FAIRBANKS-Fairbanks is most definitely a hockey town and that's evident with Hockey Week in Fairbanks. Well the Eclipse Soccer Club is having Soccer Week in Fairbanks and one of the headliners is a former US World Cup Team player.
US Soccer Hall of Famer Bruce Murray is in Fairbanks this week for the Eclipse Soccer Clubs team camp. Murray is seventh all time in US Soccer International Goals with 21.
He's a two-time NCAA champion with Clemson, He's won a Gold Cup, been an US Olympian and a forward/midfielder for the US World Cup Team in the late 80s and early 90s. But he's no stranger to Alaska. He was here a decade ago and now he's sees Fairbanks soccer improving.
"I'm really impressed with the level, it's seems to have gone up a little bit more" Murray said. "
The players seem to be a little bit sharper on the ball and the enthusiasm-the amount of people at this camp just shows me that soccer is exploding all over the United States. So it's not just in Charlotte, Washington D.C. and all these places we're out here in Fairbanks, Alaska. We're seeing some massive growth in soccer."
The young and aspiring soccer players from seventh grade all the way up to high school how been learning a lot from all the different coaches as this year's camp.
"I mean every coach sees something different so like so you never have it right like, you always have to learn something," Lathrop junior midfielder Karli Fitzgerald said. "So each coach just points out each little detail you have to work on."
Carter Mahler is in seventh grade and he's a goalie for a Phoenix 02 team that won Silver in last month's Alaska Airlines Cup. He's thrilled about this week's camp.
"Yesterday we did a lot of footwork and then we had a little fun at the end scrimmaging. So I would [say] it's one of the best camps I've been to," Mahler said.
The camp isn't just about the players. Local coaches have been receiving tips and pointers from certified professional coaches from all over the country. The coaches were brought in from Atlanta, Florida and California by Coaching Director Franklin Lawson. Lawson is from Atlanta and has done camps in Fairbanks in the past as well.
"We help the coaches and we discuss game management, player management and this just improves the clubs, helps the coaches interact and it helps everyone," Lawson said.
The camp and coaching clinic is a part of the Eclipses' soccer week in Fairbanks that has a skills competition and new crest unveiling on Friday. The chance to bring in icons like Murray and others would not be possible if the Eclipse were not an independent club. Clubs that are affiliated with a national club can't reach out from the parent club.
"I guess our club is able to respond. Bring in coaches how we want or buy equipment that we want or hire the locals that we want. And because of that hopefully we're building a tradition of excellence in player development and that's our goal after all is developing players." Eclipse Soccer Director Howard Maxwell said.
Murray was also impressed with the facilities for the soccer players at the Fairbanks Youth Soccer Association soccer complex off of Davis Road. He sighted the new turf fields the soccer community is getting and the continued success of the Eclipse Soccer program. The Bethesda, Maryland Soccer Club coach thinks the 49th state is ripe for a player to crack the men's team.
"I think Alaska's produced two women's World Cup players. It's only a matter of time. At some point an Alaskan player is going to make the men's program because there's so many leagues and so many things are happening up here. It's pretty cool," Murray said.
"I'll be able to go back and tell people at US Soccer what's happening up here it's really booming."