All-Army Soccer Team Wins Silver Medal
February 12, 2008
By Tim Hipps
CHERRY POINT, N.C. (Army News Service, Feb. 12, 2008) -- 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 Jan. 31 through Feb. 5 at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.
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 physical 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.
"You've got 45 minutes left,Aca,!A? Air Force coach Maj. Roy Dietzman told his players at halftime. Aca,!A"If we don't win the game, we don't win the tournament."
Capt. 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,Aca,!A? Gagliardi said, Aca,!A"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.
"We knew if we won [against Army] that we would be in control for this last game and all we would have to do is win out to take the tournament. Everyone was really gunning to beat Army because they're pretty much our rival every year."
Knowing they were locked into second place, the Soldiers dropped a 1-0 decision to Navy in the tourney finale.
"We were looking forward to the Marines beating or equalizing Air Force," said Kamau, a medic at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. "That would have boosted our morale because the idea on our mind was to win the whole thing. So we just went out to have fun. Even if we won [our last game], we still would have been in second place."
Kamau, a native of Kenya, came to the United States seven years ago and joined the Army within a year. He deployed to Iraq to fight the Global War on Terror in 2005-06.
"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,Aca,!A? Kamau said. Aca,!A"It's like a morale booster. It helps keep me in shape.
"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. We must thank our commanders for supporting us."
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 the athleteAca,!a,,cs 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 on Tuesday that he had been named 2007 Army Coach of the Year. His players promptly doused him with a bucket of Gatorade.
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."
Filauro deferred credit to his teammates for helping him make the all-tournament team.
"I didn't feel like I deserved it because the guys in front of me obviously scored goals," he said. "If they didn't score goals, we wouldn't have won these games. It's definitely an honor to be named with those players."
The Navy played Army to a 0-0 draw early in the tourney and slipped one shot past Filauro to win the finale.
"The ball was headed across the goal and I tried to get my fingers on it to push it away, but I just couldn't get to it," Filauro said. "It was unfortunate. We saw the Air Force win today, so we were locked into second place so we went out and tried to knock the ball around a little bit. People were tired and we had four injuries, so we only had two subs. So even though we didn't win, it was a good effort."
Blodgett, who had two assists in the tourney, injured his knee during Army's third game and sat out the Soldiers' fourth and fifth games. He returned for the finale, hit the post with a shot, pulled a hamstring and hobbled off the field. He expects to have knee surgery and return next year, perhaps as a goalie.
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.
"I felt it was more important to win it this year because some of us have been four, five, six or seven times, and for some of the guys, this may be their last time playing," Blodgett said. "I thought we had this one, but every time we win the gold, we have to fight for every little drop of color on that medal. The ball just, in the last minute, rolled their way."
Mendez, who has served 18 years as a player and coach in the All-Army program, was proud of the way his team performed.
Aca,!A"Overall, the team was very good and very disciplined,Aca,!A? Mendez said. Aca,!A"You want your service to do very well because itAca,!a,,cs a privilege to come here. WeAca,!a,,cre Soldiers first and athletes second. It's about Army pride."
(Tim Hipps writes for FMWRC Public Affairs.)