EuropeDODEA-Europe boys soccer
Stuttgart looks to move up the ladder
Stars and Stripes May 13, 2023
Stuttgart has played this season with the motto “unfinished business.”
The Panthers dropped a heartbreaker in the DODEA Europe Division I boys soccer championship last season against Ramstein. A late goal for the Royals came after Stuttgart controlled most of the match.
Eight players are back from that squad, including five seniors. They have taken that motivation through an undefeated regular and into the 2023 DODEA Europe tournament, which begins Monday and runs through Thursday in the Kaiserslautern Military Community.
“I definitely think that loss was a huge motivation for them,” first-year coach Nathan Garrett said of last year’s season-ending loss. “Their goal is to want to get back to have that opportunity again to have a chance to redeem themselves and at least give themselves a shot at a championship again.”
These Panthers (5-0, 5-0) aren’t the same as last year, though.
The 2023 team has averaged five goals per game, and Stuttgart has spread the wealth across the squad, with 12 players getting on the scoresheet. Itzak Sandoval leads the team in scoring, while Ryan Stevenson has contributed a few by scoring himself or assisting others.
“Instead of having just those five or six guys who can score, I was hoping to get at least eight to nine,” Garrett said. “After our game against Vilseck (on April 28), I had 12 guys total on my roster that have scored goals. Essentially, if the one guy’s out, I have a good number of guys that can still get the job done.”
Despite taking down all opponents during the regular season, Garrett mentioned it wasn’t a cakewalk. In fact, three of the matches were determined by three or fewer goals – vs. Lakenheath (2-0) on April 7, Wiesbaden (4-1) on April 15 and Ramstein (2-0) on May 6.
The Stuttgart coach said the level in Division I is so high that any team could deny the Panthers their goal. Wiesbaden’s only blemish was the loss to Stuttgart, SHAPE handed the defending-champion Royals a 1-0 loss on April 29 and Ramstein’s losses to the three teams ahead of them have been tight affairs.
“I really feel like every team that we have in front of us is a huge competitor,” Garrett said. “They all can accomplish the same thing. I don’t think any specific team that’s going to be No. 1 (threat) against us. It’s really any of them. I know that sounds pretty cliché.”
The good news for Stuttgart is by wrapping up the top seed into the tournament, they have an advantage over most.
The Panthers have just three squads in their pool with fourth-seeded Ramstein and fifth-seeded Vilseck. The other pool has four teams.
This means while teams in the other pool will have at least one day of two matches, Stuttgart does not. In its pool, Vilseck drew the short end of the stick, having to play two matches on the first day, while the Panthers and Royals will have just one on Monday and Tuesday. Four wins over four days is all that it will take.
“We have to make sure that these guys are focused when it comes to sleep, hydration, stretching, staying loose, not being complacent,” Garrett warned. “Every day, we have to win the day, whether we play one or two.”
It’s not shocking to see American Overseas School of Rome being atop the standings at the end of the regular. Nor is it surprising the Falcons are among the favorites to take home the DODEA European championship.
However, their biggest threat may come in the form of a team located outside of Europe but still participates in DODEA European competition.
The Bahrain boys soccer team has soared this season, collecting five wins against European competition. The Falcons (6-1, 4-0) beat Rota twice and Sigonella on the weekend of April 7-8 and followed that by defeating Naples 2-0 and Vicenza 4-2 on April 14 and 15, respectively.
Bahrain, which took third place last season, finished the season by splitting a pair of matches against local teams.
Against common opponents, AOSR and Bahrain defeated Vicenza by the same margin (2-0 vs. 4-2), while the Italian squad beat Sigonella by a larger margin (5-1) than Bahrain did in one of its wins over Rota (2-1).
Right behind these teams are Naples (3-2-1, 2-2) and Vicenza (7-3, 3-3).
The smallest school division has the usual suspect Sigonella (4-4-1, 1-0-0) among the favorites, but two other teams, including a co-ed squad, could usurp the Jaguars’ title.
Ansbach has taken care of business during the regular season, going 5-0. Three of those wins came against last-place Baumholder, and the Cougars’ best win came against Brussels 4-0 on April 21.
AFNORTH (4-1-1, 4-0-0), meanwhile, hasn’t dropped a match to a Division III opponent all season. Of common opponents with either with their rivals for crown, the Lions defeated Alconbury 6-1 on the season’s opening day (Sigonella defeated the Dragons 6-1 on April 29), and they pounced on the Brigands for a 4-1 victory on May 6. They also defeated Spangdahlem and Baumholder 7-0 (the same scorelines for the Cougars against those opponents) on March 18 and April 22, respectively.
The Lions’ lone blemishes came against Division I opponents – a 7-0 loss to SHAPE on March 25 and a 2-2 draw with Lakenheath on April 28.
Sigonella, meanwhile, has faced off against mostly Division II opponents on the season.