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Soccer deal is likely to kick up dissent - the price of progress

THE BALTIMORE SUN

THE VOLUME might not be as loud as usual for a zoning alteration, but expect some eventual static over the Soccer Association of Columbia-Howard County's deal for a 10-field complex of its own off Centennial Lane in Ellicott City.

The dissenting chatter will involve predictable complaints about night play, grousing about added traffic on increasingly busy Centennial Lane, and - publicly or not - at least one or two other youth organizations fussing for the county's schools and rec department to grant fewer fields to SAC-HC once the new complex is operational.

If you care even a whit about youth sports, write all of it off as part of the price of progress. Support whatever zoning tweaks are required. (One note to traffic planners, though: Why not start right now sketching a turn-lane into the complex for northbound vehicles on Centennial Lane?)

No one expected SAC-HC to find affordable land so central to its primary constituency. Plus, the deal with Covenant Baptist looks Solomonesque in addressing SAC-HC's needs, the church's desire for a new sanctuary, political and neighborhood considerations, and quality soccer's unique turf requirements.

County soccer devotees had taken to rolling their eyes when SAC-HC President Jim Carlan spoke, so often, so long, so abstractly, about the club's pursuit of such fields. Four false starts dating back a decade, long before his tenure as SAC-HC's top leader, plus the sticky wicket that a new park at Blandair has become, had flattened expectations.

"I know, I know," said Carlan, also aware that club members - parents, coaches, alumni and their parents - were wondering less patiently about what SAC-HC really was doing with money placed in escrow for such a project.

He was teasingly talkative - yet for some, annoyingly vague - during the club's Memorial Day weekend tournament, which has evolved into a big deal nationally.

"We couldn't give out any details, but we knew we were getting really close, and with the Germantown [soccer] complex [in Montgomery County] opening, I had to tell our visiting clubs, as well as our own people, something," said Carlan.

Much work remains, of course, to turn the proposed complex into reality. But if you have any doubt about its value, visit on a busy night the county's other facility dedicated to one club and essentially one sport. That'd be Kiwanis-Wallas Park in Ellicott City, the baseball-softball complex owned by the county but used by the Howard County Youth Program.

One odd factoid about the proposed soccer complex: It's a quest that appears to be coming full circle. The first land that a then-smaller, poorer SAC-HC ever considered - "we probably weren't ready to do it then," acknowledges Carlan - was the exact same acreage off Centennial Lane.

Playing catch-up

Baseball: The Elkridge Hurricanes, a 12-and-under travel baseball team, made it to Cooperstown, N.Y., reaching the quarterfinals of the weeklong-Dreams Park tournament in the home of baseball's Hall of Fame with a 5-2 record that included several noteworthy performances:

A nine-run fifth inning that produced a 10-6 win; Zach Harding batting .563 (9-for-16); Evan Mitchell and Brian Taylor homering three times each; Nick Katsikas getting 10 hits; Nick Bernardo playing six positions; and Alex Kratochwill, who had four hits and five RBIs, playing the national anthem on the trumpet in front of the tourney-opening crowd of a couple of thousand.

Soccer: You wouldn't know it from the name, but at least one Howard County team qualified last weekend in Philadelphia for mid-January's national 3v3 soccer tournament at Disney World. Playing under the Baltimore Football Club's banner, three Ellicott City boys and two from Columbia will go as regional runner-up in the under-9 bracket, said local 3v3 tourney director Ron Barber, who helped coach the Attack.

Barber's son Jaime was the team's top scorer in a 5-2-1 run through regionals, putting in 23 goals and assisting on four more. Jaime's teammates: Andres Salinas (8, 2), Vincent Garafolo (6, 4), Evan Passarelli (6, 6) and Jonathan Stephenson (4, 4).

"We just ran out of gas in the final," said the elder Barber, noting that bracketing in the odd 22-team group resulted in his boys playing four consecutive 24-minute games on title day.

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