By Charles Boehm and Roger Gonzalez
Empire United Rochester BU 17 Blue played three games in the Jefferson Cup Under-17 Championship division this weekend, looking to showcase their talent and get back up to speed after being cooped up inside for most of the long, harsh upstate New York winter.
Despite losing two games and winning one, the team’s assistant coach, Jack Burgasser, enjoyed the tournament, which he also attended from the viewpoint of a college scout. In addition to his duties with Empire United, Burgasser is an assistant coach at Hobart College in Geneva, N.Y. The Soccer Wire spoke to him after Empire United’s 3-1 loss to Cape Fear 94 Breakers White on Sunday.
TSW: How did the Jeff Cup go for your team?
JB: It’s been a good tournament. The weather’s been nice. We had some ups and down over the weekend. There was some very, very high competition this weekend. If you don’t come to play for the full time, then there’s balls you are going to be picking out of the back of the net. It’s a fantastic tournament and I wish we were ending the way we did yesterday [a 2-0 win over Kentucky's United 1996 FC 95 International]. That’s how good the quality is here: if you take one minute off, you’re going to be picking the ball out of the back of your net.
TSW: Any of your kids stick out in their performances?
JB: I think we have a lot of kids that stuck out at times: Ethan Kutler, Benji Geisler, Jesse Toth, Sam Donato. Our goalkeeper, Tyler Brew — he stood on his head every single day. Those were our consistent players. We have some talent out there, we just need to be consistent.
TSW: What’s the college situation for your players? Have any committed yet?
JB: We only have three seniors in the group. They are all staying local: UP, Nazareth…All of them [the younger players] are still early in the college process. We’re hoping that they get a lot of interest after this weekend.
TSW: Could you talk a little bit about the club and what you’re trying to do up there in Rochester?
JB: At Empire United we’re trying to get a lot of exposure for the kids, that’s why we come down to tournaments like this and get the kids seen. We go to the biggest showcases we can; we’ve already been to Disney and Jeff Cup. Blue Chip is coming up, Potomac. We try to get the kids out here in front of as many college coaches as possible, and there’s a lot here this weekend — I mean, I’m one myself.
TSW: So you put on your recruiting cap now?
JB: [laughs] Yeah, I’m going to have to change my jacket, get all my gear on and go to work recruiting. It’ll be a long day!
But yeah, it’s just getting kids out there. I think [Empire United Blue] exhibited their talent well. Usually the college coaches aren’t looking at the results, they’re looking at the players and how they did. So I think our boys did well in that regard. I’m glad the weather cooperated this weekend, there’s been times when Jeff Cup has gotten rained out and it was nice to see the sun.
TSW: What’s your outlook on the upcoming spring season?
JB: It’s tough being in New York West [region] during the wintertime, we’re in small spaces a lot — we haven’t played a full-sized match in almost two and a half months now. So coming out here, there are going to be some inconsistencies, and we are just working through that right now in the early part of our year, compared to all these teams that are down here.
TSW: You are an assistant coach at Hobart. What did you think of the players you saw from that standpoint?
JB: Oh, I’ve seen a lot of talent down here. This is always one of our biggest spots to come to, Jefferson Cup. It’s one of the top five showcases in the country, and from our Northeast location, it’s great.They did a great job putting things on, hospitality for the college coaches. And it’s awesome having all the fields on a nice little tight grid, you can almost be watching four games at once.
TSW: Are there things that showcase tournaments can do to make college coaches want to come back year after year?
JB: This tournament, it’s why it’s so good. It’s consistent, and they are always doing things to make it better — like the new turf facility [SportsQuest] to make sure that if it does get rained out, they’ve got their bases covered there. So I think Jeff Cup does a fantastic job of making sure they put out the best product they can. That’s why they are one of the best showcases in the country.
Coaches, they want to come here. We’ve got to come here, because we know there’s going to be top talent and we know that it’s going to be a good product.
TSW: Where does Hobart stand in the recruiting cycle? Still looking for the 2012 class?
JB: We’re pretty much closed up on our [fall] class. This time of year we’re looking at 2013s and getting interest there, IDing kids that are juniors.
TSW: Can you talk a little bit more about Hobart’s program?
JB: We’re a Division III, small liberal-arts school we play in the Liberty League, consistently a top-25 program for Division III. So that’s why we come here, we’re trying to compete even with the big Division I schools, trying to find the best players — and this is a good spot to find some of the best players, not only on the East Coast but in the whole country.