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North Alleghney's Dutch treat

| Friday, Sept. 23, 2005

North Allegheny soccer coach Bobby Vosmaer had better things to do than fly to Dallas last weekend.

"The kids are more important than me," he said. "This is today. That was then."

The first-year coach skipped the North American Soccer League reunion to be with his new team for a 3-2 non-section loss at Mt. Lebanon on Saturday.

The former pro player found he has more pressing commitments than an alumni soccer game at Pizza Hut Park last Sunday and swapping old stories with about 80 coaches and players at the NASL's biggest reunion in 20 years.

"It would've been really nice," Vosmaer said. "But I think it's important for me to be there for the kids all the time."

Vosmaer, 54, is long removed from his days with the Dutch National team and the Philadelphia Fury of the NASL. He played pro soccer for 17 years, facing the likes of Franz Beckenbauer and Giorgio Chinaglia, before any of his current players were born. They were followed by stints with the Pittsburgh Spirit and the Chicago Sting in the MISL.

"He played at a very, very high level," senior midfielder Justin Runkel said. "He knows how simple the game can be."

Vosmaer, who retired from pro soccer in 1989, coached Bethel Park from 1997-2002. He returned to the sidelines last month to replace the winningest coach in PIAA history, Bruno Schwarz, and try to upright a North Allegheny soccer program that has endured shocking slide into mediocrity.

The Tigers were 13-22-5 the past two seasons, missing the playoffs both times. They had reached the playoffs every year from 1983-2002 under Schwarz, who retired with a record of 529-192-50, along with six WPIAL titles and one state crown, in 37 seasons.

"It's going to take a little time to get it up and moving the way we want it," said Vosmaer, with his Dutch accent still intact. "But the kids are doing well. The attitude is good. They are working hard. We'll see where we go to."

North Allegheny lost four of its first five games to open the season, but improved to 4-2 in Section 2-AAA (4-5 overall) with a 4-2 victory at North Hills on Thursday night. It marked the first time since 2002, a span of 51 matches, that NA scored more than three goals in one game.

The Tigers are alone in third place; the top three teams in each section qualify for the WPIAL playoffs.

"If we can make it to the playoffs," Vosmaer said, "these kids have done extremely well."

North Allegheny's recent problem was small numbers -- both players and goals. The program has witnessed a decrease at tryouts and on the field,

"The numbers were down," Vosmaer said. "I was concerned about that one. But little by little, they are coming out again. Now, it's a matter of getting the proper training at the younger levels."

North Allegheny showed some of its emotion in Tuesday's 3-1 victory over Shaler. A fight broke out, and three players, two from Shaler and one from NA, were ejected. As a fallout from the incident, Vosmaer suspended two more of players for Thursday night's game at North Hills.

"There's no room in soccer for fighting," Vosmaer said. "But it's an emotional game, and stuff like that happens. ... I told them how I felt. We're not playing for the World Cup here."

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