Volume 17, Number 47 | April 15 — 21, 2005

Downtown Express photo by Judith Stiles

Left to right, Vicki Ruiz, Keisha Payne and Laura Fuentes of the Patriots, Sarah Miller and Keegan Mendez of DUSC and Lizette Celaya of the Patriots socialized before the game.

Soccer girls kick off use of big new Pier 40 field

By Judith Stiles

Typically reticent opponents were unusually friendly with each other last Sunday, a glorious day in April — not a cloud in the sky as a gaggle of girls from Brooklyn and Manhattan inaugurated the beautiful new fields at Pier 40 with their first soccer match of the spring season. Who would have guessed they were rivals as the red and white shirts from the Brooklyn Patriots and the navy blue shirts from Downtown United zigzagged across the bright green field, ponytails flying, as they jumped and giggled in delight before the game, as if it was a birthday party. In fact, it is the birth of a new chapter for the Downtown United Soccer Club and Greenwich Village Little League, who have come a long way baby since playing their games on a dusty undersized J. J. Walker field 10 years ago. For over a decade, when this group of girls was still in diapers, community activists worked tirelessly to persuade Hudson River Park Trust that fields in Pier 40’s massive courtyard would be a greater benefit to the community than a big-box store, such as Home Depot.

DUSC board member Ken Daniels waved his hand like a magic wand across the field before the game, and with a huge smile he proclaimed, “It is so incredible to see this happen after all these years! I hope the people in charge will continue to help our programs grow.” His 10-year-old daughter, Wellesley, of the DUSC team was itchy to start the game, but she paused a moment when her teammate Sarah Miller looked down at her feet and reminded Wellesley that directly underneath the field was the Hudson River, “You know we will be playing on water, but hmmm...maybe that will make us shoot better,” Miller remarked as they finished their warm-ups with Coach Oswaldo Palomino of DUSC.

For the first half of the U-10 game (played by girls under 10 years old), the parents from both the Brooklyn Patriots and DUSC were completely quiet and did not peep a word from the sidelines. Did they all have the flu? Fifteen minutes into the game, Stephanie Rivera of the Patriots had a breakaway that was cut down by DUSC’s brilliant sweeper, Sarah Miller, whose speed and guile thwarted several other scoring attempts by the Patriots. A few minutes later, Keegan Mendez of DUSC dribbled up the right side and shot a hard roller toward the left corner of the net, but the Patriots goalie, Sharneece Mars, managed to make a great save. Next, Vicki Ruiz of the Patriots had three rocket shots within minutes of each other that missed the net for still no score. At halftime, the score was tied 0-0. Then, 15 minutes into the second half, Coach Anderson Neverson of the Patriots moved Stephanie Rivera out of midfield, and within three minutes of becoming right forward, she scored the first goal for the Patriots. Then the parents came alive and both sides became boisterous, shouting only encouraging words to their respective teams. Next, there was a lot of traffic in front of the Patriots net, and out of a cluster of DUSC attackers, Amanda Katz popped one in the net, which tied the game at 1-1. A jubilant pack of DUSC parents immediately started jumping up and down, now like it was their birthday party. With only minutes left in the game, red-hot Patriots forward Rivera took another cannon shot on goal that was saved by DUSC goalie Emma Sennett-Kuvin. Two minutes later, Rivera had another breakaway and buried one in the back of the net, winning the game for the Patriots with a final score of 2-1.

Walking across the field after the game, Coach Neverson shook his head and chuckled about how different it is coaching girls. He noted, “With boys, you can yell at them and they do exactly what you want. Yelling works with boys, but with girls, oh no, they just become quiet and shut down. You have to be positive all the time.”

Director of the Patriots boys program, Derick Marshall, agreed and noted there are a lot of young girls playing soccer now, so coaches might have to adapt to different styles of coaching. He added, “Look at all these girls playing here at Pier 40. There has been an explosion in girls soccer — why two years ago you wouldn’t have heard about girls teams playing competitively at 7 years old, and now we have an under-8 girls team from the city that just came in first place at New Jersey’s Soccer Coliseum Cup!”

As Marshall and Coach Neverson strolled over to shake hands with DUSC coach Palomino, everyone was in good spirits that the new fields were ringing in a new era of soccer for kids in the city, Palomino, especially, applauded the advent of more field space, as his own family will add to the explosion of girls soccer, having two daughters, Bianca, at 19 months, and Daniella, just 4 months old. They are still little babies, but Ken Daniels reminded him that it seems like just yesterday that midfielder Wellesley Daniels was in diapers; so watch out coach — you can bet the Palomino sisters will be racing around these fabulous fields on the river, sooner than you think!

The Hudson River Park Trust plans an official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the field next month.

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