Toys for Tots: Gibson makes a new coaching start at hometown club
By Roger Gonzalez
Two years ago Grover Gibson returned to his native Virginia after a long career in the German professional leagues, his playing career ended by a serious eye injury caused by an opponent’s elbow.
A member of the U.S. team at the 1995 FIFA Under-17 World Cup, Gibson was one of the nation’s blue-chip prospects when he graduated from Hylton High School in Woodbridge, Va. a year later. He chose to pursue opportunities in Germany rather than the uncertainty — and tiny wages — of newly-formed Major League Soccer, and for 13 years he made a good living in his adopted country.
Last winter he made his return to the game as a player/coach with Fredericksburg Hotspur, a Premier Development League squad which made dramatic strides in its second year of existence and contended for the PDL South Atlantic division title for much of the season.
Gibson, however, resigned from his post halfway through the year and now finds himself with Prince William Soccer, Inc., looking for a fresh start as the coach of PWSI Courage 97 Boys Red.
With plenty of change behind him, the coach finds himself in a new situation and he says he’s enjoying it to the max.
Though they’re actually an Under-15 side, his team took part in the U-16 division of the PWSI Toys for Tots Tournament this weekend, and his boys looked like one of the better squads in the bracket.
Courage 97 Red opened up with 8-0 and 7-1 wins in the group stage before falling in the semifinals against CYA Cesena USA 96.
“It’s [the older age group] just a little bit bigger and faster, but we have a situation where we are here to support our own tournament, so we had to find the best situation for our boys to have the most competitive environment,” Gibson said.
“We are trying to use it as a preseason scenario.”
The coach and his players had hoped to take on PWSI Courage 96 Red in the final, but losing in the semifinals dashed the prospect of playing their club mates. Regardless, Gibson praised his guys for playing up and holding their own, including the two big results on Saturday.
It was the perfect scenario for the tough competition that is to come during the regular season as members of the Virginia Club Champions League.
Despite playing against faster and stronger competition, the team performed well and made light of several important offseason departures from the roster. The team moved the ball around well in the semifinals, only to suffer a few lapses in defense that doomed them against Cesena.
Despite the challenges facing him, Gibson plans to guide his new team to a successful run this fall.
“We have the VCCL season, and we are preparing for the State Cup obviously,” he said. “Unfortunately, we lost about six players to D.C. United and another two to Bethesda, the [U.S. Youth Soccer] Region I champs, so we are in a rebuilding phase.
So far, so good, considering the circumstances.
“We are in a really good place, but it’s still a work in progress,” Gibson noted.