Beautiful facility. Beautiful game.
In Brazil, soccer is called the beautiful game. While the likes of Ronaldinho, Pele and Kaka certainly won't be running around at the fresh Kenai Sports Complex during the Northern Lights Conference soccer tournament Thursday through Saturday, the expansive fields are expected to lead to a pleasing brand of soccer.
The fields are about 115 yards long and 75 yards wide. That's equivalent to some of the roomier pitches on the Kenai Peninsula, like the home fields of Nikiski, but much larger than the football fields some teams use in the Valley, which are only 55 yards wide.
"What it allows you to do is really play soccer," said Kenai boys coach David Landry of bigger fields. "Soccer is not supposed to be played inside of someone's living room. Just because you can get 11 guys in there does not mean it's soccer."
And these are not just any fields. They were opened at the end of last summer and have seen no high school play this season. Host Kenai Central played all of its games on the high school-middle school campus so everything should be pristine for the tournament.
"The fields lined up really nice," Kenai girls coach Dan Verkuilen said. "There's no holes. The areas in front of the goals are fully grassed. We're putting tents up out there. It should be a great event."
Coaches also agreed that the fields should do a great job of determining the three girls and boys teams that will represent the conference at state. All the real estate will require speed, skill for ball possession and depth.
"On a smaller field, there can be one little 'Oops' and then all of a sudden the ball is going the other way and there's a shot on goal," said Soldotna girls coach Mike Tovoli. "The bigger fields favor the better teams."
The main threat to mar the tournament is unbeautiful weather.
"Those fields are only a stone's throw from the inlet," Landry said. "Our fields (at the high school) are farther away from the inlet by quite a bit, and even those are cold fields."
The following is a closer look at today's first-round games. Teams are seeded one through four from the Northern and Southern divisions:
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