MIAMI SHORES, Fla. -- Any coach would cherish the opportunity to watch one of his former players play at the professional level. Just this month, Barry University’s head coach Steve McCrath lived that opportunity when his Buccaneer squad faced off against former Barry standout Mark Anderson and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in a spring exhibition.
However, even more satisfying is the potential opportunity to watch two former alums play one another at the next level -- an opportunity McCrath and all members of the soccer program will hopefully witness on April 25 when the Strikers host the Puerto Rico Islanders at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale.
Two weeks after Mark Anderson signed with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, former Buccaneer Andres Perez signed with the Puerto Rico Islanders of the United Soccer League.
Perez, a native of Puerto Rico, played for the national team last fall at the FIFA American/Caribbean qualifiers. Following his playing days at Barry, Perez played in the Puerto Rican Soccer League in hopes of continuing his career at the professional level.
“I have been extremely impressed with Andres’ drive to reach the next level,” McCrath said. "In his time at Barry, we knew him to be a player that put in the hard work and dedication to be successful, and he always had the right attitude."
Perez experienced immediate success, helping his club team, Sevilla, finish in first at the end of the regular season before losing in the final by way of penalty kicks.
“Andres is calm on the ball, and is very keen in the technical aspect of the game," McCrath said. "He has not been fearful, and instead has stuck his neck out there. I’m proud of him. He really earned the opportunities he has been given."
In 14 seasons at the helm of the men’s soccer program, McCrath has continued to raise the bar year-in and year-out, and has lifted the Bucs into the upper echelon in Division II. In his tenure, McCrath has coached 19 All-Americans, his teams have made eight appearances in the NCAA Tournament in 14 years, he has coached multiple Sunshine State Conference Players of the Year and last season’s National Player of the Year in Mark Anderson.
“Talent is a must in order to reach the next level, but we certainly take pride in the way we train and teach the game," McCrath said. "The way they carry themselves on and off the field is a vital part of our development.
“This is certainly good advertisement of what we are as a program. These are our expectations, and if future players have the right mentality, we develop the physical aspect of their game, then we can raise the bar.
“I’m honored, and I hope we have the opportunity to coach many more."
Anderson and the Strikers open up their 2012 season with consecutive home games on Saturday, April 4 and 14 when they host FC Edmonton and the Minnesota Stars FC at Lockhart Stadium. For ticket information regarding upcoming matches for the Strikers, just visit WWW.STRIKERS.COM.
Perez and the Islanders also open play Apr. 4 when they’ll take on the Tampa Bay Rowdies at the Bayamon Soccer Complex in Puerto Rico.