By Kyle Daubs

It’s starting to feel like a normal soccer season again. 

For the first time in two years, the Charleston Red & Gold Tournament is back at Nino Fields. It will have a different feel compared to the year’s past. Normally, the tournament is set for eight teams with Hi-Cone Fields used, but the tournament pool is down to four teams in the first year back since the pandemic. 

Mattoon figures to be the leading contender to win the title. Mattoon won the championship each year from 2014-2018 and will get a first look at who will be the team’s go scorer after losing Gavin Gonzalez to graduation. 

“We are just glad to get back to playing the tournament,” said Ghere. “Every year when the team sets our goals, one of them is to win the Red-Gold Tournament.  We are going to have to find someone to consistently score for us.  If you do that, I think we will be very successful.  The most important thing is to just play some games and see where we are at right now.  We are tired of scrimmaging in practice.  We need to play another team.”

Charleston head coach Zach Stranz isn’t worried about the shortage of teams. With Charleston, Effingham, and Mattoon, it gives the Trojans an early peek at the Apollo Conference. With Olney in the fold, Stranz is excited to get three games under their belt this week. 

“It’ll be nice to have the Red & Gold Tournament back this year after last year’s absence because of COVID,” said Stranz. “There are only four teams but I think it’s a great way to start the season. Getting 3 games so close to each other you’ll see where your team is at when rolling into the regular season. I’ve been impressed with my team’s progress throughout the first few weeks of practice, and I hope it continues in the games.”

Charleston plays Effingham in their first match. The Hearts were 4-9-1 last season and lost quite a few good players. That includes All-Apollo selection Siad Angel. The team also lost potentially the best individual player in the Apollo in junior Osvaldo Angel, who was First-Team All-Apollo but is not listed on the team’s roster. 

“We are a relatively young team with a lot of talent,” said Effingham coach Weston Peno. “As we grow together and learn to play the game as one unit, I firmly believe we are going to be competitive across the conference. In regards to a top team, I have confidence in my players that over the next few years we can make something happen with that; however, I would say Mahomet will be the powerhouse this season if they did not lose many of their players from last year. They are extremely competitive and tend to always have a great program.”

Charleston also brings a young team that lost the bulk of their scoring, but Stranz believes that the team has some new faces that could be added to the All-Tournament Team.  

“Our team is filled with youth so there will be some learning curves for sure, but I feel like my team is up for the challenge and we’ll just get better every day,” said Stranz. “I’m excited to see who steps up for us on offense. Brandon Jones, Kyle Ross, and Emilio Pacheta have a real good chance to be big players this year. I’ve got a ton of talent on offense, but that doesn’t matter if you don’t finish, so I’m hoping to see several goals this week.”

Wednesday 8/25/21

4:00pm – (1) Charleston vs. (2) Effingham      

6:00 pm – (3) Mattoon vs. (4) East Richland

Thursday 8/26/21

4:00 pm – (2) Effingham vs. (4) East Richland

6:00pm – (1) Charleston vs. (3) Mattoon

Saturday 8/28/21

10:00am – (1) Charleston vs. (4) East Richland

12:00pm – (2) Effingham vs. (3) Mattoon