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N.C. foes become Arizona amigos


College rivals Caiola and Mastroeni team up to play great summer soccer.

Summer brings more than talented soccer players together to the Tucson Amigos of the United States Interregional Soccer League.

It brings great players together from rival schools – players who have placed the Amigos in the Western Division playoffs for the first time since 1992.

Greg Caiola, 21, and Pablo Mastroeni, 18, are players from different North Carolina colleges who have recently met again on the field – this time as teammates. Caiola will be a senior at the University of North Carolina. Mastroeni will be a sophomore at North Carolina State.

Both of their coaches and the players said they are more than pleased to have such talented players together and playing on the same team.

The players said they recognized each other when they first met. Caiola admitted there is a unfriendly rivalry between their schools, but right now, they are a team, despite practicing together only once a week. Mastroeni lives in Phoenix.

“We don’t see each other much, but it’s great when we do come together on the field,’ Caiola said. Mastroeni agreed, saying, “Because we come from East Coast schools, we both have similar styles of playing. So it’s easy to jump in with Greg when we get on the field.’

Mastroeni added that during practice and games, it seems as if Caiola is one of his partners back at school.

“Soccer is a game where a player must be able to think on their own, but at the same time be able to communicate with other teammates and determine where the game is going,’ Mastroeni said. “Pablo is good at keeping his composure when he has the ball.’

The rivals are now friends, but neither feels the other will have an advantage after having played together.

“There are no secret moves or anything,’ Mastroeni said. “We both have a universal and simple style of playing and it’ll only make it a bit more exciting when we do play against each other. Fortunately, we are successful together.’

Wolfgang Weber, the Amigos’ assistant coach, said the pairing has been “phenomenal.’

“It was not planned,’ he said. “But the Amigos are extremely lucky.’ Weber said that it is the players’ maturity and level of skill that enables them to see past the rivalry and come together as a team.

“There is a chemistry among them and a mutual respect that they bring to the team,’ he said. Weber believes the players brought a positive impact to the team, bringing the Amigos from a 1-4 start to an 11-5 record. He credited the success to the players and their ability to recognize each other as outstanding players.

Weber said the team’s winning record shows the level of impact the players have brought to the team. He hesitated to credit Mastroeni and Caiola as the only reasons for the team’s success. He did say they were the missing ingredients that brought the team together and that success has taken them to the playoffs in San Francisco.

The team also acquired a third player from North Carolina-Asheville. Rodney Levy joined the team late in the season after finishing the school year. Levy, Caiola and Mastroeni have built a good friendship, Weber said.

The three players were brought together from different directions. Caiola was brought in by head coach Luis Dabo. Levy is a returning player and Mastroeni was brought in by Weber. The players were looking for a summer team{ to play on}(, since this is the only time they can play for a team outside of school.

He added that the entire team has a nice chemistry, on and off the field.

“They have a mutual respect for each other,’ Weber said. He also credits the community’s support for the team’s success.

“To be that age . . . 18, 19, 20 years old . . . and have 1,500 spectators cheering for you, it’s just amazing,’ he said.

The Amigos beat the Montclair Falcons and the Valley Golden Eagles last weekend in California.

The victory placed them as one of the four teams in the playoffs in San Francisco for the division finals. They play their final regular season home game against the Arizona Cotton tomorrow at 8 p.m. at Rincon High School Stadium.

[uf12b]Notable[mc]Tomorrow is “Guaranteed Win Night.’ If the Amigos defeat the Cotton, everyone in attendance will receive a free{ value menu}( sandwich{??? as opposed to a turkey sandwich, what? what is a `value menu’ sandwich? can we just say sandwich?}(, courtesy of Blimpies.{ i concur, and have changed it -rg}(

The game will feature an Alexi Lalas (U.S. soccer team member) look-alike contest at halftime and free soccer gifts throughout the game. Desert Diamond Casino is the game night sponsor and will host a “Kick-in Contest’ to benefit the Salvation Army.

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