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SOCCER

It was a "welcome home" cut short for U.S. men's team

soccer player Chris Armas, who once used the New York HOTA Bavarian Soccer Club

in Franklin Square as his stamping grounds. The midfielder, who also plays

with the MLS' Chicago Fire, returned to Long Island with the national team

yesterday afternoon to scrimmage his old team, the Rough Riders.

Lightning and rain allowed for only 15 minutes of game action. Still, it

was exciting for fans to have the team in town. Matthew Coplan, a member of

Sam's Army - a group that supports the U.S. men's team - was reduced to

watching the game on Renken Boulevard, behind one of the goalposts, because the

event was at full capacity.

"To see the national team play anywhere is an honor," Coplan said, "and

they're in our own backyard."

It was also an honor for the Rough Riders, who are currently 1-5-1 and in

third place in the Atlantic Division of the USL Pro Select League.

Armas made his pro debut with the Rough Riders during the team's inception

year of 1994. He also converted the team's first goal ever, a penalty kick in a

4-2 loss to the now defunct North Jersey Imperials.

That year, he led the team in scoring with eight goals and four assists for

20 points. The Brentwood native also made a name for himself at Adelphi

University, where he was named athlete of the year three years in a row. He

finished his college career with 17 goals and 15 assists for 49 points.

"It's an amazing trip coming back home with this team," Armas said. "It

just doesn't seem real, having the national team here in HOTA, where I grew up

playing."

Coach Bruce Arena also enjoyed his time back; he lived on Long Island and

also played for HOTA in the 1970s.

"This has been the longest period of time it's been since I have been in

Long Island, but it's nice," said Arena.

A lot of Armas' family and friends were on hand to watch him play yesterday

afternoon, but not for too long. Heavy rains washed out the game and entire

crowd dispersed in a matter of minutes.

Team members huddled in the HOTA offices, some veterans playing foosball

with the younger players.

The Long Island layover was a pit stop en route to St. George, where the

team will play a FIFA World Cup qualifying game. They will head there tomorrow

morning and play on Sunday.

The game will be the second against Grenada. The first was last Sunday in

Columbus, Ohio, won by the United States, 3-0. It was the first of a two-game

aggregate series versus Grenada to open qualifying for the 2006 FIFA World

Cup.

New York Sports