Five years ago, Georg Kallas was the head coach of a strong Laurel High soccer team. Now, with most of his former players graduated from college, he has joined many of them to form the Laurel Booters, one of the newest teams in the 10-year-old Mid-Maryland Soccer Assocation.
In their first season, the Booters swept through the third, and lowest, division of the men's all amateur league with a 7-0-2 record and earned a shot at the first division champions, the Bowie Blitz, in the biannual interdivisional semifinals held recently in Upper Marlboro.
Bowie maintained a predictably wide margian over the third division team, winning, 7-0, and then went on to capture the interdivisional title with a 3-2 overtime victory against Three Brothers.
"They take the game seriously but they're more relaxed because they don't want to train," said Kallas, 34, who helped his players find a league they could all join last spring. "It's kind of strange. Many of these men used to call me 'Mr. Kallas.' I had to sit them down and say that they could call me by my first name. I think makes it more relaxed."
The Booters are an example of the diversity that exists within the 18-team organization, which brings together high school friends, former college all-stars, current college players, foreign players, and a range of ages (the youngest player, Adelomo Lugones of the Booters, is 16; the oldest, Gildo Torchia on the New Carrollton team, is 40). The league prides itself on discipline and competition, but the players join the league for other reasons.
"We've got a nice team, but the thing is that we have a good time," said Jim D'Orsaneo, a member of the first-division champion Bowie team (5-2-3) and former all-America at the University of Connecticut. "When you're playing with a lot of friends and such, you go to someone's house after the game and have a couple of beers. It's a nice change."
D'Orsaneo was a center forward at Connecticut when it played in the NCAA final in 1981. He said he likes playing on the Bowie team now, especially since there isn't much opportunity to play professional soccer these days.
"I played with a lot of these guys for four or five years. A lot of them are neighbors," he said.
The Mid-Maryland Soccer Association is one of three amateur leagues in the area affiliated with the U.S. Soccer Federation. Most teams in the league recruit their own players (18 per team). In addition, team members must pay a league fee twice a year, arrange for their own uniforms, and are responsible for paying the referees at each game.
The league has a fall and spring season of 8-10 intradivisional games, with an interdivisional championship at the end of each season.
Many of the teams include men who play college ball during the fall and want a chance to stay in practice during the spring; other players are looking for an alternative to the more rigorous discipline of NCAA athletics.
"For a lot of guys, this is their post-collegiate (soccer) career. Or, for me, I had a short collegiate career," said Tony Falcone, a recent graduate of the University of Maryland who joined the league after having played soccer his freshman year.
Included in the league this year were a team from Catholic University, and one from Andrews Air Force Base, which went undefeated in the second division.
In addition, the league has a number of foreign teams and teams that are sponsored by other organizations. The Three Brothers team, which competed against Bowie in the interdivisional championships this season, is sponsored by the Three Brothers Restaurant and includes players from Nigeria, Italy, the Caribbean and Panama.
"We've got a little United Nations," said Pete Repole, the player-coach.
Like any new team in the league, Laurel will have the opportunity to work its way up, because, at the end of each season, the top two teams in each division advance and the bottom teams move down