PORTLAND – Jason Massie had a concern about his soccer future. After playing in college, was there any chance he’d play the game again?

But Massie, a midfielder and native of England, found a new opportunity this summer when he joined the Portland Phoenix, a Portland-based amateur soccer team that opens its Premier Development League season this weekend.

“I haven’t been playing lately because of school and being an assistant coach,” said Massey, who is working on his master’s degree and coaching soccer at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo. “But to be able to train every day, I feel like a kid again. When something like that is taken away from you, it’s kind of hard to come to terms with it.”

But Massie, 25, will be in the lineup when the Phoenix open their inaugural season in Portland at 4 p.m. Sunday against the Westchester (N.Y.) Flames at Deering High.

“I can’t wait,” said Massie, who played at the University of Rio Grande in Ohio, then for Harrisburg of the United Soccer League’s Second Division for two years.

Relocated from Cape Cod, Portland’s franchise is part of a league that Jeff McRaney, the USL senior director, describes as the highest level of amateur soccer in the nation.

Established in 1989, the PDL has 68 teams in the United States, Canada and Bermuda. Each team has a minimum of 14 players, and a team’s master roster can carry up to 26 players.

Rosters include amateur players, with an allowance for foreign players and professionals who aren’t covered by a pro contract when they join a PDL team.

“If you look at the makeup of the league, it’s an amateur league,” said McRaney, who is based in Tampa, Fla. “If they’re good enough, there are plenty of pro leagues out there, including ours.”

McRaney makes the best comparison of the PDL’s place in USL’s development track to that of minor league baseball.

“It’s pretty unique. It’s designed as an under-23 league, and you’re going to get some of the best college players in the country playing in the PDL,” he said.

Thursday at the Portland Sports Complex, 14 players met to practice in preparation for the opener and the start of a 16-game season.

The Phoenix’s roster includes former professional players, current college players, players who recently graduated from college, and local players like Tony Yeboah, a former Deering High standout.

“For me, personally, it’s great because I’m home,” said Yeboah, who recently completed his sophomore year at Hobart College in Geneva, N.Y.

“To have the opportunity to play on a team with some of my high school buddies is great, and it’s another opportunity for me to play competitively and to train.”

Otherwise, Yeboah would have trained on his own and worked this summer to earn money for school.

“It’s a lot better than being alone,” Yeboah said.

“It’s a modge-podge of different people and different talent levels, and to have guys to gain valuable experience from, it’s great for the younger players.”

 

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at:

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