Adding Foreign Accent to an American Way of Playing Soccer Match

Times Staff Writer

Americans play soccer like Europeans play baseball.

So says Rudi Federmair, who is close to completing a Ph.D. in sports science at the University of Salzburg, Austria.

Federmair, 27, also happens to be boys soccer coach at Westlake High and is attempting to reshape the way at least a handful of California kids play the game.

"The biggest difference is that everyone plays the entire 90-minute game in Europe," Federmair said. "Here, players are substituted for all the time. You go off and come back in 10 minutes later.

"The American system distracts from the flow of the game. This is the opinion of most European and South American coaches."

Two weeks ago, Federmair, who is in his first year at Westlake but has coached in his native Austria, decided to treat his team to a European-style endurance test. He divided his roster into two 11-man teams. One team played a complete game Thursday, the other a complete game Friday. No substitutions were made.

Federmair wanted to see who responded best, since only between 11 and 13 players will see action the remainder of the season.

"The team has accepted that there won't be much substituting," he said. "It is tougher in the beginning because they have to get in shape. But we will be stronger in the long run."

There is little difference in talent between American and European players, Federmair noted.

"Players have very good basic skills here," he said. "They are weak on tactical skills, like how to create space when moving with the ball."

Westlake has a 1-2-1 record, but Federmair believes his team will improve.

"Preleague games are not important," he said. "We are molding a team right now.

"Some players need to learn to be part of a team. In soccer, it is so important. Some with the most ability are lazy. But they are learning that if they can't play 90 minutes, they won't play at all."

Topsy-Turvy Tournament: Three first-round upsets marked the Thousand Oaks Holiday Invitational basketball tournament last week. Westlake, the only first-round favorite that won, took the tournament title by beating upstart Thousand Oaks, 58-56, Friday night in front of a boisterous, near-capacity crowd.

Because Westlake and Thousand Oaks are cross-town rivals, the Warriors had about as many fans at the final as Thousand Oaks.

Add Westlake: Tournament officials had a tough time deciding which Warriors deserved to make the all-tournament team.

"They have such balance," one official said , "You could pick any of the starters."

Point guard Rich Welch and shooting guard Greg Smith were selected all-tournament, and forward Paul Keenan was most valuable player.

Home-Grown Kick: When Thousand Oaks defeated Agoura, 1-0, last week in soccer, the Thousand Oaks player who assisted the goal that beat the Chargers was treated to dinner by Agoura Coach Marc Berke.

With 27 minutes elapsed in the first half, Lancer Mike Berke--the coach's son--sent a free kick past Agoura goalie George Freedman, allowing Mike Trevathan to tap in the goal.

Rock and Rebound: Blaring rock music accompanies most basketball teams when they take the floor for warm-ups before games and at halftime.

"The players like it because it makes them feel loose," an official at the Thousand Oaks tournament said.

The players also are accustomed to music being funneled into their ears.

Walkman-like miniature headphones are prevalent in gyms, and Steve Ward of Calabasas and Dave Heckmann of Westlake are two of many players who have been seen walking around before and after games wearing discreet earphones connected to hidden Walkmans.

Maybe the music does loosen a player.

Ward averaged 30.3 points a game and was named to the all-tournament team. Westlake won the championship with Heckmann at center.

But conversation is a dying art on the buses that return visiting teams home.

A Rio Mesa scorekeeper at the Beverly Hills tournament spoke in a forlorn tone of the hour-long ride back to Camarillo.

"All the guys but two wear Walkmans on the bus," she said.

The other two play chess.

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