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soccer

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Taylor Belcher (from left), Tyler Belcher and Mason Williams signed letters to play for Ventura College. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Five Maricopa High School students signed letters of intent for college athletics Wednesday.

Playing baseball together since seventh grade, three MHS baseball players plan to play for the same college.

Taylor Belcher, Tyler Belcher and Mason Williamson signed letters of intent to play for Ventura College in Ventura, California. The Pirates compete in the California Community College Athletics Association and are 20-19 with one game left in the regular season. Ventura’s program has produced professional baseball players Justin De Fratus and Zachary Thornton.

Brian Garcia (left) and Kyle O’Hare (with coach Courtney Kellenaers. MHS photo

MHS soccer players Kyle O’Hare and Brian Garcia signed letters of intent with Gateway Community College in Phoenix, part of Maricopa Community Colleges. The Geckos’ home games are played at the Rose Mofford Sports Complex. They finished their 2017 season 5-15.

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MHS giPhoto by Raquel Hendricksonrls' soccer qualified for the 5A play-in tournament. They play Sahuaro on Thursday.

Girls’ and boys’ soccer wrapped up the regular season Tuesday with victories for Maricopa High School. But the year isn’t over for the girls.

Posting a record of 8-5-1 (3-2), the girls’ soccer team finished ranked 22nd in 5A. That qualified them for the state’s sectional play-in, a chance to play for a spot in the state tournament.

The Rams play Thursday at 6 p.m. at Sahuaro High School in Tucson. Sahuaro is ranked 11th in 5A despite ending its season with three losses and a tie.

“We have a decent chance to win,” coach Morgan Davis said.

The teams have not met this season and had only one opponent in common. Sahauro beat Poston Butte 2-1; Maricopa beat Poston Butte 4-1. Davis said she used that gauge and Sahuaro’s overall performance to assess her own players. That gives her high expectations.

In Tuesday’s game at McClintock, the Maricopa girls won 7-0. Four of the goals came from the foot of junior Shannon Coutré. Also scoring were sophomores Senaya Cowing and Payson Hacker and freshman Jezelle Magallanes.

Coutré leads the team overall with 20 goals and 47 points, moving her into the top 10 in the region. That was a personal ambition for Coutré, who was this season’s team choice for captain.

“She’s stepped up her game,” Davis said. “She started leading as a player and off the field, and sort of became a mentor to the younger players.”

Junior Bianca Olivares has seven goals and 16 points.

Meanwhile, the boys ended the season with Senior Night and a 3-0 shutout of McClintock. Their overall record was 6-7-3 (1-4). Their final 5A state ranking was 26.

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MHS sophomore Payson Hacker gets the ball back in the Rams' opening game. Photo by Victor Moreno

The Maricopa High School girls’ soccer team lost its first game of the season in overtime Tuesday.

The Rams hosted Queen Creek, both teams relying on their underclassmen for big scores. The teams played to a 3-3 stalemate before the Bulldogs pulled out the victory.

Scorers for Maricopa were junior Shannon Coutre, junior Bailey Davis and freshman Ashlynn Jones. Sophomore Payson Hacker had an assist.

Maricopa next plays at home Friday at 6 p.m. against Vista Grande (0-1).

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MHS girls' soccer head coach Morgan Davis. Photo by William Lange

The former assistant coach for Maricopa High School girls’ varsity soccer will lead the team this year.

Morgan Davis is the new head coach for a team she is looking to unify after it lost its senior players in May.

Although tryouts are slated to begin in October, Davis said the majority of the team is already shaping up to consist of mostly juniors.

“The girls who are going to be seniors and juniors. We are really going to be looking at them to step up their game, to be role models for the upcoming freshmen and sophomores,” Davis said.

The program itself is welcoming many new faces both in coaching and in talent. Cory Rovens will be varsity assistant coach, and Mauricio Racines will head the junior varsity girls’ team.  Davis said it is an opportunity to create leaders as well as a cohesive, fresh program.

“I want everyone to see that even with the new coaches coming in – the new junior varsity coach, the new assistant varsity coach – that we are one,” she said.

The athletic program at the high school is led this year by new Athletic Director Brian Winter. He is working to connect middle school sports within the Maricopa Unified School District with the high school. Davis said she likes Winter’s direction.

“I love the program that he is wanting to incorporate into Maricopa and that goes for all sports, not just soccer,” Davis said. “What he’s looking at is building something in a town that has been overlooked for so long.”

