RENO -- While the Carson-City based Nevada Wonders start their season today at 2 p.m. against the Fresno Fuego, Northern Nevada's other established men's amateur team begins their season next Friday against the Utah Salt Ratz.
The Northern Nevada Aces left the D-3 League of the United Soccer Leagues (USL) and have joined the newly formed Men's Premier Soccer League (MPSL). The Aces, who went 3-15 last year in D-3, the United States' third level of professional soccer, are in the new league with five other teams; Tucson Tiburons, Arizona Sahuaros, Utah Salt Ratz, Las Vegas Strikers and Chico Rooks.
After years of dwindling talent, heavy legs and thick beards, the Aces should have a new look this season.
"We got rid of the cancer players and are going to have players who really have their heart with the team and want to be here," said Mo Mandegary, the team's owner. "We need fresher, stronger legs. We had guys on the Aces the last two years who had been with us since they were with the Reno Rattlers and Nevada Zephyrs. They were getting too old, I thought we needed new blood."
Mandegary had only 14 players on the current roster at the beginning of the month and hadn't even hired a coach. But numbers and a coach aren't important to him right now. He's only interested in bringing on players or coaches who truly want to be with the Aces and not those who severed their allegiance to the franchise.
Two of those individuals, Mandegary feels, are now with the Nevada Wonders--coach Paul Aigbogun and player Antonio Mora. Aigbogun coached the Aces most of last season and Mora has played under Mandegary for several years.
"As far as I'm concerned, they are traitors," Mandegary said. "I don't want to be associated with them at all. This guy (Aigbogun) came here (last year) without a pot to pee on and I brought him in and treated him like a father. I took him around town and introduced him to all the youth teams and Hispanic teams. Then he leaves for the money. It's a disgrace he does that after I have tried to build this thing from the ground up in our little community for the past 20 years or so. I'm not into wishing someone bad luck, we wish them luck. I just don't want anything to do with them."
Aigbogun, though, says it wasn't like that. Bury F.C., a third division club in England and which whom he is under contract with, is concerned only with developing young talent. Aigbogun said Manedgary emailed him in the off season, asking him to coach the Aces this summer. But Aigbogun declined because of philosophical differences.
"There are some things that happened but I don't really want to talk about them," Aigbogun said. "There were just too many problems. That's all in the past. Mo is worried about winning the league, Bury is more worried about developing players. It's just two different ideas and my contract is with Bury. The Wonders have the same idea as Bury does. That's why I came back to do this."
Personal rivalry aside, there also seems to be league rivalry between the MPSL and the USL.
"We broke away from the USL because they have gone down," Mandegary said. "Each year they have lost more and more teams. The league is failing, especially on the west coast. We feel we're going forward in this new league. We already have had several teams who are interested in joining the league next year. The level is as high as the D-3, if not higher. The PDL is below us."
Steve Clamp, a high-ranking USL official, doesn't see it that way. He feels the Chico Rooks, one of the more successful USL franchises ever, wasn't comfortable being governed by offices more than 3,000 miles away (Tampa, Fla.). The Rooks wanted to start their own league out of spite. The Rooks convinced other teams in the D-3 league to join the MPSL and there has been an almost a complete turnover in both the former D-3 and PDL leagues in the past few years.
"Basically, it's going to be a glorified Sunday (men's) league," Clamp said. "It's going to be at a level way below the PDL. Those teams didn't agree with how we were doing things."
The Aces will play their home games at North Valleys High School, which allows them the opportunity to host night games, which is always important when trying to attract larger crowds. Mandegary also said he's signed a contract with Spanish language Univision in an effort to help promote the Aces this season.
For more information on the MPSL, visit www.menspremiersoccer.com