 (Real Boston Rams).

“We will have a team that is athletic, fast, and technical,” Kelly said. “We will play good football, and be entertaining. We also want to create an atmosphere where people come out and enjoy themselves. The players will be put in a position to enjoy their football, and our fans will come away pleased.”