The Official Site of Jersey Shore Boca Jr. FC

Jersey Shore Boca Focused on Future
July 17, 2002

Feature article published in the Asbury Park Press on on Boca’s participation in the USL Super Y-League.

Jersey Shore Boca Focused on Future
Published in the Asbury Park Press 7/17/02

When the Jersey Shore Boca Soccer Club’s under-15 team got its first victory in six games recently in the United Soccer League’s Super Youth League, it had added reason to celebrate.

Jara Habib, a forward on that team out of Marlboro High School who scored two goals in the victory over the South Jersey Barons, was selected the league’s under-15 age group “National Player of the Week.”

It was only the second time in the two years that Boca’s four age-group teams playing in the USL Y-League had a player selected for that honor.

But it was an obvious sign that the program that draws most of its players from the Jersey Shore is gaining greater recognition and respect in a high-powered league that has on its team rosters some of the best young talent in the nation. For now, wins for Boca don’t come easily . . . or often.

Boca president Al Schwartz, who has been involved with the program since 1978, says he’s “very happy” with the progress of the four teams in the under-17, 16, 15 and 14 age groups in the elite level of competition. The USL’s Y-League includes some of the most recognizable names in club soccer like D.C. United, whose under 14s won the national championships last year, and F.C. Delco of Downingtown, Pa., who’s U15s and U17s won national titles last year as well.

Other teams in the league out of the Mid-Atlantic Region include Matchfit Academy of Hoboken, which has become a major player in the State Cup in recent years; Super Nova F.C. of Harrisburg, Pa.; the Northern Virginia Royals of Fairfax, Va.; and the Chesapeake Athletic Club of Bowie, Md., as well as a program from Morris County, that plays in the Metro Region.

“We’ve been competitive but there have been times we’ve gotten clobbered,” admitted Schwartz. “We joined the league because we felt we have very competitive kids and wanted to show people the competitive nature of soccer, even in this region. We wanted to get into a good brand of soccer for people to see how tough it is when you get out of the area.”

Shore fans will get a bird’s-eye view of that level today when D.C. United comes to Ocean County College, Hooper Avenue, to play Boca’s four teams. There will be one game at 4 p.m. and two games at 6 p.m., on the college’s adjacent fields.

“We have some outstanding players and if we can keep players together for a few years, we can have some outstanding teams,” said Schwartz.

Walter Konopka, who has been one of the financial directors for Major League Soccer and who coaches the Boca under 17s, was instrumental in the program joining the Y-League and is pleased with the results.

“We’re building for the future,” said Konopka, who has been involved with Boca for 25 years. “This league will be around for some time for the higher elite players in the United States.

“We have some talented players in the under 17s, some of them recruited by Division I colleges. We’re not going to win every single game, but we will be competitive.”

Schwartz coaches the U14s, Wolfgang Finger coaches the U15s and Bill Carroll has the U16s.

Despite Konopka’s affiliation with MLS, Schwartz said there has been “no dialogue” with the MetroStars about sponsorship of Boca.

On days like today, against D.C. United, Boca fans come to see the skill level of some future Olympic and World Cup candidates on D.C. United as well as rooting for their own teams whose main concern is keeping the game close and hoping for a tactical breakdown by their opponents that could lead to an upset.

Yet, Schwartz said Boca players enjoy the challenge and take the opportunity to hone their skills against tough competition.

“The morale is exceptionally good,” said Schwartz. “Our players are good players and great kids. They see the challenge and have brought a focused attitude. They have not folded in any games. They work harder every practice.”

Despite the great challenges facing them in the Y-League, the four Boca teams remain members of the Monmouth-Ocean League and the South Jersey League in the summer and play from September through May in the New Jersey Youth Soccer Association.

Because of the difficult overlap with the high school soccer season, some reluctantly have skipped playing for their varsity teams while others still play for both.

Most also play in an indoor league during the winter in gyms at Toms River High School North or Toms River Intermediate West.

Unlike some programs that charge exorbitant fees of $500 or more per player, Boca charges $250 that basically covers the fees for referees, insurance, equipment and use of the Ocean County College fields.

Boca teams have taken trips over the years to Germany, Scotland, the Netherlands and, most recently, to France three years ago. The U16s will take a trip during Easter break next year to Buenos Aires, Argentina, to train with their namesake Boca Juniors and to play a game.

Schwartz said he hopes the prestige of playing in the Y-League can raise interest from the communities for tryouts so the teams can get an even greater talent pool from which to choose.

“D.C. United had 317 tryouts and Chesapeake had 264 for their under 14s and we had 30,” said Schwartz. “There’s a lot more talent out there and kids who don’t come out. I know some have to work over the summer. This is a great opportunity for kids interested in the sport to show their talents.”