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National Coach Keith Tozer 'Trying to Cram Four Years into Five Months'

By Tim Sheldon

MILWAUKEE, Wis. (5-25-12) – Keith Tozer is busy "trying to cram four years into five months" as he prepares his U.S. Futsal Team for the CONCACAF Futsal Championship in Guatemala this July, and then, if they qualify, for the FIFA Futsal World Cup this November in Thailand.

"We're trying to teach guys how to play Futsal in five months, where teams are playing continuously all year long, year after year."

Tozer's upcoming opponents already have professional Futsal leagues in place, while the U.S. coach is still introducing the game to the majority of his players.

Tozer won his second straight Major Indoor Soccer League title with the Milwaukee Wave in March, but this is the version of indoor soccer played with sidewalls and does not adapt players effectively for Futsal, the world indoor game played with side and end lines. Many of his U.S. Futsal players come from this league.

While not coaching in the MISL, Tozer has been conducting clinics throughout the U.S. in his role as FIFA Futsal Instructor and is "trying to spread the word of Futsal as much as I can."

In his national team preparations, Tozer conducted a player identification camp in September at South Coast Soccer City in Torrence, Calif., and took a team to Manaus, Brazil, in October.for the Grand Prix Tournament, where they finished last in their group behind Iran, Uruguay and Belgium, scoring seven goals and giving up 25.

Tozer gathered the players for more Futsal instruction in early April and had another camp three weeks later.

The team is preparing now to leave for Guatemala June 3, where they will play four friendly matches again professional Futsal teams, and then return to Guatemala June 23 for the CONCACAF qualifying tournament. They'll play one friendly match and then open against Panama.

After facing Panama at 8 p.m. ET on July 2, the U.S.will then take on either Canada or El Salvador at 8 p.m. ET on July 3. They will conclude group play against host Guatemala at 10 p.m. ET on July 4.

"The pace is definitely picking up," Tozer said.

Tozer started with a pool of about 30 players, "probably the deepest pool of players we've had in a while."

The ID camps produced several players, most notably Luca Stauffer, a 17-year-old who emerged from the Shattuck-St. Mary's Soccer Academy in Faribault, Minn. Stauffer became the youngest active player in U.S. Futsal history when he traveled with the team to the Grand Prix tourney in Brazil. Tozer is very high on the young player and describes him as a prototype of what the modern U.S. Futsal player should be.

Tozer then picked the best 22 players and whittled that down to the 16 that will go to Guatemala for the friendlies. The roster will be trimmed to a final 14 for the team that goes to the CONCACAF qualifying tourney.

Players expected to provide leadership on the team include Machel Millwood (Baltimore Blast, MISL), Patrick Healey (Baltimore Blast, MISL), Byron Alvarez (Missouri Comets, MISL), Angel Rivillo (Philadelphia Kixx, MISL), Kraig Chiles (San Diego Sockers, PASL), Matthew Stewart (Milwaukee Wave, MISL), Daniel Waltman (Missouri Comets, MISL), and another 17-year-old, Jesus Sanchez, who played second division in Mexico.

"We've been on a crash course, and I think the warmup games in Guatemala are going to be extremely important for us," Tozer said. "We first started ramping this thing up last September, were in California four times, made the trip to Brazil, and then this trip to Guatemala, and then the actual CONCACAF. Hopefully we'll qualify and continue to prepare for Thailand."

Tozer noted that not only do many countries have establish pro Futsal leagues, but they have also incorporated Futsal as a major component of their youth development programs. The U.S. is behind in both regards, but Tozer said he saw some growth in the U.S. program and again focused on the star qualities of Luca Stauffer.

"He's a very gifted player, and a lot of colleges are after him right now. His father started a Futsal facility in Covington, Ky., years ago, and he's the prototype kid who is going to be playing outdoor for our national team by preparing through Futsal in this country, I really believe he is in the forefront of this movement that I see across America."

Outdoor soccer and Futsal "go together" in that when kids play Futsal it speeds up the technical learning process for the simple reason they they get more touches and opportunities to create in tight spaces, Tozer said..

"I really feel that if we can have Luca and Jesus really do well in this, I can see how it's going to take off. ... Claudio Reyna said that Futsal has to be part of your youth program some way, some how, and I'm totally behind that ... At the end of the day, you need a couple of players with magical skills who can play outside the box."

It couldn't happen too soon for the U.S. National Futsal program.

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