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Fuego joins semipro league

December 2, 2005

The Southern Oregon Fuego will kick off its first season in the Premiere Arena Soccer League Saturday at the brand new Michael Wendt Memorial Fieldhouse.

&

I really have no idea what the competition is like,&

Fuego midfield veteran Cameron Coster said. &

But I&

m sure if we play together we can pull it off.&

Saturday&

s 8 p.m. matchup against the Bend Steelheaders will be the first test for the Ashland-based team. While the Fuego will keep practicing at Ashland Middle School, it will move all of its home games from Walter A. Phillips Field in Ashland to the new indoor facility in Klamath Falls.

&

It&

s so amazing,&

Fuego team captain Iman Siadat said of the new Klamath Falls facility. &

There are plasma screen TVs and a futuristic interior. It&

s a really cool facility.&

With 20 players on the Fuego roster &

most from the Ashland area &

Siadat said his team will try to keep a local following while taking advantage of the new facility.

&

When we go play there, we all troop up at the Super 8 motel (the team&

s sponsor) and drive up together,&

Siadat said. &

When the guys got up to the facility, they were in love.&

After scrimmaging the last two Sundays in Klamath Falls, the team is getting used to the nicer, faster fields and prepping for Saturday&

s competition.

&

It&

s the biggest indoor facility I&

ve ever played in,&

Coster said.

When the Fuego started six years ago, Siadat had just come off a career playing semi-professional soccer in the United Soccer League for the Connecticut Wolves. Starting off in La Liga del Valle league in Southern Oregon, the Fuego has progressed each year, gaining popularity along the way. Working its way up the Oregon soccer food chain, the Fuego is hoping to compete with teams like the Salem Surge &

one of six teams in the league &

that used to beat them down.

&

When we just started and played the Surge, we got killed,&

Coster said. &

Once the name&

s gotten out, we&

ve had more and more guys filter through every year. Before it was just exhibition games. Now we can even go to nationals.&

Last year the Fuego tied the Surge in an exhibition game, and Coster said they are more established than the Bend Steelheaders. He hopes Saturday&

s game will show that the Fuego is a real threat in the league.

With the new facility &

the brainchild of Mark Wendt and a dedication to the late Michael Wendt &

the Fuego and Vicki Kelly, a member of the facility&

s board of directors, are hoping to increase soccer&

s popularity in Southern Oregon.

&

We really want it to be the hub of soccer in the area,&

Kelly said. &

We haven&

t been officially open yet, but we&

ve been doing things for two months. We have 450 members already without any publicity at all.&

Annual memberships for the facility are $30 for adults and $20 for youth. The Fieldhouse has four outdoor fields, one indoor field that is 15 yards short of regulation and the ability to let eight teams practice at one time inside.

There are 40 seats for those who want to brave the snowy roads and make the trip to Klamath Falls. Tickets to watch the Fuego are $6 for adults and $3 for children under 12.

Alan Panebaker is a correspondent for the Ashland Daily Tidings. To comment on this article, contact Sports Editor Joe Zavala at 482-3456

ext. 3020 or joe.zavala@dailytidings.com.