Rangers FC

Rangers Off To England

All Star Team To Liverpool

No, this isn’t some sort of secret mission, but an international tournament that seven FC Tampa Lutz Rangers players will play in as part of the Florida Alliance Soccer League Select Team, an all-star team, of sorts, comprised of players from Lutz, Wesley Chapel, St. Petersburg, Temple Terrace and Bradenton.

The team will leave Thursday to play in the Liverpool-Knowsley International Youth Soccer Tournament, a prestigious weeklong event that has featured notable players in their youth, including Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney.

“We want to elevate the global game, in the players’ minds, because they don’t really know about the rest of the soccer world,” said Alliance coach Mike Connell, a former international and South African soccer player, who also played for the original Tampa Bay Rowdies. “They can get caught up in this little fish bowl of American soccer and think that’s all. … So they’re headed over there to challenge them and get a international taste of soccer.”

The seven FC Tampa Lutz Rangers players — Michael Connell, Ryan Robinson, Jake Minkotivz, Justice Enlow, Alex Sotomayor, Tony Scaglione and Jason Fishman — had to survive tryouts over two weekends to make the Alliance, and the team also played in the Disney Soccer Tournament over Memorial Day weekend, losing in the final.

In addition, FC Tampa Lutz has rewarded its players by presenting them with a $250 travel stipend to Liverpool, a payoff for their hard work.

“It’s the philosophy of our club, that not only do we believe we’re an ambitious club, but that the club should give something back to them,” Connell said. “Many of our players have high ambitions for soccer, so we want to reward them for that, for having a true desire to play the game at a high level.”

The players know that their hard work paid off, especially with their rare opportunity to play across the pond.

“A lot of kids came out, and it was, kind of scary, because it was a great chance, but you had to play hard the whole tryouts,” Michael Connell said. “I really want to see what the playing style is like over there because that’s my life-long goal: to play in England and know what I need to do to get to that level.”

“It really means a lot to all of us, to go over to England and learn what the game is like there,” Scaglione added. “It took a lot of work to make this team. It was tough — it wasn’t easy, but that’s what makes going over there so rewarding, that I worked so hard to get there.”

Yet the real reward, for the players, is the entire experience.

“This is to reward (the player’s) ambition and to bring the reality to the game,” Mike Connell said. “That way they can gauge where they are in the global world and where they want to go with the game.

“As a club and a coach, I just want them to recognize that there’s more out there than just high school and college soccer. Those are important in American soccer, but we know this is a global sport, so this trip is as educational as it is an honor.”