MIAMI, Fla. (March 29, 2013) – Eight days from now... the race to host Soccer Bowl 2013 kicks off. The North American Soccer League spring season gets underway on Saturday, April 6 and the coach of each team has his eye on winning the first half of the split season.
The only change in the offseason comes from FC Edmonton, who hired former Vancouver Whitecaps assistant Colin Miller to replace Harry Sinkgraven following the club’s last-place finish in 2012. Miller brings a wealth of experience to the Eddies, and believes in the potential of his young and largely Canadian and team.
"We have a very young team with one or two senior guys, and the quicker our young Canadian guys can get educated, the better we'll be,” said Miller. “We have 15 or 16 Canadians in our group and that's exciting.”
Miller was also appointed interim manager of the Canadian national team in January 2013 and led them to an encouraging 0-0 draw against the United States in Houston.
In San Antonio, Tim Hankinson will aim to lead a new-look Scorpions side to glory after the regular season champions came up short in 2012. Gone are Golden Ball and Golden Boot winner Pablo Campos, goalkeeper Daryl Sattler, and veterans Aaron Pitchkolan, Wes Knight and Ryan Cochrane.
“We’re a completely new group with different dynamics and a different chemistry,” said Hankinson. “I think we’re much stronger and deeper in [each position] and that should carry us along the way.”
Unlike Hankinson, Tampa Bay Rowdies boss Ricky Hill has retained a large core of his players. Last season’s coach of the year will look to repeat the Rowdies’ NASL Championship-winning campaign in the new split-season format after bolstering his squad with the likes of Georgi Hristov, Jay Needham and Amani Walker.
As a player, Hill made more than 500 appearances for Luton Town, and is revered as one of the greatest players to play at the English club.
Carolina RailHawks coach Colin Clark also enjoyed a long career in the UK, making more than 400 appearances for the likes of Ipswich, QPR and Portsmouth. As a forward, Clarke collected 38 caps for the Northern Ireland national team, scoring 13 times for his country, while tying the long-standing record set by Billy Gillespie in 1932.
Clark heads into his second season at the helm of the RailHawks, following five seasons in charge of the Puerto Rico Islanders. He started his reign in Cary with a nine-match winless streak, before turning things around to lead the team to a fourth-place finish and an NASL semifinals appearance. Clarke has kept many of his side’s best players, including Nick Zimmerman, Ty Shipalance and Floyd Franks, while adding former Islanders’ goalscorer Nicholas Addlery and Silverbacks midfielder Ciaran O’Brien to the roster.
Brian Haynes starts his first full season in charge of the Atlanta Silverbacks after taking over toward the end of the 2012 campaign from interim boss Eric Wynalda. Prior to the arrival of Wynalda and Haynes, the Silverbacks won just one of 14 regular season games. They ended up finishing the season among the strongest of NASL sides, losing just once in the last nine games.
Heading into the 2013 season, the team is largely the same with Salvadoran international Richie Menjivar the biggest name to come into a team that lost two stars in Matt Horth and Ciaran O’Brien.
Down in Fort Lauderdale, Strikers head coach Daryl Shore was able to hold on to two of his biggest stars in NASL Best XI pair Mark Anderson and Walter Restrepo as he looks to build a team capable of challenging for the coveted Soccer Bowl. Joining Anderson and Restrepo are veterans like David Foley, Ivan Guerrero and Shavar Thomas.
Minnesota has been making a lot of noise in the offseason with the rebrand from the Stars to Minnesota United FC. Led by Minnesota native Manny Lagos, the team that has reached the final twice in two seasons could very well be on their way to a third with the signings the team has made. High profile signings like former NASL MVPs Etienne Barbara and Pablo Campos, as well as Bryan Arguez, Aaron Pitchkolan, Max Griffin and Daryl Sattler will excite United’s fans.
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