By Chayla Furlong
Cheering and excitement filled the stadium at Cabrillo College on Sunday, as the Santa Cruz County Breakers semi-professional club soccer team took on Real San Jose.
The Breakers, who won Sunday’s game 4-2, are in their inaugural season with the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL). Head coach Mike Runeare has led the team to a 2-2-1 start to their season, which goes until the middle of July.
The Breakers got started in the early 1990s as a single team and eventually became a competitive youth soccer club. A Class One club, they play at the highest level of youth club programs. Players hail from all over, from Watsonville to San Lorenzo Valley, giving many players a chance to participate in competitive soccer. This year is the first year a semi-pro team has been a part of the club.
The program’s website states, “Our goal is to continue to attain the next level, gaining regional and national recognition for the quality of player and person that we field.”
In addition to building quality people and highly competitive teams, the Breakers team also strives to promote soccer as a sport. The team’s bylaws and philosophy states, “The specific purpose of this Club shall be to develop, promote, and govern the game of soccer among youth between U-10 and U-19 at the Class One developmental and competition levels of play.”
Eric Bucchere, who coaches one of the club’s youth teams and plays for the semi-pro team, follows this philosophy. He says while the goal of the club is to create great players, there is no guarantee they will continue in soccer past high school or college, so he makes short-term goals when coaching kids.
“Obviously, soccer is at the forefront; we want to compete and make the best teams and players possible,” Bucchere said. “My goals are to inspire kids to like soccer, to want to train and get better, and to be involved in something healthy. It helps kids to grow and learn, and mature and interact, and it’s going to make them better people in general.”
Bucchere also feels the semi-professional team helps to foster a sense of pride in the program and gives the kids, many of whom come from financially strained homes, something to reach for.
“It affects the club in an enormously positive manner to have something for kids to strive for,” Bucchere said. “For the kids to go to the game and say, ‘That’s the same jersey I wear, and I’m part of that,’ is a wonderful thing. I think when they see us play they are really proud to wear that Breakers shirt.”
In addition to pulling players from the rest of the club program, the premier team also looks to members the UC Santa Cruz Men’s Soccer Team to fill positions on the field. Many UCSC players try out for the team as a way of training in the spring for the collegiate season in the fall.
Runeare, also the head coach of the UCSC Women’s Soccer Team, thinks playing for the Breakers’ premier team will help advance the UCSC men’s players, because it gives them the opportunity to get more competitive play in the off-season.
“I think it will help tremendously,” Runeare said. “I think any time a player at the DIII level can get extra games in at the competitive NPSL level it’s going to give them tremendous growth. I think it’s really invaluable to them.”
Jeremy Abrams, a member of the UCSC men’s team, agrees with his coach. He thinks extra play time helps with both fitness and experience.
“It’s a really good way to keep in shape during the off-season, and it’s a way for a lot of us to get more playing time against really good opponents,” Abrams said. “The guys are a little bit older, a little bit rougher, and with the Breakers, the level is a little bit faster.”
Regardless of who participates on the team, the Breakers’ premier team plays a huge role in inspiring the kids within the club to reach for something greater than average.
The creation of the semi-professional team, according to coaches and players in the club, can be positive for everyone in the Santa Cruz community, not just the club participants.
“I think the club is such a big factor in the community in terms of how many people it affects,” Bucchere said. “The fact that there’s a professional sports team in Santa Cruz is really big time; it’s our only professional team. It’s a great opportunity to see this high a level of soccer right here in our backyard.”