The selection panel for the 2008 boys All-Europe soccer team was determined to create a well-rounded squad, according to panelist Greg Blankenship, coach of European Division III champion AFNORTH.
"We worked hard to get a balance," Blankenship said by telephone Thursday, just short of three weeks after becoming only the second non-Italian coach to win a European D-III crown — Shawn Rodman of Hohenfels, also on the 2008 selection panel, was the first in 2006. "We wanted to make sure we had an offense, midfield, defense and goal."
And the drive for balance didn’t end with the various parts of the field, he added.
"We tried to get each division represented," he said of the 30-man final product that included 10 players from D-I, eight from D-III, seven from D-II and five from D-IV. "We watched cross-divisional play. We had more opportunities to see cross-divisional play because of regional scheduling."
Blankenship cited the experience of his own team as an example.
"We saw Ramstein, we saw BFA, we saw the Italian teams," he said. "The only (top-ranked) team we didn’t see was Heidelberg."
Offensively, the two 15-man teams Blankenship, Rodman and their fellow panelists — Phil Andre of Sigonella, Jeff Black of Alconbury, Chris Greathouse of Black Forest Academy and DODDS-Europe athletic director Karen Seadore — came up with packs plenty of punch.
SHAPE senior Pablo Martinez, a second-teamer in ’07, led the strikers with 19 goals; Baumholder sophomore Alassane Doukoure and American Overseas School of Rome junior David Kunin each banged home 18. Other double-digit first-team scorers included repeat first-teamer Zein Nour of Marymount (13), Josiah Hanchett of BFA (12, 10 of them in a Mr. Clutch tournament run) and Marvin Sibley of Heidelberg (10). Vincent Luscomb of International School of Brussels, moving up from the ’07 second team, scored nine times and had six assists.
Not making the first team, however, were high-scoring ’08 second-teamers Chris Davis of Lakenheath, a two-time first-teamer, and Alan Dowden of Rota and Piotr Kwiecien of SHAPE, both ’07 first-teamers.
"We had some very skilled strikers," Blankenship said. "We looked carefully at the all-region teams, which covered the regular season, and the all-tournament teams, which took care of the postseason. If a player didn’t make both of those, it was hard for him to make the first team."
Numbers alone wouldn’t do, Blankenship added.
"When you have a Division IV team playing a Division I team, they don’t get to use all the skills they might have for scoring or keeping the other team from scoring," Blankenship said. "We wanted to make sure we listened to those (small schools) coaches."
In what Blankenship called "a very talented midfield," the All-Europe first team suits up Patch senior Samet Yuekseugonuel, an ’07 first-teamer as a Naples Wildcat; Heidelberg junior Kevin Beerman, D-I tourney MVP; and BFA senior Un Yoeb Kim.
Defensively, the top 15 includes AFNORTH junior sweeper Tobias Christmann, Ramstein senior defender Jorge Lopez and goalkeeper Conor Quinn of D-IV Sigonella. Those picks relegated former first-teamer Chris Campos of Naples, a senior sweeper, to the second team.
That’s far from a demotion, though, Blankenship indicated.
"I’d love to line those guys up and have an all-star game, first team versus second team," Blankenship said. "I’d coach the second team. There are a lot of talented kids out there."