First-year program has long-term goals for area soccer
By Kyle LoJacono
The FC Tampa Lutz Rangers soccer program is less than 1 year old, but the fledgling club already has its first undefeated team.
The U10 Lutz Rangers Juventus just completed a perfect 14-0 regular season competing against squads from around the Tampa Bay area. Juventus outscored their opponents 142-24.
Guiding the Juventus is Mark Pearson, who has also coached the Land O’ Lakes boys soccer team the last 15 years. He said the players have come a long way during the last year.
“Mostly in individual skills and team concept,” Pearson said. “That’s where the biggest improvements have been. I think both teams have improved immensely. I see them progressing each and every practice.”
Pearson, who also coaches another Rangers team in the same age group, said winning is not the biggest part of what he teaches the kids.
“At this age group they don’t technically have champions and we frown upon just winning,” Pearson said. “The concept is really more development. Next year in U11 they move more into champions with trophies. But believe me, the kids know.”
Pearson will continue to coach his two teams as U11 next year.
Before the Rangers program started, there was no competitive soccer club in Lutz or Odessa. The Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department expanded the Oscar Cooler Sports Complex last year in part to make room for new soccer fields.
“The location here at the sports complex is fantastic,” Pearson said. “People can get here from Lutz, but also the northwest corridor in Hillsborough, central Pasco, west Pasco. Really the access is great. You can come down (US) 41 or Dale Mabry and you can get here pretty quickly.”
Pearson said two of his players are from Wesley Chapel and one from Land O’ Lakes, but the majority, like Juventus member Robbie Soronellas, are from Lutz.
Soronellas played for Hillsborough County United before this season, which required a 45 minute car ride.
“We don’t have to go straight to practice when my mom picks me up,” Soronellas said. “We can go home and get ready or do other things because it’s closer.”
Soronellas said he started playing soccer at age 4.
“I like the attacking,” Soronellas said. “Scoring and assisting are the best parts. I like it when we score.”
One of those who travels all the way from Wesley Chapel to play in the program is Collin Corrao.
“I started playing because it just looked fun,” said Corrao, who first started playing at age 2. “My team in Wesley Chapel moved and I wanted to keep playing.”
Land O’ Lakes resident Drew Knutson is a member of Pearson’s other U10 squad.
“I’ve loved soccer since I was 2,” Knutson said. “I played with my dad in the backyard and it was so much fun. I wanted to play with better kids so I could get better.”
“The game is just awesome,” Knutson continued. “All the action you get. It’s amazing.”
One thing is evident at any Rangers practice. The coaches work hard to make sure the kids do not make the same mistake twice.
“Our main goal is to try and prevent bad habits later on in life,” Pearson said. “We try to teach them the right things at the right age so they never develop those bad habits. We start them early at 5, 6, 7 years old and if you do that, bad habits hopefully won’t happen.”
For example, while coaching one of the U8 teams in practice, Pearson saw one the children shooting the ball with his wrong foot every time. Pearson stopped practice to show the youngster why kicking it with the other foot will put the shot on net more often.
“He’s a really good coach,” Knutson said. “He makes sure you don’t do the same mistakes.”
Pearson, who grew up in Carrollwood, played with the old Black Watch Soccer Club in the mid 1980s.
“That’s when I got into competitive soccer, which was really in its infancy in the early ‘80s,” Pearson said. “Black Watch was really the forerunner of competitive soccer programs in this area and we’re hoping to model ourselves after those competitive programs.”
Now that the regular season is complete, the Juventus and other Rangers teams will move on to the tournament portion of the program. Pearson said his teams will play in one each month, with the next coming in Largo in March, one in west Pasco County in April and another in May at Disney World.
For more information on the Rangers, visit www.fctampalutz.com.