Davis came to the district three years ago and has taught technology at Santa Cruz Elementary School.

She began playing soccer at the age of 7 and later played collegiately at a private university in Iowa, finishing her play at California State University, East Bay. The assistant coaching position at MHS came during the 2015-16 season. Her move to head coach is a transition Davis said she is ready to make.

“I want to create a program not only for the girls’ program, but a cohesive program for the boys and the girls – something we can consolidate together – where you look at the soccer program at Maricopa as a whole and you are proud of it,” Davis said.

The MHS girls’ soccer season begins in November and runs through February.

Maricopa men play in the Small Goal Soccer League at Copper Sky. Photo by Mason Callejas

For Maricopa athletes looking for an interesting side-sport, the soccer fields at Copper Sky Regional Park may just be home to their next big hobby – small-goal soccer.

For the past four years a branch of this unique sport has been thriving in Maricopa.  According to league coordinator Lidia Araballo, each year the Maricopa league is seeing a solid turnout, with rosters filling up fast between seasons.

The draw, Araballo said, is “it’s like a pick-up game, only slightly regulated.”

The goals, at roughly three feet deep, five feet tall and 10 feet wide, are nearly half the size of a standard adult goal. The fields, only 150-feet-by-100-feet, are also roughly half the size of a regulation sized field.

Officiated by licensed referees, the matches are shorter at 50 minutes, and the teams are smaller, with six players for each team on the field at a time – five fielders and one goalie.

The current league is an adult, men’s-only division, meaning men 16 and older are the only eligible participants.

Araballo hopes to eventually expand the Maricopa league and add a women’s division, and possibly even a youth division to accommodate all interested players.

The Maricopa league experimented with a co-ed division in the past, Araballo added. Few men continued participating, something she attributed to the male players’ concerns for injuring female players.

The number of women involved in the co-ed division fell short of the numbers needed to create a separate women’s league.

Nonetheless, Araballo is undeterred in her efforts to keep the sport going. She said the fan base is starting to grow and the players enjoy competing.

“We’ve had all the teams come back each season,” Araballo said. “They love it.”

At only $48 per person, $380 per team, players are guaranteed eight matches with the best four teams getting an additional semifinal match and the winners of those two matches going on to the championship.

Teams are recommended to have eight to 10 players minimum, and 12 players maximum.

Games are Thursday nights from 6-10 p.m., however more recently games have been happening after 8 p.m. due to heat.

A new season is set to start in the fall, Araballo said. Anyone interested in signing up can find information at smallgoalsoccer.com, or send an email to lidia@smallgoalsoccer.com.

Maricopa High School senior Tyra Williams was named 5A Metro Region Player of the Year, and Melvin Mitchell was named Region Coach of the Year. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

After the inaugural season of the 5A Metro region’s winter sports, Maricopa High School athletes have drawn notice.

Senior Tyra Williams was named Region Player of the Year in girls’ basketball. She called the honor “awesome.”

Williams averaged 18.4 points per game this year (fifth in the 5A conference), totaling 461. She had 216 rebounds, 87 steals, 32 assists and 56 blocks. Her season high was 33 points in a win over McClintock.

“I’m going to South Mountain [Community College] for a year; then I’m going to transfer to NAU,” she said.

At South Mountain she will be in familiar company. Former Rams Raegene Womack, the Cougars’ top player this season, and Ashliegh Haley were both part of MHS’s 2015 state championship team.

Maricopa’s Melvin Mitchell was named 5A Metro’s first Region Coach of the Year.

“I thought it was really, really cool,” he said. “It definitely feels pretty good to get the honor.”

But Mitchell also felt the honor from other coaches was due to their low expectations of his team after graduating seven seniors including stars like Womack and Danae Ruiz, who has gone on to lead the women’s team at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

“They figured we’d be OK but not worthy of making the run,” Mitchell said.

The Rams finished on top of the region, eking out a winning percentage fractions better than rival Ironwood. Maricopa lost in the first round of the state playoffs to Ironwood Ridge finishing the season 22-5.

Mitchell had even higher expectations of his team, knowing their hard work, scoring ability and the Maricopa calling card of pressure defense. Even with Williams graduating this year, he has high hopes for next year’s team, with two team leaders coming back – Sydni Callis and Jayla Johnson – and some 6-foot girls moving up from junior varsity.

