Mutiny gives Strand fans small taste of World Cup

American soccer fans don’t have a rooting interest in this year’s World Cup in Russia since Team USA failed to qualify for the most popular sporting event on the planet. However, local soccer supporters do have a home team to cheer for this summer on the Grand Strand, albeit it on a much smaller scale.

The Myrtle Beach Mutiny, a Premier Development League franchise that serves as a feeder program for United Soccer League, features a roster stocked with local players looking to make it to the next level. They hope to draw more fans to the North Myrtle Beach Park & Sports Complex to support the home side tonight.

“We have a very talented team this year, including some names local soccer fans will recognize,” said sporting director Pat Piscitelli, who oversees the team for owner Coast Futbol Alliance. “They’re really coming together and playing well. I think a lot of people would be surprised by the level of play.”

Among the local players on the Mutiny is Socastee High and Coker College graduate Connor Norton-Baker. For him, suiting up for the Mutiny is not only a chance to play in front of his hometown family and friends, but also to get his foot in the door for a chance to play soccer at the professional level.

“It’s amazing to be back playing in Myrtle Beach,” said Norton-Baker, who plays center back for the Mutiny. “For a lot of guys, this is a major stepping stone in the American system of going through college. This condenses a lot of the college guys from this region so the pro teams can scout them.”

Coastal Carolina University has been a key contributor to the Mutiny’s success (they are currently 5-2-2 and in first place in the South Atlantic Division). Former CCU standouts Uchenna Uzo and Romario Piggot, who recently set a club record with four goals in a single game, are among the former Chants.

The roster also includes players without deep roots to the area who have made themselves at home.  Jon Ander Ibarrondo, a native of Spain, is in his fifth season with the squad and has endeared himself to the local soccer community. He is one of the many Mutiny players who mentor for Coast FA’s youth program.

The Mutiny’s crowds feature lots of kids who come out to watch their coaches practice what they teach on the field. A small but spirited fan base lines the home side and flies the Jolly Roger pirate flag. A drum and bugle corps maintains a constant beat behind the visiting goal to engage the crowd and annoy the opposing goalkeeper.  It’s not exactly the World Cup, but it is a fun night out for local soccer fans.

“We’re always looking for fun things to do as a family and we absolutely love it,” said Mutiny fan Meredith Hall. “It’s a great atmosphere and you can sit real close to the field. We were like, ‘How are there not more people here?’ We love everything about it.”

The Mutiny enter Wednesday night’s home game against South Georgia with a 5-2-2 record on the season. They have home games remaining on June 30 (vs. Lionsbridge FC) and July 11 (vs. Tobacco Road FC) before the playoffs. The junior Mutiny 2 team, featuring players ages 15 and up, plays exhibition games at 4:30 p.m. before the Mutiny’s 7 p.m. kickoffs. For more information on the team and schedule, visit www.coastfa.com.

Photo by Janet Morgan/myhorrynews

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