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Surace Makes Mistake, Moorpark Gets Booted

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Jamie Surace, the Moorpark College men’s soccer player whose participation in a club soccer match led to the forfeiture Monday by Moorpark of six victories and four ties, said he was aware of the rule banning outside competition but did not understand it.

Surace, a starting freshman forward from Moorpark High, violated state junior college rules by playing for the Moorpark Express in an under-19 match Saturday against the Simi Valley Thunder.

Surace said he was present when Moorpark College Coach Frank Perodi told the team of the rule before the college season. But Surace said he thought it was a team regulation Perodi put in place because he was worried the players would be injured.

Perodi, the coach at Moorpark College since 1989, said Simi Valley Thunder Coach Art Gomez called him Saturday and left a message telling him of the violation and identifying Surace by name.

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Gomez, also the boys’ soccer coach at Lancaster High, said he did not identify Surace.

After Gomez’s call, Perodi informed Moorpark Athletic Director John Keever on Sunday. The college reported the violations to the Western State Conference on Monday, when each match Surace had played in was officially forfeited.

Moorpark, which was in position to clinch the conference’s second and final state playoff berth with an overall record of 7-5-4 and a conference mark of 5-2-2, had those hopes dashed by the forfeits. Moorpark defeated Glendale, 6-2, Tuesday in its final regular-season match and finished at 2-14-1 overall, 2-8 in the conference.

Team members were notified as a group in a meeting Monday afternoon and assistant Mike Evans said several Raiders broke into tears.

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“These are 25 kids who practice five and six days a week for three hours a day,” Evans said. “All that work was about to pay off in the playoffs; the fun was just about to begin.”

Fonzie Ruiz, a first-year player from Simi Valley, said he believes Surace knew the rule and why it is in place.

“I’m very disappointed in what Jamie did because our coach stressed from the beginning that you can’t play on another team during the season,” Ruiz said. “A lot of our second-year players had a chance to pursue further education and soccer careers. Now that’s done because the [four-year] college coaches just come out and watch the playoffs.”

Surace said he was misled by Bob Fidani, his coach on the Express, because Fidani never told him he was committing a violation by playing club soccer.

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"[Fidani] said it would be all right,” Surace said. “He said there wouldn’t be any problem and that he didn’t know of any rule.”

Perodi also finds fault with Fidani, who did not call him to discuss Surace’s eligibility until after Saturday’s match.

"[Fidani] said he had talked to other community college coaches and they said it was OK to play club soccer until college conference games began,” Perodi said. “He should have talked to me.”

Fidani said he did not understand the outside-competition rule and that he felt no obligation to know the regulations of college soccer.

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“I was advised by the networking I have developed that it was all right for [Surace] to play,” Fidani said. “I’m not a college coach. I’m just worried about my own rules and my own board of governors.”

A despondent Surace is left to ponder a once-promising season.

“I feel very bad for all the players, they’re all my friends,” Surace said. “I didn’t mean to hurt them. If I’d known there was something wrong with my playing [club soccer] I wouldn’t have done it.”


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