When Rush Select received an invitation to participate at the “Torneo di Pace” event in Umbria, at the heart of Italy, there was some apprehension on accepting the invitation, but the opportunity could not be passed considering the competition level and the international participation from several European and Middle East countries.

The process started by identifying the pool of players that would meet the expectations, and after months of video analysis, conversations with TD’s and head coaches, two teams were formed to compete at the Presidents Day event in Arizona, a testing ground for the players. Both teams did very well. The top team won the event while the second team missed the final on a tiebreaker. The event helped the coaching staff set up the framework for the Umbria event and the work began to find the “missing pieces”. Rush Soccer is a “gold mine” for coaches, with a massive pool of players to choose from. However, it can also be very hard to make decisions due to the vast talent, providing so many options and different types of players that fit in different playing schemes. In the end, the coaches had to choose players with the maturity and experience needed for such high-end competition made of all professional clubs and national teams.

As coaches worked on building the team, a few key players became unavailable due to conflicts, so opportunities opened for several alternate players. Such was the case for the Hawaii boys and one of the Washington Rush players. They joined boys from five other states: California, Florida, Missouri, Mississippi, and Virginia.

As the staff was quite familiar with the Hawaii boys, they had the confidence and knowledge of their capacity to step into the team and fill the spots of players that were not able to travel. A fruitful decision in the end as the boys truly stepped up and surpassed the expectations. Mathew and Justin instantly became the heroes in the first game against UAE’s National Team, while Parker helped dominate play in midfield with Fernando and Phoenix in every game. He even ending up in the emergency room with a broken clavicle midway through our final game against Dinamo Bucharest…unfortunately, the only way they could stop him.

All games were played in local stadiums with all the local traditions, including cake and drinks after the games. Several games were televised live and amongst spectators were often local scouts who were not shy inquiring about the boys. The trip was a memorable one, not only for the amazing soccer experience but also the cultural and social interaction in a country so rich with history and impact on civilization and the world for centuries. The boys were privy to a day trip to Assisi (the birthplace of San Francisco and the “Center of the World” as locals like to call it) and Spello, a beautiful, hillside, medieval town, personifying the local culture and lifestyle of the region. Some were lucky enough to spend a brief time in Rome as well.

The team finished 5th, earning a modest prize but most importantly a personal invitation for the next year’s edition of the tournament from the president of the local office of the Italian Soccer Federation in charge of running the event. Rush was represented well again, and the boys deserve full credit.