BOYS SOCCER: Elco, German team meet in 'friendly'
MYERSTOWN >> The term 'friendly international' in soccer can often teeter on being an oxymoron. Whenever national pride is at stake, anything can happen.
Different playing styles can often clash on the field. Foreign languages can cause miscommunication between opponents who might never face each other again.
On Saturday afternoon at Myerstown's Jackson Township Recreation Park, all of the above was in play. Perhaps the high temperatures did the most to keep the visiting FC Hochrhein club of Germany and the Elco boys' soccer team on friendly terms.
It was FCH's last chance to garner a win in its three-game tour of the United States that spanned 12 days of cultural exchange in Myerstown and much more.
While here, FCH has had a full agenda that included trips to Washington, D.C., where it toured the White House and met the First Family, New York City, an Amish tour of Lancaster County, a Reading Fightin' Phils game and, of course, Hersheypark.
On the field, FCH lost its first match at Exeter 6-0 and also to Tulpehocken 3-1 at Jackson Rec.
"At Exeter," said FCH coach Guenther Rued, "it was the first time we played on a turf field that had football stripes (yard markers), which threw us off a bit. But Exeter was very good. They had almost all 17 and 18 year-old boys and we brought a lot of younger kids over with us."
Rued said the game with Tulpehocken, which also had mostly older boys, was much closer. Rued's son, Yannick, scored the goal against Tulpy.
Against Elco, FCH broke on top on a goal by Tobias Sauerbeck. The initial shot bounced off the right post to Sauerbeck, who rushed in from the left wing to punch in the rebound.
Elco eventually earned a penalty kick that Evan Gettler converted that resulted in a 1-1 tie, which is about as friendly as it could have gotten.
"It was a good game," Elco coach Kirk Keppley said. "Very exciting."
Keppley likes his team this year, which went 14-8-1 last year and won a District Three Class AA quarterfinal match against Pequea Valley 2-1 on Justin Kimmet's header in overtime.
Elco then lost to Gettysburg and Lancaster Mennonite to end its season.
Kimmet, who'll be a junior, returns to the Raiders' front line this year, along with senior Blaine Troutman. Other key players for Elco will be Gettler at center mid, Ethan Anspach at defensive mid and center back Tucker Brown.
"We've had about 20 guys coming out all summer two nights a week and kicking the crap out of each other," Keppley said. "I like their attitudes. Taking nothing away from last year's seniors, which were very good, but this team is talented and also has what I like to describe as old school Elco soccer players. They're talented, but they're also going to get the job done one way or another."
The trip left an indelible mark on the German contingent, as well.
"We've had a great trip," said Sebastian Kohler, 18, who stayed with the Keppley family. "My favorite time was going to New York City to the top of the Empire State Building and Washington D.C. These are things we see only on TV."
Kohler said he plans to go to college after high school to study architecture.
"I plan to go to college in Zurich," he said. "That is the biggest city near us, about an hour away."
Kohler said despite the distance involved, Bayern Munich of the Bundesliga is his favorite team, along with the World Cup champion German national team, of course.
"What Germany did last year in Brazil was unbelievable," he said. "Nobody expected us to do what we did to Brazil in the semifinals. Everybody was very happy in Germany."
Kohler said he was sorry to see a player leave Bayern this year for the English Premier League.
"I was sorry to see Sebastian Schweinsteiger leave Bayern for Manchester United. He's my favorite player. But it's a very good opportunity for him, to play with great players like (Wayne) Rooney. Bayern might not need him as much this year."
Keppley said the exchange program between Elco and Hochrhein has deep roots.
"Guenther (Rued) and Brian Fidler have been friends since Elco went over there in 1991," Keppley said. "Guenther ended up coming over here and going to college before going back to Germany. They've kept in contact ever since, which led to this exchange program. We went over there two years ago and will probably go back in two years."