Callis, a junior, was named First Team All Region. She was second in the conference in steals with 6.4 per game and fourth in assists, averaging 5.6. She averaged 11.5 points and totaled 129 rebounds. Johnson, a sophomore, was named Second Team All Region after averaging 10.9 points. She had 90 steals and 47 assists.

“I think Jayla and Sydni are two of the best in the backcourt in the state, but I might be biased,” Mitchell said.

Among the boys, junior Josh Johnson was named First Team All Region after leading the team into the state playoffs. Senior Darrell Handy-Johnson, in his first season for Maricopa, was given honorable mention.

Apollo’s Holland Woods, who averaged 27 points a game, was Region Player of the Year, and coach Jacob Marin was named Region Coach of the Year.

Four MHS soccer players were First Team picks in 5A Metro.

Midfielder Jacob Padilla and defender Elijah Aviles, both seniors, were named to the boys’ first team, with junior forward Diego Castro making Second Team All Region. The Rams were 8-8-1 overall.

For the girls, senior forward Amanda Maciel, who scored 24 goals, and senior defender Lauren Davis were named First Team All Region. Sophomore forward Shannon Coutre and defender Taylor Russo were named Second Team All Region. The girls were 11-7-1 overall.

Maricopa High School girls' varsity soccer team. Photo by William Lange

The Maricopa girls’ varsity soccer team revealed strengths and weaknesses in a 4-4 tie against Skyline Friday, bringing their record this season to 2-2-1.

Though their record indicates the potential of a moderately successful squad, the true measure may rest with scoring. The Rams have on average netted nearly three goals per game this season, however at the same time they have also allowed an average of two goals per game, a fact head coach Pedro Olivares believes needs to be addressed.

“We have a strong attacking group this year,” Olivares Said. “But where we need some help is on the defense.”

Some of the strongest scorers this year are among the team’s eight seniors, many of whom have played together since they were freshman. Olivares knows their offensive unity will likely add to the squad’s success, but he also acknowledges that it takes defensive prowess to be victorious.

Olivares said senior sweepers Lauren Davis (captain) and Katie Siebert, along with keeper Briana Barba, show the potential necessary to counter strong offensive teams. The technical skills and strength of senior strikers Amanda Maciel and Rachael Perez will keep the Rams competitive against stronger defenses.

The forward-looking Olivares acknowledges a lot boots will be left empty when these and other strong seniors graduate, thus this season he is putting an emphasis on training and recruiting younger players to help fill the impending void.

“I’m working with some of the freshman and sophomores in key positions so they can be ready for next year,” Olivares said. “So, we’re planning for this year but we are also planning for next [year].”

Though this is his first season coaching at Maricopa High School, Olivares is no stranger to the pitch. He has a storied past playing and coaching for club teams in Mexico, El Paso, Texas, and elsewhere in Arizona. Four years ago he and his family settled in Maricopa, and it wasn’t long before he knew the laid-back and family oriented atmosphere was exactly where he wanted his family to be.

“We love Maricopa,” Olivares said. “We really want to make a difference in the community.”

Now, wanting to advance the program, Olivares hopes to see his community rally around these athletes and support them not only by cheering for them at games but by participating in club fundraising efforts as well.

For information about fundraising, or if you’d like to contribute to the Lady Rams Varsity Soccer Club contact coach Olivares at pedroli1@msn.com.

The Rams will defend the home turf against Poston Butte tonight at 6 p.m. and then turn around to face Kellis in Glendale Wednesday night at the same time.

MHS boys's soccer team has started the season 2-1.

The Maricopa High School boys’ varsity soccer team is looking to turn things around this season with a uniquely unified squad largely comprised of senior defenders.

After the folly of the 2015-2016 season the Rams are stomping out any ill spirits left behind and, as their current 2-1 record shows, are working together to make victories happen.

Head coach Cortney Kellenaers has been with the team for seven years and remembers how easy it was in the past for the team to become infected by the poor attitudes of a few players. Now, he hopes the team will see the new season as a clean path on which they can use their camaraderie to build steady momentum.

“I think our strength is going to be our unity this year,” Kellenaers said. “It’s a much more cohesive group this year and they’re a little bit mo re willing to work for each other.”

The 2015-2016 season was, in Kellenaers’ words, a “rebuilding year” due to the unfortunately lopsided record of only two victories and 10 losses. This season, however, is poised to be a strong one for the Rams as 10 of 23 varsity players are returning seniors. Many of them, having played with each other in the past, have developed bonds that transcend the pitch, a fact Kellenaers does not take for granted.

