Futsal
Waldorf Md, U-10 player Ryan Jones takes a shot on goal. The Northeast Regional Championships of Futsal were held at the Wildwood Convention Center over the weekend. Futsal is five on five, fast-paced indoor soccer with divisions ranging from U-8 to adult. Monday Feb 21, 2011. (Dale Gerhard/Press of Atlantic City) Dale Gerhard

WILDWOOD - You won't see throw-ins, grass or offside calls.

Some soccer fundamentals are still there, but Futsal is different.

It is designed for speed and offense, and club teams in the Northeast Region, from Maryland to Maine and as far west as Pittsburgh, competed at the Wildwoods Convention Center from Saturday to Monday for a chance to become regional champions and advance to the national tournament.

"The laws of the game are similar (to soccer)," said Georgios Zervos, 29, the director of Referee Development for the U.S. Futsal Federation. "But they have specific differences. It's very attack-oriented."

Zervos is a Harvard graduate who played professional soccer in Greece and Australia. He said that Futsal is an up-tempo, indoor variant of soccer that is often more high-scoring. The games are played with 10 players, five on each side, with 20-minute halves. Each team has nine players. The clock is always running, except in the last two minutes of the second half.

The players are confined to a small area (at most, 46 yards by 27 yards) called a pitch, and it is not uncommon to see goalkeepers in the offensive zone joining the attack.

"When people hear of Futsal, they think of it as pick-up games." said Bryan Rice, 17, a member of LSTS Futsal's U-19 team. "But it's not. We use strategy and try to find holes in the defense. It's more of a chess match."

LSTS stands for Life Skills Through Soccer, and is coached by

Jorge Ioman, 45. The LSTS Futsal program is one of the more successful organizations in southern New Jersey.

Based in Princeton, LSTS has teams in five age groups, and has sent teams to the national tournament every year since 2005, winning national titles in 2008, and 2010.

The LSTS players are from the Mercer County area and play outdoor soccer together as well. They play Futsal as a way to stay around the game during the winter months.

"These kids have been playing together for a really long time," Ioman said. "It's a special group."

The ball is smaller than a normal soccer ball, and made to bounce less. If the ball leaves play, then a player near the ball places it on a sideline for a "kick in" to a teammate.

Since the clock is always running, the players try to get the ball back in play as quickly as possible. The small dimensions of the playing area are designed to inspire creative play and quick ball movement.

"You have to play it fast," said Kelvin Flores, 18, of LSTS. "Always move your feet, and you don't use your body as much."

Teams qualified for the regional tournament by placing in the top two in their league season, or by being invited as an at-large bid.

Saturday and Sunday focused on round-robin play for the 11 age groups (U-10 through U-19 plus adult). The semifinals and finals were Monday. Teams from Ocean City and Cape May played in the round robin but did not advance.

Ioman's U-17 team won gold Monday, defeating the Barbarians 7-6, and will move on to nationals in Anaheim, Calif., in July. His U-19 team, however, was defeated 5-4 in double overtime by City FC Rangers in the regional final.

The Convention Center was made to hold seven Futsal pitches so that multiple games could be played at once. Players and Futsal representatives alike were impressed with the facility and the turnout.

"This is probably the best facility that we've played in for regionals," said LSTS player Dave Mongone, 18.

U.S. Futsal representative Alan Ehrenworth said the Convention Center is a perfect place to host a regional tournament.

"This is such a great facility." Ehrenworth said. "The people and management have been great. It's up there with Anaheim, and that's a national facility. We'd love to come back here for another regional tournament."

Contact Jeff Sporer:

609-272-7210

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