Bay senior Matt DeCapua and the rest of the Rockets boys soccer team played their final game of the 2020 season Nov. 4. Less than two months later, the midfielder is on the cusp of playing professionally.
On Christmas, the recently-revived Cleveland Crunch, soon to be inducted into the Major Arena Soccer League, announced on its social media channels that it had signed the 18-year-old DeCapua to a contract ahead of its 2021 season. DeCapua impressed evaluators during a two-day open tryout Dec. 12-13 at the North Olmsted Soccer Sportsplex, then signed a contract a week later.
“It’s mind-blowing (to be a part of a pro team). I can’t believe it,” DeCapua said. “It still won’t even feel real until the first time we train or our first game. I’m just excited to get started with them and try to turn this team back to what it was before.”
As long as the team doesn’t pay DeCapua, he can maintain his college eligibility and still play professionally. He is still considering a number of schools, including Cleveland State University, the University of Akron and the University of Portland, among others.
Before the Crunch came calling, he was also looking into playing for the U23 team run by FC Cincinnati of Major League Soccer. Now, he’ll be able to stay closer to home.
“I’m happy that a few months after (the end of the high school season), I’m able to go out and still play soccer,” DeCapua said. “As long as I’m playing, I’m happy.”
Longtime Bay varsity head coach Bobby Dougherty was thrilled at the news, but not surprised. DeCapua had made it a goal at a young age to play soccer professionally, and had matured into one of the anchors of Dougherty’s Rockets teams over the last several years.
DeCapua joins Kyle Hyland as the only Rockets currently signed to a professional club. Hyland, a 2009 graduate, was a college standout at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) before being signed by MLS’ Columbus Crew SC in 2013. He currently plays for the Oklahoma City Energy FC of the United Soccer League.
“It’s definitely a little out of the ordinary,” Dougherty said of having one of his players sign professionally while still in high school. “With all the years I’ve been coaching and watching, Matty’s one of those kids who, if you asked him at six-years-old what he wanted to be, he’d say professional soccer player...I’m thrilled for him because it’s one of those lifelong dreams. To be able to play at that next level is so cool. I’m excited to see where he goes with it.”
Dougherty isn’t worried about DeCapua’s transition to the pro level, either. The senior has played in men’s leagues and on Bay alumni teams since he was 14, oftentimes squaring off against players twice his age or older.
The Crunch, which won three National Professional Soccer League championships over a five-year span in the late 1990s while playing at Cleveland State University’s Wolstein Center, were resuscitated in 2020 and will continue to operate out of the Soccer Sportsplex until it can secure an official home venue. DeCapua is one of 12 players the team has signed so far, and is currently the only one still in high school. He will line up at forward and wear the No. 11 jersey.
In his senior season, DeCapua posted four goals and 14 assists for a Rockets team that was ranked tops in the state in Division II before bowing out in a regional semifinal. He was named to several awards lists, including Second Team All-Ohio, Second Team All-Great Lakes Conference and First Team All-District for the Greater Cleveland Scholastic Soccer Coaches Association.
Going from playing soccer in its traditional, outdoor manner to playing the arena league style will be an adjustment. The indoor game, complete with short on-field stints, substitution patterns that mirror those used in hockey and lots of scoring will be new challenges for DeCapua to master.
“There’s a lot more goals scored and the game’s a lot faster. You can come in for 30 seconds and then sit for 30 seconds sometimes,” DeCapua said. “But that’s where I feel like I fit in really well. I love when the game is fast-paced. I hate when it’s just slow and it’s taking everyone a long time to make decisions. Just move the ball, get out, substitute and get back in. It’s a lot different than any other style of soccer.”
The Crunch, which has yet to finalize its roster or hire a full-time coaching staff, will play its first exhibition game at the Soccer Sportsplex Feb. 27 against Milwaukee’s Brew City Legends FC. St. Edward head varsity coach Tony Dore’, a former Crunch player, is serving as the team’s interim coach.
To learn more about the Cleveland Crunch, visit www.theclevelandcrunch.com.
Eagles end losing skid with flair
With a Parma defender’s hand in her face and no time to hesitate, North Olmsted senior guard Jenna Cvijovic confidently stepped into a big-time shot Dec. 30 and drained it.
From the left wing, Cvijovic knocked down a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Eagles girls basketball team its first victory in more than two years, 48-46, over the visiting Redmen, in their season opener.
The Eagles had last won a game on Nov. 23, 2018, a 31-17 victory at Valley Forge. Though Wednesday’s game against Avon was postponed, the Eagles will return to Southwestern Conference action Saturday when they host Olmsted Falls at 1:30 p.m.
Pirates make most of ice time
The Rocky River hockey team completed a busy week heading into the New Year, playing four games in three days.
On Dec. 28, they played twice, defeating Padua 5-2 at the OBM Arena in Strongsville, then traveled to Winterhurst in Lakewood that afternoon and faced Sylvania Northview, who they beat, 2-1, thanks to a pair of goals in the final 90 seconds of regulation by Alex Parnell and Hayden Weaver.
The next day at Winterhurst, the Pirates fell 3-2 to St. Ignatius in the latter’s Father Welsh Showcase Tournament. In their next tourney game, Dec. 30, they lost 6-0 to Toledo St. Francis, the first time they’d been shut out since 2016.
Heading into 2021, the Pirates had a 3-5 record.
Blue Streaks end 2020 strong
The opening weeks of the basketball season were difficult for Magnificat, which started 0-3 with a pair of losses by double-digits.
Just before Christmas, though, the Blue Streaks found their footing. And the wins have started piling up ever since.
With a 49-31 victory at Wadsworth on Dec. 29, the Blue Streaks upped their streak to five games, and sat at 5-3 heading into 2021. Averaging 35.3 points per game during the season-opening losing skid, they’ve upped that number to 52.8, while allowing an average of 41.2 points.
They’ll travel to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary tonight for a 7:30 tip.