“It’s nice having the seniority,” Kellenaers said. “A lot of these guys have been together for awhile, and they’re all good friends, which helps.”soccer-boys-12-2-3

Many of this season’s returning seniors are defensive players, another fact coach Kellenaers doesn’t take for granted. He recognizes having defensive leaders on the field is crucial to the team’s success, but, despite their positive direction, they can’t get ahead of themselves.

“A lot of the seniors are defenders, so it’s not just the scorers that are leading the team,” Kellenaers said. “But still, we’re taking it one game at a time.”

This season team is facing a new section of opponents, some of whom they haven’t faced in years, if ever before. Of those teams, the Rams don’t exactly have a defined rival this season. Kellenaers did, however, admit to being a bit territorial with Vista Grande and Casa Grande, the two teams nearest Maricopa geographically speaking. And, after sweeping Vista Grande 5-0 at their match Friday, the Rams appear to be maintaining that territory.

So far this season the Rams hold a winning record of two wins and one loss with their other victory coming from a 2-1 season opener at home against Queen Creek on Wednesday. Since then the Rams have experienced one defeat, losing 0-2 against Mountain Pointe Saturday

The Rams are set to square off against Desert Ridge in tournament play at Williams Field in Gilbert tonight at 5 p.m.
soccer-boys-12-2-4
Schedule
Nov. 30      H    Queen Creek            2-1 win
Dec. 2       H    Vista Grande              5-0 win
Dec. 3       @  Mountain Pointe       2-0 loss
Dec. 6-8   Tournament
Dec. 13    @   Poston Butte             6 p.m.
Dec. 14    H    Kellis                            6 p.m.
Dec. 16    H    Williams Field            6 p.m.
Dec. 19    @   Mesquite                    6 p.m.
Dec. 22    @   Sierra Linda                6 p.m.
Jan. 9        @   Apollo                          6 p.m.
Jan. 11      H     Ironwood                    6 p.m.
Jan. 17      H    Sunnyslope                 6 p.m.
Jan. 19     @    Casa Grande               6 p.m.
Jan. 24     @    McClintock                  6 p.m.

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Rayados Arizona players and coaches have been practicing at Copper Sky. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

A soccer academy for athletes for age 5 to 19 has had the young players going through their paces at Copper Sky Regional Park.

Rayados Arizona is an official school of Rayados de Monterrey (named for their vertically striped uniforms), a professional soccer club in Mexico. The club also has schools in Texas, Utah, Sonora and elsewhere. Some of the young footballers who play for Rayados Arizona have a chance to play in tournaments throughout the West and in Mexico.

Players are bilingual.

Coach Hugo Virgen said the international soccer academy also sets up player for a chance to play at the college level.

In May they participated in the college showcase Cerritos Memorial Challenge Cup in California. This week, some of the young players are part of the annual Copa Rayados at Universidad de Monterrey.

Call 520-360-1135 or visit RayadosArizona.com or find them on Facebook.

Costa Rica championship team Saprissa was scheduled to train in Maricopa this summer.

Perceiving a lack of support from the local business community, a Costa Rican soccer club is hedging on its plans to bring the professional game to Maricopa.

Deportivo Saprissa had been contemplating playing exhibition games against regional teams at Maricopa High School this summer as a warm-up to a three-year commitment to have pre-season training in Maricopa and Casa Grande.

Those summer games, originally slated for late June at Ram Stadium, are postponed. Local organizer Peter Cockle said about 3,000 tickets had been sold before Saprissa made the decision. Ticket-buyers have been refunded and have the chance for half off future tickets.

Cockle said Saprissa was concerned about a “lack of response” from Maricopa businesses. But there were other worries.

“The main issue they have is the cost to change the field at the high school,” Cockle said.

Saprissa wanted to temporarily paint over the American football gridiron and have just soccer lines for its two games. Painting and repainting would have cost an estimated $35,000, Cockle said.

Now the plan is to bring professional soccer to Maricopa in early February with Major League Soccer teams instead of regional squads in off-season exhibition at Copper Sky Regional Park.

The popularity of soccer has paid off for Pima County. Five years ago, the Tucson area began hosting MLS pre-season as a replacement for lost Major League Baseball spring training games.

This year, 14 MLS teams trained in Tucson and utilized Grande Sports World in Casa Grande. A recent report on KVOA in Tucson stated Pima County picked up $1.5 million last year from hotel stays, dining and shopping related to MLS pre-season training.

