This week at the National Sports Center in Blaine, teams from 17 countries will compete for USA Cup championships.
This meeting of nations is one of my favorite sports events of the year. I will not be following any of the international teams, however, I will be keeping a close eye on the local club teams from the Edina Soccer Association, Hopkins Dynamo, Plymouth Soccer Association, Tonka United and the Wayzat Soccer Club.
It is always interesting when one of our local teams plays a team from another country. One thing I like about the USA Cup is that you see so many styles of soccer. It is the world’s game, but there are many different ways to play the game.
If this year’s USA Cup is anything like most of the previous 28, fans should bring plenty of sun screen, umbrellas and money to buy water and Gatorade.
Three years ago, on a scorching-hot 103-degree day in Blaine, I was parched and tired after I walked from Field P1 to Field M2.
I went to the concessions stand and bought a bottle of Desani water for $3. It was probably the best $3 I ever spent in my life since I was on the verge of dehydration. After drinking my treat, I watched three more hours of soccer.
The Super Elite Division of the USA Cup was played last weekend. My colleague, Jason Olson of ECM Newspapers, was on hand to watch the Tonka United Under-16 girls team play a team from Japan. Look for Sun Newspapers personnel, carrying cameras, at many of the games this week.
On Tuesday, July 16, pool play began for other teams in all divisions. The tournament will run through Saturday, July 20, when the championship games are played.
Former Wayzata High baseball pitcher Paul Voelker is having a great year with the Eau Claire Express in the Nowrthwoods Summer League.
Voelker was named Northwoods Pitcher of the Night July 10 when he beat the Lakeshore Chinooks in Mequon, Wis. Voelker allowed six hits, while striking out eight and walking none in his complete game.
“Winning Pitcher of the Night is a great honor,” said Voelker. “This is a great league with great competition.”
Voelker has a 2.12 earned run average in three starts and six relief appearances this summer and is tied for the team lead in wins with three. He said that the keys to his success are throwing strikes and getting ahead in the count.
This is Voelker’s second season with the Express. He pitched mainly as the closer last summer.
Voelker plays for former Edina High athlete Dan Fitzgerald at Dallas Baptist University during the spring season. His fastball, which has been clocked at more than 90 miles per hour, could be his ticket to a career in professional baseball.
NHL talent source
The Lake Conference has proven itself a good source for NHL talent.
Nick Leddy, an Eden Prairie High graduate, recently helped the Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup.
Leddy, a 22-year-old defenseman, was the property of the Minnesota Wild before the Wild sent him to the Blackhaws,
“Nick was always ahead of his peers in skating and stickhandling skills,” Eden Prairie High coach Lee Smith said recently.
Leddy was not the only former Lake Conference player to find success in the NHL last season. Edina and University of Notre Dame forward Anders Lee scored a goal on his first shift with the New York Islanders.
Looking to the future, I have high hopes for two more Lake players.
Edina High junior forward Connor Hurley was taken in the second round of the 2013 NHL draft by the Buffalo Sabers. Later in the second round the St. Louis Blues chose Minnetonka High senior defenseman Tommy Vannelli.
It is difficult to project if a player will make it all the way to the NHL, but there is a good chance Hurley and Vannelli will do that.
Hurley is an explosive scorer with remarkable vision and playmaking skills. Vannelli is a great all-around defenseman with an NHL build and a high hockey IQ.
Each year, the Ed Hrbek Award goes to the most valuable 18-year-old player in the South Hennepin American Legion Baseball League.
There are a number of good candidates this summer, including Edina pitcher-outfielder Matthew Hopfner, Edina pitcher-third baseman Mitch “Moose” Larson, Edina infielder Mark Handberg, Edina center fielder Danny Baer, Excelsior infielder Eric Fasnacht, Excelsior pitcher Joe Martinson, Excelsior pitcher-outfielder Bjorn Hansen, Bloomington Gold catcher Kris Ashland, St. Louis Park pitcher-shortstop Ryan Froom, Wayzata infielder Michael Fecho, Eden Prairie infielder Michael Blauert, Eden Prairie pitcher-infielder Corey Binger, Eden Prairie pitcher-first baseman Luke Lind and Chester Bird pitcher Jimmy Heck.