Youth Soccer Teams Vie Islandwide

“It’s the first time ever that East Hampton has had teams in the Long Island Junior Soccer League.”
Duvan Castro and his under-12 players, rallying above, comprise one of four teams the East Hampton Soccer Fever Club has entered in the Long Island Junior Soccer League. Marcelo Merchan

Spring having arrived, Marcelo Merchan has delivered on his vow last fall to field at least three youth soccer teams that would vie under East Hampton’s banner in the Long Island Junior Soccer League. 

“It’s the first time ever that East Hampton has had teams in the Long Island Junior Soccer League,” Merchan, who was accompanied by the East Hampton Soccer Fever Club’s vice president, Michael Tamay, said during a conversation the other day at The Star. 

Actually, there are four teams, an under-9 entry coached by Tamay, a 24-year-old former East Hampton High School star who’s now studying at Suffolk Community College, an under-10 one, an under-11 one, coached by Carlos Vargas, who used to be the Costa Rica team’s top scorer, and an under-12 one coached by Duvan Castro, whose Bill Miller teams have been pre-eminent lately in the East Hampton Wednesday evening 7-on-7 seasons.

“Marcelo helps everyone — he coaches all of us,” said Tamay, whose overtime goal in 2009 earned East Hampton High School’s boys soccer team its first-ever appearance in a county championship game. 

The idea, Tamay continued, is that the East Hampton Fever Club serve as a feeder for the high school team and, ultimately, help youngsters from here to get into college. 

A number of his peers, he said in this regard, had not followed through when it came to college offers. “A lot of my friends [with whom he’d played in high school here] failed to stay in shape and to show up when they were supposed to. They didn’t do the work. One who did was Brandon West [who tended goal for a national-championship team at Messiah College]. He was the only one. He was a hard worker, dedicated, disciplined, a good person. We want our kids to be like him — to work hard, get good grades, and to be directed. There’s so much talent. We don’t want to see it wasted.”

Merchan, who played on top men’s teams here after arriving in the mid-1980s, said the parents of the club’s some 80 children have been very supportive. A number, he said, have been certified as youth coaches by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, and the parents, he added, have been providing transportation to away games.

In this regard, he said the club, which also has the support of more than 20 local businesses, would like very much to get a large van to transport the teams.

It was learned Monday that the Soccer Fever Club has a permanent home at the Springs School, where it practices on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and where it plays its home games on Saturdays. Eric Casale, the school’s principal, “has been a huge help, as has the school board, for which we are very grateful,” Merchan said. Those fields are to be worked on in the summer, and thus will be off-limits until the fall, though the East Hampton Town Parks and Recreation director, John Rooney, is said to be working on finding a place for the club’s teams to practice during the summer months.

While at present the club’s players, from Springs and East Hampton by and large, are younger than high-school age, they soon will be feeding into the high school’s program, said Tamay, who plans to add under-15 and under-16 teams to the club’s roster next year. “Eighth and seventh graders have been coming to us and asking if we can’t mix them in, but, at the moment, we can’t.”

And how have the teams been doing? Very well, indeed. In fact, they have yet to experience a loss.

The under-9s, said Tamay, recently, and handily, won a first-round Long Island Cup tournament game at Rocky Point, on a day in which the other three teams, all playing at home, won as well. 

“We were a little scared going into competition, we weren’t sure we were up to it — the other teams had been training for the whole year — but we were,” Tamay added. “We have to tell our players sometimes just to pass the ball when we’re up by 5-0, say. They get it, but they also want to score!”

All four teams are, as the league requires when it comes to new entries, playing in lower divisions, but Merchan and Tamay think they’ll move up the ladder quickly.

“We also have intramurals,” Tamay said. “Strictly for fun, with no scores kept or points recorded.”

Some big games are coming up with Southampton, Merchan and Tamay said, on Saturday, April 29, at the Springs School, at 10:30 and 11:40 a.m., and at 1 p.m.