Saprissa still has a three-year commitment in place to bring players to Arizona. Cockle said those soccer fans who bought tickets for this year’s cancelled games can pay half-price for tickets to next year’s games.

Mayor Christian Price (left) and Maricopa businessman Peter Cockle are among local soccer enthusiasts working to bring Deportivp Saprissa to Maricopa. Photo by William Lange

Bringing a top-drawer Costa Rican soccer team to Maricopa is just as complicated as it sounds.

Smooth fields in a warm climate are a big enticement for Deportivo Saprissa. But the team has needs to be met. That involves individuals, the city, the school district and businesses.

The football field at Maricopa High School must get a new look. Thousands more seats are necessary. And promoters need to sell 4,000 tickets to make it all worthwhile.

Almost everyone involved in getting the team to town, however, sees the positives of the proposed training sessions in Maricopa and Casa Grande.

“From a sporting aspect, we are excited to be able to play on flat, level fields,” Galliano Luconi, financial manager for Deportivo Saprissa, said from his office in San Jose, Costa Rica. “We flew in a couple of months ago and looked at Casa Grande, too. (Grande Sports Academy) is an incredible project. It was a very positive impression.”

The team will train at Grande Sports and play at least two games, June 26 and June 29, and possibly three at Ram Stadium at MHS.

From a marketing perspective, the Saprissa club wants to spread recognition of its brand overseas. Latching onto growing popularity of the pro game in the United States is one way to do that.

Deportivo Saprissa Fast Facts
Founded: 1935
League: Costa Rican Primera División
Stadium: Estadio Ricardo Saprissa Ayma
Colors: Purple and white

Saprissa-escudo
“We want to be involved in that explosion,” Luconi said.

The key local figure in bringing Saprissa to Maricopa is Peter Cockle, who owns SHIPFR8 and is a soccer scout. He is mustering his Valley resources and his sporting relationship with TaylorMade’s Dana Taylor, a college and Premier Development League (PDL) coach, to nail down the specifics of Saprissa having its preseason in Arizona for three years.

“This is a very small starting point,” Cockle said. “It could also balloon up into something major. Hopefully, it will encourage businesses and everyone’s going to hear about Maricopa.”

That’s the hope of Mayor Christian Price, who also sees both the sports and marketing angles of the enterprise.

“I think this is an excellent showcase for what it means to come up with creative ideas on how to make the city a place that’s recognizable, that draws people here and ultimately has another level of success in a way that perhaps you wouldn’t think of right off the bat,” Price said. “It’s another way of growing our city, from residents to businesses to entertainment.”

El Monstruo Morado, “The Purple Monster” as the team is nicknamed for its purple jerseys, needs to see community support to center its Arizona commitment on Maricopa. The team has an option to take its preseason to the Prescott area.

The organization that has perhaps the most complicated task associated with the Saprissa visit is excited about the venture.

“We’re happy to be part of it,” said Aron Rausch, business manager for Maricopa Unified School District. “I think it’s going to be great for the community.”

Rausch is the administrator working on an agreement with TaylorMade for use of the MHS field. He said MUSD is requested to temporarily paint over the gridiron markings of high school football, remove the goal posts and generally fit up the field for pure soccer. After Saprissa’s visit, the field will be restored.

Rausch said TaylorMade will add 2,000 temporary seats on the visitor side of the field to increase capacity to 6,000 fans. (Saprissa’s home stadium holds 23,000.)

From MUSD’s point of view, the district has to recover its costs, and that is part of the contract negotiations. The school district rents its facilities, but it’s not often an organization wants to lease the football field. The standard fee to a for-profit organization is $940 per day. If lights are used, that is an additional $27 per hour.

Saprissa also wants to rent the locker rooms, an even rarer request. Rausch said MUSD will probably hire an outside firm to paint over and restore the football markings.

The preseason visit from Saprissa involves clinics for players and coaches, some meet-and-great events and a donation to the high school soccer program. As nice as monetary help is, the potential for his players to mingle with professional, international soccer players really intrigues the Rams’ boys’ soccer coach.

“I’m pretty ecstatic,” Cortney Kellenaers said. “I’ve been trying to build the sport within the community, so to have professional soccer right in front of our kids’ eyes would be amazing.”

No matter what his past accomplishments, Kellenaers knows it doesn’t command the attention of his team like a current pro player.

