With the excitement of the World Cup having concluded, high-level soccer isn’t in shutdown mode locally just yet. The CFC (Connecticut Football Club) Azul semiprofessional soccer team, which is financed by Newtown resident and managing partner/majority owner Peter D’Amico, is set to take the field for its final regular season game before embarking on the postseason.
Team Azul wraps up the campaign this Saturday, July 19, when the Real Boston Rams come to the area. The teams will square off at Azul’s home field on the campus of Western Connecticut State University in Danbury in a 6 pm contest. Then, it’s on to the playoffs, with opponents as well as game times and locations to be determined.
CFC Azul is a member of the Premier Developmental League (PDL) of the Northeastern Division of the United Soccer Leagues (made up of 65 teams across the United States and Canada), and is the only soccer franchise in the state. The league provides competitive college-age players an opportunity to be recruited by Major League Soccer (MLS) teams. In fact, about 75 percent of MLS players come out of the PDL, according to Robin Schuppert, general manager of the Azul team.
D’Amico’s involvement with the three-year-old team began this past winter. D’Amico founded the Newtown Youth Academy in 2008 and that venue, currently known as NYA Sports & Fitness Center, now serves as the headquarters for Azul, which competed out of New Haven and Farmington in its first season and New Britain in its second campaign.
Azul means blue in Spanish; the players — who come primarily from top college teams in the state — naturally, sport blue uniforms.
Not all of Azul’s action takes place on the pitch. The team supported the Resiliency Center of Newtown by contributing a portion of its ticket sales from a recent game to the 501(c)(3) organization. Members of the team also worked with children at the Resiliency Center’s camp, assisting in field day activities.
Azul team members also assisted up-and-coming soccer players at the Newtown Soccer Club’s Memorial Day Tournament.
“At that age, the main goal is to get the kids excited about soccer. I know my kid and the other kids were ecstatic to be playing with those guys. He still talks about it,” said Steve Singlak, father of U6 player Stephen Singlak.
As great of an opportunity as it may be for the pre-teens, the Azul players also gain valuable experience by getting involved off the practice and game fields.
“This is an excellent opportunity for them to be good, young, male role models for these kids,” said Kaki Taylor, executive assistant to D’Amico.
The Azul team members are also looked up to by members of the CFC Azul Juniors, which offers teams for players ranging in age from 12 to 17.
“The plan is to, one day, have a PDL team that’s comprised of players from Newtown, Monroe, Danbury, and all around the area,” Schuppert said.
In addition to the Azul team and the Juniors, D’Amico started Apex soccer a year ago, with the idea of providing high level technical assistance to develop players — from the Juniors on up to the Azul players. The program includes speed and agility training and holds camps to enable up-and-coming players to build skills.
“My goal is to achieve the highest possible level of soccer,” said D’Amico, who has coached youth soccer for three decades, leading nine squads to State Cup titles along the way.
Now he’s hoping to help lead the Azul team to a championship of its own and, more significantly, direct some of its top players into the MLS ranks.
Visit cfcazul.com for more information.