Category Archives: Soccer

Brief update on the Adult Recreational Soccer League

An update to this post: For the past couple of seasons, we’ve been playing on the VT (artificial) Turf fields, which are frankly amazing compared to what we used to play on. The price has gone up a small amount, but personally I consider it worth it. You can also find pick-up games at the Turf fields which are open at least to dusk, but often with the floodlights on late. No-one checks ID, so if you’re not affiliated with VT, you’re generally fine to play. The fields and floodlights have made scheduling much easier too, and weather-related cancellations just don’t happen generally.

Also, TechSportsPlex closed down, but NRU is running indoor leagues in the off seasons.

Soccer in Blacksburg

If you search for soccer (football/calcio/futbal/fútbol/Fußball) in Blacksburg, you will probably quickly see that the high school has a great tradition of success for both girls and boys. If you look at Virginia Tech, the women’s team is excellent, the games are free, parking is good, and they are excellent to watch. The men’s soccer team isn’t quite so good at the moment.

If you want to play soccer as an adult, what are your options?

If you are a student at Virginia Tech, I guess you can play intramural sports, which for internationals who might not be familiar with the term, is recreational sports (“within the walls” I suppose). I never did when I was at VT, but that was probably more out of ignorance than anything. I have no idea what those games are like.

If you reside in the New River Valley, then the other options are a pick-up game, or playing in the New River United Adult Recreational League (NRU) – see below for more details. NRU do not, in my opinion, do a great job of advertising its existence. Their web site also leaves some things to be desired in terms of linking. Hence this post.

New River United also runs most of the kids recreational soccer in the NRV (there’s a Christiansburg setup too), and they have competitive teams for kids as well. I’ve coached and been involved with the kids recreational soccer and enjoyed it. It’s very popular and the fields around town are filled on a Saturday morning.

Pick-up games

I have never really cottoned on to where the pick-up games tend to be, but two locations that I know of where people gather include Nellie’s Cave Park, and the field behind the Food Lion on North Main (park behind the Food Lion and walk up), which is also known as Shenandoah Field. Nellie’s Cave Park tends not to have scheduled games, so it’s often available. Note that all the goals in town should be locked when not in use, because they mostly belong to NRU and they have to lock them for insurance purposes. It’s very frustrating as a casual player, but you just have to live with it.

Adult Recreational League

I play in the Adult Rec League, and have done for many years, perhaps a decade or more now. I played in high school in England where I was pretty good, but not great. The league is usually split into Sport and Competitive. At a very broad brush, Competitive (or the A league) tends to be under-30, skillful and athletic-kids who played in high school or maybe even college. Sport (the B league in which I play) tends to be older, less skillful and less athletic (or at least two out of three of those).

If I look at the team I currently manage/captain (The Goats), we have 8 in their mid-20s, 4 in their 30s, 3 in their 40s and one 60-year old(!). That’s a bit skewed for us historically. I’d say we have more 30 and 40-year olds usually. Our players are locals, graduate students, some undergrads, and faculty. We often have some international students on our teams. Not a ton of women play, but some certainly do. The focus is on having a fun, safe game.

We typically play an 8 game regular season in both Fall and Spring with a tournament at the end. We usually play one game a week, skipping when there is a break at VT. We tend to play on the weekends and weeknights because a lot of us have jobs, and the fields we usually use are owned and used by the local school system. NRU is building its own field near the airport which everyone hopes will be open soon. The fields we use are not great, but not terrible. There’s no budget for improvements really. The ground around here tends to be quite full of clay so the fields can get quite hard when they are dry. See the recent update posted here-we now primarily play on VT’s artificial turf!

One thing I wondered when I first signed up was why it seemed so expensive to me for so relatively few games. Part of the answer is that we play full games with three qualified referees. They generally are very good, and having them makes for good games. In terms of the rules, it is pretty standard, except that substitutions are unlimited, and we play with no slide tackling allowed. You can sign up as an individual and get assigned to a team if you are not aiming for a specific team.

Other options nearby

Roanoke has a number of good options. My understanding is that there is a women’s recreational league and a recreational league. I have heard there is a league for older players too, but I’m not sure where to find the details on that. I believe serious players involve themselves with the Roanoke Star Club, but there’s Valley AFC for kids too.

Indoor soccer

If you want to play indoor soccer (futsal) there are two basic options locally. There’s a winter league at the Blacksburg Community Center (Blacksburg Indoor Soccer League – BISL), and during the same time period there is an indoor league at the Tech Sportsplex near the mall area in Christiansburg. As an old geezer, I tend not to play because it’s a bit harder on my knees and can be quite fast, but the quality can be very good.

Virginia Tech Hokies Women’s Soccer

I tweeted about this the other day but I’d like to expand a little.

Last year I attended a game or two, but this year, I’ve been to several Hokie soccer games: at least one of the men’s team and several of the women’s. It has been a lot of fun. There’s a smallish crowd, which is enough to make it fun, but not the insane size of the football games. It’s free to get in and parking is easy.

I’m going to give the men’s team another chance since they didn’t really impress in the game I saw, but I am really enjoying watching the Women’s Soccer team. They are extremely skillful and have many of the qualities of a great team, but they are not quite converting their dominance into goals as much as I think they should.

I thought they were unlucky in North Carolina (let’s just say that I didn’t entirely agree with the refereeing) and that they dominated Boston College for much of the game. They do seem to be a bit vulnerable on set pieces.

Their ball movement, patience, discipline, possession, and general talent are all fantastic. They play a little like Swansea in that they’ll typically move the ball out from defense on the ground with calm, precise and well-controlled passing. Several times, I’ve seen their central defensive players turn the opposition inside out before making a simple release pass. They are very good at relieving pressure in that regard.

The team seems to be setting up in a 4-1-3-2 formation and their midfielders are impressive. The one caveat is that they feel unimaginative on offense in the final third. What I have seen to this point are through balls, long balls, and runs that tend to be vertical (straight up and down) with few overlaps from midfield and less diagonal movement. Several times I’ve seen midfielders creating space in advanced positions by fantastic passing and then it fizzles out, either in a wayward shot or a tackle.

I’m not sure of the underlying reason. It could be intentional positional discipline, but the last game I saw there was at least one occasion for a clear overlapping run by an outside midfielder and the player just stayed in place. The other part of the equation is the offensive players themselves who seem a little static or “one note”. If you aren’t faster than the defense and being quick is your thing, then your options close down. If being tall is your thing, then you need service from the wings.

My understanding of an attacker’s role (and I say this both as a fan, and primarily a defensive player myself), is that it is at least in part to make defenses constantly worry about where you are, to get on their blind side, to get into positions where they can’t see both you and the ball, and to make runs off and away from the ball to draw the defense into bad positions. That off-the-ball mischievousness and creativity is what I think I’m not seeing. I’m not sure of the solution from a tactical point of view, but the team feels only a fraction shy of being a truly great team. They could easily have beaten North Carolina and Boston in my opinion.

Either way, they play again this Sunday, and I’m planning on enjoying the game, whatever the result.

Soccer Commentary and Counter-Productive Takedowns

sotto voce: one of a series of long unfinished posts that I’m just throwing out there.

Good grief, an excellent soccer strategy site is asked to stop using photos of matches in his analysis. God forbid that enthusiasts get interested in all dimensions of the game! It’s a common theme for copyright holders to take actions directly contrary to their own long-term interests, but it springs from fundamental misunderstandings of the internet. See also: SOPA, ACTA, etc.