Utah Blitzz head coach Chris Agnello is a realist. He knows soccer has not traditionally been a sport the youth in Utah eat up. He knows the high school level is solid but the day-to-day competition is lacking when compared to much of the country.
He knew he would have his hands full when trying to find quality local boys to add to the roster. He was hoping for three or four, maybe, if he was granted a miracle, five good players from the state.Agnello must have a lot of bonus points tallied from the man above because he signed eight Utahns.
The Blitzz roster was unveiled Monday afternoon, and it included eight players with local ties. They bring marketability and easy promotions with them. More importantly, they bring talent. A bucket load of talent.
"I was nervous the local players would not be able to handle the level of soccer we're playing," Agnello said about the tryouts. "Day one of tryouts brought a sigh of relief. I know the problems of playing in Utah; the competition just isn't there. But the eight players we have are incredible. We got lucky."
Chad Sackett considers himself lucky, not Agnello. Sackett is one of the "local boys." He played at Davis High School before playing one season at Westminister College in Salt Lake City. After a LDS Church mission to Portugal, Sackett turned to BYU for a chance to play at the club level.
Having a professional team come to Utah was a rush of excitement for Sackett, who will be one of the Blitzz' two goal keepers.
"This is a sweet opportunity for the local players who don't have a sanctioned college team to play for," Sackett said. "To be able to play in a league like this is a dream come true."
With the Utah players, Agnello says, comes role models for the youth players in Utah. Where baseball, football and basketball aren't lacking in visible players, soccer has been kept under a veil in the United States for years. The Blitzz plan to change that -- at least in Utah.
"Kids can come to the games and see some of the players from Utah and can develop role models," Agnello said. "It gives them something to build toward."
Agnello knows about building. Along with the Utah players comes a group of soccer stars from all across the globe. The Blitzz attracted Gavin Galloway from Scotland, Damien Munoz from Argentine and Carlos Santos of Brazil. The roster also has players from Northern Ireland, England and Indiana.
All of these players, according to Agnello, bring plenty for the fans to love.
"We've brought in players with a lot of flare and style, and we will display that for the fans," Agnello said. "My belief is that the game is played in the other team's half. The only way to entertain is to go forward."
Santos has been living in Utah for a year, going to school to study English. He played soccer "three or four times a day in Brazil" but found little opportunity to quench his desire here.
All that has changed.
"I missed soccer very much," Santos said, speaking through Sackett who was acting as an interpretor. "There is too much snow here to play a lot."
With help from the University of Utah, the Blitzz won't have to worry about the snow. The team holds nightly workouts in the bubble on the U. campus and will play all of its home games this season in Rice-Eccles Stadium while its new stadium is under construction. Both Sackett and Santos plan to be in Utah for a long time. They also plan to play for the Blitzz for a long time.
"I know this team will catch on, and the community will get involved," Sackett said.
JT Cerroni, MF, Indiana ; Henry Crompton, Fwd.,Utah; Jorge Estrada, Fwd., Utah; Jason Fullmer, Def., Utah; Gavin Galloway, Def., Scotland; Rob Karras, Def., Utah; Eric Landon, GK, Utah; BJ McNicol, Mid., Utah; Richard Miller, Def., Utah; Damien Munoz, Def., Argentina; Glenn Puckrin, Mid., N. Ireland; Eric Ripley, For., Indiana; Chad Sackett, GK, Utah; Carlos Santos, Def., Brazil; and MJ Tate, Mid., England.