All-Army men's team wins silver medal in 2008 Armed Forces Soccer Championship
February 18, 2009
By Tim Hipps
Second Lt. Andrew Filauro and Staff Sgt. Titus Kamau led the All-Army men's team to a silver medal in the 2008 Armed Forces Soccer Championship Tournament at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C.
Kamau, a striker, and Filauro, a goalkeeper, were named to the All-Tournament Team after helping Army post a 3-2-1 record in the double-round-robin format against tourney champion Air Force (5-1), Navy (2-3-1) and host Marine Corps (1-5).
Army defeated Air Force, 3-1, early in the tournament, but dropped a pivotal, 2-1 decision to the Airmen on Monday after Sgt. Pius Kubi was red-carded in the second half.
"After we got the red card, we played our best, but we were a man down for about 20 minutes," Kamau said. "Whenever we went to help somebody, your position was left open, so some of our guys wore down."
Airman 1st Class Peter Miller of Hurlburt Field, Fla., scored two goals, including the game-winner in the 89th minute, to win the rematch against Army.
"Army was a real tough game, really physical, a lot of body on body," said Airman 1st Class Danny Fluker of Randoph Air Force Base, Texas. "We came out and got a quick goal off a nice cross and a volley. As the game went on, it got tighter and came down to the last minute of the game."
In the 89th minute, Miller was fouled, setting up a free kick for Air Force. Filauro made a nice save on the ensuing play, but Miller was there to bang his own rebound into the net for the game-winner.
Air Force secured the championship with a 2-0 victory over the Marines on Tuesday. Had the Airmen lost or played that match to a draw, Army could have won the tournament with a victory over Navy in the tourney finale.
Captain Paul Gagliardi of McChord Air Force Base, Wash., scored both goals in the second half off assists from Fluker. "This is the third year I've played," Gagliardi said, "and every time it comes down to us and the Army and we lose it in the last game, so it's nice to win one this year. Everyone was really gunning to beat Army because they're pretty much our rival every year."
Kamau, a native of Kenya and a medic at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., came to the United States seven years ago and joined the Army within a year. He deployed to Iraq in 2005-2006.
"I asked the recruiter if the Army plays soccer, and he said, 'Yeah, we have an All-Army soccer team,' so I thought my ideal would be that every now and then I should be going to play," Kamau said.
"This tournament is a very, very good way of bringing the forces together and it gets your mind off the war a little bit, but we never forget we are Soldiers first in everything we do. To come to All-Army, I have to prove to my commander that I can not only be a good Soldier and do my job, but that he can trust me to represent my installation and come back and do my job."
People often ask if the Army's All-Army or World Class Athlete Program athletes deploy. Staff Sgt. Joshua Blodgett of Fort Carson, Colo., is a classic example of athletes being Soldiers first. After scoring three goals in the first half of the 2005 Armed Forces Championship Tournament in San Diego, he got called back to his unit to deploy to Iraq. Kamau followed him after playing two more games. Army went on to win the gold medal that year.
"I was actually sitting in the hangar waiting for our plane to come so we could get on to fly to Iraq and T.K. called me up on the phone and told me we won it," Blodgett recalled. "He left two days later for Iraq, and brought my gold medal out to me. I had it hanging up while I was in Iraq."
While in Iraq, Kamau and Blodgett organized and played together in street soccer tournaments to keep their skills up.
This year, Blodgett got the Army off to a roaring start by scoring three goals in a span of 2 minutes, 15 seconds during the Soldiers' 3-2 victory over the Marines in their opening game.
Blodgett, 32, is the all-time goal scoring leader in Armed Forces Soccer Tournament history with 22 goals in seven years of competition. At the 2002 tournament in Dover, Del., he tallied four goals in one game against the Marines.
Coincidentally, the No. 2-ranked Armed Forces Tournament career goal scorer is All-Army coach Sgt. 1st Class Agustin Mendez of Fort Myer, Va., who tallied 18 goals in five years of competition.
"I don't mind that a fellow Army guy beat me in goal scoring," said Mendez, who learned after the loss to Navy that he had been named 2007 Army Coach of the Year.
Filauro, 23, an Armed Forces rookie goalkeeper stationed at Fort Carson, Colo., is a 2007 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. He learned a lot about military life from veterans at the tournament.
"I didn't know what to expect," Filauro said. "I knew there were a lot of combat veterans here who had been past the wire and downrange. They have a lot of experience to bring to the team. It's more than just a soccer team, it's more like a brotherhood. Everyone brings all types of leadership abilities and experiences to the table, which overall made our team pretty successful."
The All-Army team won Armed Forces gold in each of the past two years. Since 2000, the Soldiers have won gold or silver in every year of the tournament.
Tim Hipps works for FMWRC Public Affairs