Local Teams Reap European Benefits

Loyola, Umbc And Towson All Have International Flavor

July 24, 2009|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,ken.murray@baltsun.com

For six British members of the Loyola College men's soccer team, tonight's World Football Challenge at M&T Bank Stadium is a delicious slice of home.

"For a lot of us British guys here, we haven't seen a top-quality game live like this in a long time," Tennant McVea, an All-America defender from Belfast, Northern Ireland, said this week. "It's great for me personally, because I miss football back home, I miss getting that atmosphere."

The atmosphere will be decidedly international when Chelsea FC and AC Milan, two of the most famous soccer teams in the world, represent Britain and Italy in a unique exhibition match. But there will be plenty of international flavor in the stands, too, because of the influx of foreign soccer players at U.S. colleges.

Loyola coach Mark Mettrick, a native of Manchester and former All-Star with the Blast, has a direct pipeline to England that has served him well in his 10 seasons.

Pete Caringi has three British players in his nine-man recruiting class at UMBC this season, his most in 19 years as coach.

Frank Olszewski's Towson University roster, meanwhile, features 10 international players, four from England. That, too, represents the high-water mark in Olszewski's 26 years as the Tigers coach.

"We've got a very diverse university population, and this is part of what the mission is for the university," he said.

Towson has three players from Germany - two who are actually U.S. citizens - two from Spain, one from Brazil and recruits from Colombia and Italy. Those recruits - Juan Esteban, Garcia Cabrales and Matteo Vertucci - came out of the IMG high school program in Bradenton, Fla. Six of Olszewski's international players are good enough to receive academic scholarship assistance.

"None of this would happen if they weren't interested in getting a degree," Olszewski said. "The degree is important."

It's a trend that has burgeoned.

"Now you see a lot of British players. The education system over there is good, and it prepares them well to go into university here," Mettrick said.

Mettrick made the trip himself when he failed to make the Manchester United team out of high school, and came instead to Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y., where he was a two-time Division I All-American.

Loyola's Jamie Darvill, a senior forward from London, said his decision was between signing with a pro team back home and coming to the U.S. to refine his game and get a degree. After consulting with a British friend who had gone to school in Florida, Darvill joined the Greyhounds.

"I thought it'd give me a few more years to mature and get an education, which my mom is very pleased about. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, really," he said.

McVea was ready to go to a Scottish university and play at a junior club level. But when Mettrick saw his Northern Ireland club team beat England, it opened another door and sparked his interest.

"Here, I've got the best of both worlds," McVea said.

Junior forward Phil Bannister came to Loyola from Newcastle because his high school coach knew Mettrick. Since then, he has witnessed growth in American soccer.

"It's getting a lot bigger now," Bannister said. "It's gaining a lot more respect."

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