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A high level of soccer will be on display for the first time in northwest Ohio when a men’s amateur team kicks off its inaugural season on Saturday.
The Pacesetter Super 20 team, a club consisting primarily of the area’s top local college players, opens its first season that day.
The team was established by the Pacesetter Soccer Club and will compete in the Super 20 League, an organization for elite players ages 17 to 20.
Jimmy Walker, executive director of coaching at the Pacesetter club in Sylvania, has spearheaded the team’s formation.
“This is as good as it gets for soccer in the U.S.,” Walker said. “The only way you will see better soccer is to watch the Columbus Crew in the MLS [Major League Soccer].”
St. John’s Jesuit graduate Matt Essig, who plays at Duquesne University, is a defender for the Super 20 team.
“This is going to be good,” said Essig, who has played for the Pacesetter club since he was a youngster. “Hopefully this is a chance to start something big. It’s a high level and it will be intense.”
The Pacesetter Super 20 team will play the Columbus Crew Juniors in the season opener at 8 p.m. at Timberstone Junior High School in Sylvania. Tickets are $5.
Both teams are in the Midwest East division of the Super 20 League.
Walker said the Columbus Crew team is the defending champion. He said eight of the players are members of the U.S. National team.
“It will be a tough game,” Walker said. “They are very talented. It will be interesting to see how our boys do. But we have talent as well. We have a lot of players from a lot of different places.”
The Pacesetter roster features players from Brazil, England, Morocco, and Mexico.
Goalkeeper Michael Soderlund, a native of Boise, plays at Indiana University.
“We envision him to be our No. 1,” said Walker, who also is an assistant coach.
Forward Logan Glosser (Case Western Reserve University) and midfielder Reed Glosser (Wittenberg) played at Ottawa Hills.
St. John’s graduates Evan Lee (Ohio Wesleyan), Jake Martin (Owens), and Josh McCoy (Ohio Northern) also will compete for Pacesetter.
Northview’s Michael McPeek (Tiffin), and St. Francis’ Ashton Winkler (Urbana), also play for the team along with Perrysburg’s James Roberts (UC Colorado Springs), and Jaime Gonzalez (Ohio State University).
“About 60 percent are northwest Ohio kids,” Walker said. “We wanted to have a top-level team for all our younger kids [in the club] to come out to watch.”
The team is coached by Ryan Creech, who was the boys coach at Northview for 16 seasons before stepping down in 2010.
In April, Pacesetter entered into a partnership with the Aston Villa Football Club of the English Premier League.
“It’s the first partnership of its kind anywhere,” Walker said.
Walker said the partnership is the “biggest thing to happen to club,” which was founded in 1980. Walker, a native of England, played for Aston Villa.
“Aston Villa is one of top five clubs in England,” he said. “This will help local kids. It may open the door for them to play one day in England if they are good enough.”
Essig said the affiliation with the English club is monumental.
“For Pacesetter this is a huge step with the partnership with Aston,” Essig said. “That's why we have a lot of Division I players and kids from overseas.
“We’re definitely going to put on a show. The skill level will be high.”
The team plays a 10-game, regular season schedule through July 6. Pacesetter plays its second home game on June 1 at Timberstone. The Super 20 play on the road in Detroit on Tuesday.
The team has been training for two weeks.
“All guns will be blazing,” Walker said. “We have three games in the first seven days. We have to blend all this talent.”
Walker said the coaching staff handpicked the roster and had to turn away a number of talented players.
“This is two years in the making and now we get to see it all come to fruition,” Walker said. “It’s about bringing top level soccer to Toledo.”