UConn stars participate in Soccer Night in Newtown
Smiles are a hard thing to come by in Newtown, these days. Twenty-six students and faculty members were killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on Dec. 14, leaving the community damaged and distraught.
On Jan. 7, Major League Soccer sought to change that, bringing smiles to the faces of 1,500 young soccer players and their families.
About 50 current and former players including three former UConn stars, gathered for Soccer Night in Newtown. The event was put together almost immediately after the shooting took place to provide some sort of relief for the community.
Houston Dynamo president Chris Canetti, a native of Connecticut, came up with the idea for the event. Canetti wanted to help in any way he could, and saw a night with some of the country's top soccer talent as an ideal outlet for a town where over 1,000 children are involved in the sport.
Canetti got commitments from five of his players to attend the event, and as news spread across the league, more players stepped up.
The group of players that made their way to Connecticut included three former Huskies: Colorado Rapids' forward Tony Cascio, Seattle Sounders' goalkeeper Josh Ford and Real Salt Lake center back Kwame Watson-Siriboe.
"It says a lot about how the UConn soccer program is," Cascio said. "Connecticut residents would support us, so this was a way to show that we cared and support them."
The star-studded group included some of the biggest names in American soccer, including Los Angeles Galaxy forward Landon Donovan and New York Red Bulls forward Kenny Cooper.
Some of the game's greats of the past were also on hand. Former United States national team stars Cobi Jones, Alexi Lalas, Eric Wynalda, Tony Meola, Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilly were all on hand.
Current United States women's national team captain Christine Rampone was also in attendance.
The stars in attendance took time to chat with young players, sign autographs, take pictures and even play some small-sided games. Through soccer, they were able to help the people of Newtown smile again.
"The experience in Newton was great," Cascio said. "I think it was a really good turnout. I think all the players that were there enjoyed putting a smile on young players and even parents."
San Jose Earthquakes forward Marcus Tracy was also in attendance. Tracy grew up in Newtown, where he was an All-American in high school and a member of the 2004 Class LL state championship team. He is considered a legend at Newtown High School, where his No. 3 jersey is retired.
Tracy's mother used to be a teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School, making the tragedy feel even closer to home.
Following the shooting, Tracy, a passionate musician, helped produce a song honoring the victims. The song, titled "We'll Be Alright," has over 35,000 views on YouTube.
Cascio, who had just spent one month training in England Derby County of the Football League Championship, was happy to be part of the relief effort, and was amazed by the resolve people of Newtown after the tragedy.
"I think people at the event were very excited," Cascio said, "so just from what I saw in the community of Newton residents, I could tell that they came together and are very supportive in each other and their community."
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