“Once you become a coach, what you’ve done in your past doesn’t matter,” he said. “The guys that are playing now professionally, the kids tend to listen to them just a little bit more.”

Luconi said Saprissa has six players on the Costa Rica national team. Fifteen now play in Europe and the United States. Three others are in Vancouver. He said Maricopa can expect to see “top-quality coaches, world-class coaches.” He described the players as “very young and very enthusiastic.”

While he said preseason is a relaxed environment, it is also a time for the team to find its rhythm and start the season on the right foot.

“They are intense and very professional and very involving,” Luconi said. “They’re going to see top soccer.”

The team usually trains in Mexico. To train in Arizona and prepare for Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) competition, they are starting a month earlier than normal. Luconi said coaches have been looking at the expected summer temperatures and humidity in Arizona.

“It’s definitely a concern, but there are other precautions we take like playing at night,” he said.

Luconi said Saprissa’s No. 1 goal this season is to win 50 percent of the national championship matches it competes in. For the past two seasons, they have won 75 percent.

Saprissa has 32 national championship titles and won the CONCACAF cup in 1993, 1995 and 2005.

When Kellenaers said, “This has huge potential to have a giant impact on our program,” he was not just talking about Saprissa. Cockle said if the first training sessions turn out well, a PDL soccer team could be based out of Maricopa starting next year.

“It will potentially become something great,” Mayor Price said.

TaylorMadeFutbal.com for tickets and sponsorship


This story appeared in the May issue of InMaricopa.

Costa Rica championship team Saprissa is scheduled to train in Maricopa this summer.

“This is huge,” Mayor Christian Price said in announcing a major event.

“We are in the process of bringing an international soccer team to the city of Maricopa,” he said.

Deportivo Saprissa is a three-time winner of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) Cup and the national championship team from Costa Rica. Saprissa was named CONCACAF’s Team of the 20th Century.

Price said its preseason appearance in Maricopa would draw national and international attention from businesses and fans.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Maricopa City Council, Price introduced local businessman Peter Cockle, instrumental in bringing the team to town at the end of June.

Cockle said Sapressa will play two teams during their preseason training in Maricopa. One is a professional team from San Diego and the other a team comprised of players selected from Arizona. He said each game is expected to draw 6,000 fans.

When the Saprissa team leaves Maricopa, it will travel to Denver to play in front of 70,000.

Maricopa businessman and sometime soccer scout Peter Cockle talks about the plans for Saprissa to train in Maricopa as Mayor Christian Price looks on. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson
Maricopa businessman and sometime soccer scout Peter Cockle talks about the plans for Saprissa to train in Maricopa as Mayor Christian Price looks on. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

“Where we think football is big in this country, soccer – professionally and internationally – dwarfs the NFL,” said Price, a lifelong soccer fan.

The mayor said he related the Saprissa visit to a business associate from Mexico. “He said, ‘That’s incredible. Coming to Maricopa?” His friend said he would expect his extended family and their entourage of 300 people from Texas to travel to Maricopa to watch El “S” play.

Juan Carlos Rojas, president of Deportivo Saprissa, appeared via video to introduce the club to Maricopa. He said the team’s stay in Maricopa would include coaching clinics, pro combines and summer camps.

“We are very glad to be visiting the Casa Grande and Maricopa communities for Saprissa’s preseason,” he said.

Cockle said the training camp is just the beginning of his plans. For one thing, it is not just a one-off event. “They’ve committed to three years. So they’ll be here next year; they want to play more games next year,” he said.

He said he is working to draw soccer fans from all over the state and build local support.

“If all goes well and the community buys into this, in January 2017 we will have our own professional soccer team here in Maricopa,” he said.

Cockle said pro teams that have trained at Grande Sports World in Casa Grande were unhappy with having to travel to Tucson for games. He suggested they come instead in Maricopa. He said they want to be involved with the Saprissa training next year.

“This is really going to put Maricopa on the map,” he said.

The plan is to have the training and games at Maricopa High School’s Rams Stadium. That deal includes a donation to the MHS soccer program. Cockle is partnering with Maricopa Unified School District, the city and businesses in Arizona and worldwide.

“This is what it takes. It takes creative thinking, outside the box, finding a vision and looking for a way to say ‘How do we make this happen?’” Price said.

Plans are still coming together, and the mayor said, “We have a long way to go.”

Cockle invites businesses interested in sponsorships or tickets to contact him at cockle.peter@gmail.com.