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Nevada Wonders set for second season

Nevada Appeal Staff Reports

Charles Whisnand

The Nevada Wonders soccer team got its feet wet last year in its inaugural season and believe its taken major steps to make its second campaign much more successful.

One of the biggest steps the Wonders took was not to play such a difficult schedule. The Wonders finished with just one win and two ties last season against a tough schedule that featured many professional teams.

This year’s schedule will be less demanding as the Wonders begin its second year in the Premiere Development League’s Western Division as part of the United Soccer Leagues. The USL released a portion of its 2004 PDL schedule, with the full schedule to be released on Monday.

“We’re going to play a lot more PDL teams,” said Randy Roser, who returns for his second year as the Wonders’ general manager. Roser is also the Carson High girls socer coach.

“It should be a pretty fun schedule,” Roser said. “We cut back on the professional teams this year.”

PDL teams that were added to the Wonders’ schedule include Salem, Ore., and Yakima, Wash. The season will begin in April and games will again be played at Carson High.

The Wonders will play three Pro Soccer League teams: the San Diego Gauchos and California Gold, who will both come to Carson, and the Utah Blitzz.

The Wonders did become more competitive at the end of last year, with one of the highlights coming in an overtime loss to the Gold.

Also on the schedule is the defending Western Conference champion Fresno Fuego, which advance to the quarterfinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup where they lost to the Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy.

England’s Paul Aigbogun returns for his second year as coach and he’s been actively recruiting players from Division I schools. Among the Division I schools that could send players to the Wonders are San Francisco, Santa Clara, which advanced to this past season’s NCAA Finals, and Loyola Marymount.

“We’ll have a lot of college players this year,” said Roser, who added the Wonders will again be one of the nation’s youngest teams.

Other players set to join the Wonders include two brothers from Gambia in Africa and Ronato, a player from Brazil. “He’s looking for us to send him on to a professional team,” said Roser about Ronato.

The Wonders should also again have a few players from England, including its top returning player from last year, Chris Blackburn. The Wonders are set to return seven players from a year ago.

Top local players should include Carson graduates Kirkwood Harris and Landon Roser, Randy’s son, former Reed standout Anthony Grillo, and Leon Abravanel, who helped lead South Tahoe to the NIAA 4A state title this past season.

“We did a whole different recruiting,” Randy Roser said. “We’re very confident it’s going to be a strong team.”

“We went in and took our lumps and learned our lessons boht business-wise and player-wise,” Roser also said about last year. “We really had no idea how competitive the PDL would be.”

Roser admitted that the Wonders couldn’t be as involved in the community as they wanted to last year. “We didn’t want to become overwhelmed.”

But he said the team will be more involved in the community this year. Something that will continue is sending players to local schools. “Last year we sent a lot of our players to local schools,” Roser said.

The Wonders will also have three teams – two girls and one boys – competing in the Super Y League, the USL’s youth league. “We’re moving along,” Roser said.

The 541-game PDL schedule kicks off in Provo, Utah, on April 10 with the BYU Cougars playing host to the Gauchos in an interleague matchup. USL also announced the PDL qualification process for the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. The PDL has four expansion teams: Las Cruces, N.M., the Orlando Prospects, Colorado Springs, Colo., and the Cleveland Internationals.

The regular season concludes July 18. The conference playoffs, featuring the top two clubs from each division will take place July 23-25. The league semifinals will occur the weekend of July 31 with the championship Saturday, Aug. 7. The PDL championship will be broadcast on Fox Sports World.

The PDL will send eight teams to the 2004 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. The two-time defending champion Cape Cod Crusaders receive an automatic berth in the tournament with the remaining seven entrants to be determined from four groups after four qualification matches. The Central, Eastern and Southern Conferences will send the top two clubs from their respective groups with the Western Conference sending one.