Monday, December 1, 2008

Former Flames Celebrate MLS Cup Win

Henry Moyo is as calm and even-keeled as any coach you’ll meet, but he admits he “lost it” last Sunday when he saw two of his former Lee University soccer players on television, taking part in the Columbus Crew celebration of the MLS Cup championship in Carson City, Calif.

Ricardo Pierre-Louis and Stanley Nyazamba were NAIA first-team All-Americans for Moyo a year ago, and both wound up on the Crew roster and became champions as professional rookies.

“I was very emotional,” Moyo said Friday while Pierre-Louis and Nyazamba sat with him in his campus office. “These guys call or text me once or twice a week, and to see them with the winningest team in America lifting the most important cup in America - that got to me.”

It touched him also when the two drove from the Ohio capital to watch the
2008 Flames win at Berry College for the Southern States Athletic Conference championship a day before they had to get back for the Crew’s flight to Los Angeles for the MLS Cup.

“That says a lot to me. I didn’t know they were coming until they were at my house, and it meant a lot to the team,” Moyo said.

The day after the Crew's 3-1 championship win over the New York Red Bulls, the two called him from the Atlanta airport on their circuitous way back to Columbus and a crazed crowd of fans. The team was honored at the Ohio Statehouse on Tuesday, and by Wednesday night Pierre-Louis and Nyazamba were on the Lee campus again.

Pierre-Louis, whose 101 career goals are a school record, left Saturday to join the Haiti national team in Jamaica for the Caribbean Championship tournament the next two and a half weeks. Then he'll take a vacation, he said, including some time back in his home country with his family.

Nyazamba, a Zimbabwe native who holds the Flames’ assists records, said he may hang around Lee a couple of weeks. Moyo expects both to be around quite a bit before next season, and he plans to use them to inspire young players in the area.

“If some organization is interested, we can come and let them talk to the kids and sign autographs,” Moyo said. “These guys are the same old boys who played for me. They have not changed a bit.

“I visited them for their last regular-season game (against D.C. United) and stayed in their apartment. They cooked for me and showed me around and introduced me to everyone. And as you see, they consider this their home in the States.” Both graduated from Lee last May with degrees in business administration.

Pierre-Louis, 24, was the NAIA national player of the year in 2007 and the only NAIA player invited to the MLS draft combine. The Crew made him the 22nd pick in the SuperDraft in January, and he trained with the pro club on weekends until graduation.

He joined the club full-time in early June, more than two months into the season. Nyazamba, 25, didn’t get to the Crew until September, after becoming the rookie of the year in the United Soccer Leagues with the Richmond Kickers.
From the Chattanooga Times Free Press

The former Flames took full part in Crew practices and got extra experience in reserve games held the day after main games.

“We were there to play, but it was hard to break into the lineup,” Pierre-Louis said.
“The team was winning before we got there,” Nyazamba noted. “But it was good to be in a winning program and play with guys winning games.”

Indeed, the Crew became the first team since the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2002 to win both the MLS Supporters’ Shield for best season record and the big Cup. They had the league MVP, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, who also was the Cup MVP after assisting on all three Crew goals; the MLS defender of the year, Chad Marshall; and the coach of the year, Sigi Schmid.

“It was very rare. We won everything we could possibly win this year,” Nyazamba said.
“This team well deserved to win the championship, with the work they put in every day at practice,” Pierre-Louis said. “It was a good feeling to be part of it.”

Schmid’s contract expires immediately and he has other offers, so the Lee graduates will see what happens with that before making their own decisions about next year. But they believe this was only the start of successful pro careers.

“Coach Schmid told me that these two guys have quite a future in the MLS,” Moyo said. “And they already are champions in a major league. Some guys play for years and can¹t say that.”



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