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St. Louis Varsity Soccer Showcase helps local players prep for 2018 season

Fort Zumwalt South senior striker Braden Johnson [in white] at the STL Varsity Soccer Showcase last weekend. [Jen Spotanski photo]

It was a perfect way for Braden Johnson and his Fort Zumwalt South teammates to get some quality preseason work in before fall practices for the Bulldogs soccer team begin on Aug. 6.

Johnson, a senior-to-be striker for Zumwalt South, along with his mates, played three games last week in the STL Varsity Soccer Showcase that was held July 12-14 at the Lou Fusz Soccer Complex in Maryland Heights.

“I felt it was an honor to get asked,” Johnson said. “It was an honor to get out there with a lot of other high-level players and be able to show what I can do.”

The showcase, which started in 2009, is a summertime staple for local prep soccer players and teams from Missouri, Kansas and Illinois.

“Andy Delehaunty and I started this showcase in 2009,” Zumwalt South coach Jim Layne said. “We started with just about 24 teams and now the event has grown to a high of 50 teams this year.

“We get state championship teams such as Parkway Central and Rockhurst to come and what it really is, is a good chance for coaches to work with their teams and get some meaningful preseason work in before fall practices start within the MSHSAA guidelines. It’s really a team camp more or less.”

Other St. Charles area schools represented in the three-day, three-game, 50-team field included Fort Zumwalt East, Fort Zumwalt West Purple, Fort Zumwalt West White, Francis Howell North, Francis Howell Blue, Francis Howell Yellow and Francis Howell White.

Zumwalt South competed in the tournament as the FZ South Red and FZ South White teams.

“We have teams from three different states represented and the coaches will leave it [the tournament] open-ended so as many players as want to can participate in it,” Layne said.

In the first day of play, Johnson made an impact for his FZ South Red club as he scored three goals including a late game-winner to help his team get a 3-2 win over Lafayette.

“It was a tight one for the most part and pretty even both ways but in like the last minute of the game we got like quick break and my teammate Blake Mann slotted me a pass and I was just one-on-one with the goalie and I got to tuck it away,” Johnson said. “I knew I had to finish it if I wanted to win the game.”

The format of playing three games in three days was a bit grueling for Johnson but he admitted that he was glad to have the work so close to the start of fall practice.

Layne noted that the showcase also gave players a chance to be seen by college coaches, who came in to watch them perform.

“From a player standpoint, having college coaches come in a watch them is going to allow confidence to built for them and give them some kind of exposure leading into the next chapter of their soccer career if they choose so,” Layne said.

Johnson, who is considering Maryville University and Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, also got some interest during the showcase from Evangel University.

“The coaches that I spoke with about Braden liked what they saw, no doubt, and I think that’s going to be a common theme going into the season. Hopefully, he can stay healthy,” Layne said.










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