Austin Aztex News Release – www.austinaztex.com
Friday, March 27, 2009
AUSTIN, TX — The Austin Aztex have announced the signing of four players for their inaugural USL First Division season, inking local Aztex PDL product Josh Alcala as well as Mike Callahan, Ryan Caugherty and David Sias.
Alcala is the 19th player signed by the club and the sixth player from the 2008 Aztex PDL team. Growing up in Buda, a community just south of Austin, and attending Hays High School, Alcala had options with offers of scholarships from multiple local colleges in both soccer and basketball. In the end, he opted to leave the state and attend the University of South Carolina to pursue a career in soccer.
With the Gamecocks Alcala started all four years. During his senior year he was named the offensive MVP and received first-team honors in Conference USA. Also during his career at USC he helped guide his team to the NCAA Tournament three out of four years including a No. 2 national ranking and a conference title his senior year.
In December 2006, Alcala realized his dream when he signed a professional contract with the expansion side Crystal Palace in Baltimore. During that first season in 2007 he scored three goals and had three assists in 19 games.
In 2008, Alcala returned back to the D.C. area where he went on trial with D.C. United. At the same time, Alcala learned about the formation of the Austin Aztex FC. He knew this was a chance to return home and play.
“Spoke to Wolfgang (Suhnholz – Aztex U23 head coach) about playing for the PDL team and sticking around for the USL-1,” said Alcala.
With the announcement of his signing, it’s been worth the wait. “I think I’m lucky to be able to play in my hometown. It’s nice to be able to play in front of family. Having seen the pro organizations that were here in Austin before, I didn’t believe I’d ever stay and play professionally.”
“For me, just being local, it’s personal pride of being here in Austin. Personally, I like being part of a professional organization that started from the ground up with the PDL and moving up to USL-1. We go from there to bringing pro soccer to the community and the surrounding areas, especially my town of Buda.”
Austin is fast becoming the Atlantic Coast Conference-West with the signing of 22-year-old Mike Callahan, a midfielder from the University of North Carolina who earned All-ACC and All-American honors in 2008. He is the fourth player from the ACC signed by the team, and third in two weeks.
A native of Cary, North Carolina, Callahan joined the Capital Area Soccer League in North Carolina at age 11 to experience what it was like to travel with a club soccer team.
«My grandpa actually wanted me to quit and pick up football, but my mom told me it would be a decision I would regret,» Callahan said.
He obviously made the right decision as he went on to receive all-state and all-conference honors in soccer his junior and senior year at Green Hope High School where he was also the team captain. Following his high school career, Callahan found more success at UNC where he made the ACC All-Freshman Team before going on to earn Second Team All-ACC and Second Team All-American honors as a senior.
While he had a tryout with the New York Red Bulls in January, Callahan said he believes Austin is the ideal situation and looks forward to the opportunities and his experience with the Aztex.
«I like what the coaches are trying to accomplish here. The way they go about training. It’s a really good environment for me to develop as a player and help this team. I feel like, with their young players, they really want to help them try and develop and move on. Obviously, Adrian has a lot of connections overseas and I feel they are very committed to develop the players.»
Ryan Caugherty, who has played in several exhibition contests with the Aztex, including the club’s 3-1 defeat at Real Salt Lake, comes to the Aztex after a professional career that has included several stops in Europe.
Following a successful career in high school (two-time All-American at Penn Hills High in Pittsburgh, PA) and a four-year career at Wake Forest, the Kansas City Wizards selected Caugherty as the 47th pick in the 2005 draft. The now 26-year-old midfielder never played in Kansas City but instead opted to go overseas and try his game in Europe.
“I always wanted to play overseas and had an opportunity so I thought it was better to do it while I was younger in my career,» said Caugherty. «When I wanted to come back to the States it would be an option.”
Caugherty began his career in Europe most impressively. In Denmark with Odense club B 1909, a Danish second division team, Caugherty earned Man of the Match honors in his first five games with the club. This led to interest from other top division clubs in the country. Eventually, over the course of the next several years, he found himself playing in Sweden, Hungary, and Romania.
“It’s been about me trying to climb the ladder, the soccer hierarchy over there.”
After his last stop in Romania, he decided it was time to return to the US.
“I left Europe because I wasn’t getting paid and I was tired of that. I got into Seattle and didn’t get signed because they already had so many midfielders. Seattle called Adrian (Heath) for me. It was a numbers thing. I had heard nothing but good things from the people in Seattle and my college coach. I had various offers from other USL-1 clubs, and it’s an honor to be a part of this.”
With the connections to Stoke City, does Caugherty look for a chance to return to Europe, and in particular, England? The answer is surprising. “
I don’t ever go into a situation as this as a step to get to this step. I always take it as this is my team now. I was in Seattle for the past six weeks and got released on the last day. I came down to Austin and I’m just excited to get going and work with Adrian and Phil.”
For 21-year-old defender David Sias, his journey to Austin is not quite as circuitous. Sias grew up in California where he earned all-state honors his senior year as well as being named the MVP three years in a row in the Sunset League, which included players such as Sacha Kljestan. He attended the University of California-Irvine, where he majored in economics and started all four seasons for the Anteaters. In 2007 Sias made the Big West second team and this past season earned Defensive MVP in the conference.
Upon completion of his eligibility, the Chicago Fire drafted him in the 3rd round with the 43rd overall pick. Much like Caugherty, Sias got caught up in a numbers game.
“They just had too many centerbacks,” he said matter-of-factly.
Despite the lack of opportunity in Chicago, Sias knew Austin was a distinct possibility. “I went to (the Aztex) California tryout before the draft. The team liked me and they were wondering what I was going to do. Then I got drafted.”
Sias said in the end it all worked out for the best and he is looking forward to his first opportunity to play the game professionally in Austin.
“It’s close to home or at least the closest USL-1 team. I really liked what the organization had going on with Adrian. It’s a new organization and a new opportunity. And the connection to Europe definitely appeals to me.”