Italians kick it in Eugene
The Eugene Metro Football Club (EMFC), created in 2006, is a soccer program serving the Eugene-Springfield area that welcomes both male and female soccer players from 4-year-old novices to adult professionals, who play on more than 30 teams at six different levels. Two 23-year-old Italian women, forward and midfielder Gala Mastrovincenzo and midfielder Eleonora Petralla, are coming to Eugene to play for one team this season: the EMFC Azul.
Why Eugene for some of Italy’s finest? The rise in popularity of soccer throughout the rest of the Northwest has influenced the Italians’ desire to play here. Evon Smith, Azul coordinator and founding president of the EMFC, believes a team called AC Seattle had some draw. AC Seattle, which debuts this season as part of the eight-team Women’s Premier Soccer League’s Northwest Division, was started by Italians and features an entire roster of Italian players. Their presence up north, Smith guesses, swayed Mastrovincenzo and Petralla to get in contact with Jürgen Ruckaberle, head coach of Azul and many other men’s and women’s EMFC club teams as well as South Eugene High School.
“They’ll both bring a particular kind of soccer that is played in Italy and a culture with them as soccer players,” Ruckaberle says. “And they are going to bring it to our club and combine with a very strong American brand of female soccer.”
ShayLee Miner currently plays for EMFC Havoc and will play for the University of Oregon this fall. Photo By Trask Bedortha.
Ruckaberle knows a little bit about bringing a different mentality and style of soccer to the U.S. He played and coached for years in his native Germany. The two Italian women he will now coach played for Riviera di Romagna, which plays at Italy’s highest level as a Serie A team in Bologna; last year they finished sixth out of 20 teams in the Serie A women’s league. Mastrovincenzo and Petralla arrived on May 20 but their reputations preceded them.
“With some of the women who were trying to decide whether they were going to try out for this team or not, I think that knowing that we’re having these two international players on our roster, in my mind, brought some real excitement,” EMFC’s Smith says, catching the eye of new UO head women’s soccer coach Kat Mertz. Smith says that Mertz “was very aware of the players from her team that were going to be on our roster and kind of navigating that, whereas last year Jürgen had to do a lot more work to get any of those players on our team.”