Saturday will mark the end of a chapter for community college sophomore soccer stars when they play in the Central Valley Showcase at Chukchansi Park.
A doubleheader will feature men’s and women’s players from the Central Valley Conference, which includes Fresno City, against the semipro Fresno Fuego and Fresno Freeze.
The JC pipeline has connected the Fuego with talents such as defenders Cody Ellison and Devon Grousis (both Fresno City), midfielder Jose “Chiva” Cuevas (Sequoias), and forward Christian Chaney (Fresno City). All went on to the next-tier USL.
The third-year Freeze, who play in the Women’s Premier Soccer League, are still building their foundation and doing so with a handful of JC players. That includes Orange Cove native Mari Cruz Chapa, who starred at Fresno City before playing two years at San Jose State.
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While the showcase will serve as a farewell match for some JC players, others have designs on playing at the four-year college level.
Center back Andy Rios, who captained Fresno City to the state championship, signed Wednesday to play at San Jose State. It’s a dream he never thought was possible after having poor grades at Chowchilla High, only to make it a reality through hard work in the classroom and on the field.
“I never imagined myself getting there or going through two years at City,” Rios said. “I never knew I was going to transfer past that.”
Rams women’s team captain Kristin Thompson committed to South Carolina-Upstate.
“I came to Fresno City knowing I would play soccer, but I never would’ve thought in a million years that I would get an opportunity to play D-I,” said Thompson, who prepped at Bullard High.
“I’m really excited for this weekend to have fun with my teammates one last time, be competitive and have that drive.”
The women’s showcase match will be at 4 p.m. with the men kicking off at 6:30 p.m.
Tickets begin at $6 and can be purchased at the Chukchansi Park box office or www.fresnofuego.com.
The showcase marks the start of the preseason for the Fuego and Freeze.
Sacramento MLS future in bind? – Sacramento Republic FC appeared destined to take its brand to MLS, that is until Wednesday night when lead investor Kevin Nagle submitted an expansion bid without any mention of the club.
Deadspin broke the news, and since then city officials, including Mayor Darrell Steinberg, have been hustling to make peace between two Republic FC factions.
Nagle is CEO of Sac Soccer & Entertainment Holdings and minority owner of the Sacramento Kings. He said he doesn’t control rights to the Republic brand, according to The Sacramento Bee, and has been unable to close a deal with team founder and President Warren Smith. Nagle, faced with a Tuesday deadline set by MLS, said he turned in the bid under “Sacramento MLS.”
Steinberg was to meet with Nagle and Smith on Thursday to seek a path forward.
Republic FC’s USL club will visit Fresno for an exhibition against the Fuego on Feb. 18.
Chivas announces Fresno friendly – Liga MX action returns to Fresno next month, when Chivas de Guadalajara and Monarcas de Morelia will meet in an exhibition at Chukchansi Park.
Kickoff is 6 p.m. March 22. It is the 11th Mexican First Division friendly in Fresno in five years promoted by Latin Entertainment Inc.
Chivas, the most popular soccer club in Mexico and possibly all of North America, is making its third visit to Fresno in three years. In 2015, Chivas drew a then-stadium-record 16,821 fans in a 1-1 draw against Atlas.
In November 2016, more than 15,000-plus fans came out as Leon FC beat Chivas 3-2.
This will be the first visit to Fresno for Monarcas since July 2014, when they lost 2-0 against Club América.
Tickets will go on sale Friday online at www.ticketsvip.net. Sales begin Saturday at the Chukchansi Park box office and Don Roberto Jewelers locations.