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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, February 27, 2005

O'ahu gets rare glimpse at soccer's biggest stars

 •  Soccer fans like show by the pros

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer

Most of the thousands of soccer fans who poured into Aloha Stadium for the Aloha Soccer Cup match, the first professional soccer game in Hawai'i in nearly three decades, weren't old enough to remember the last one.

Soccer fans cheer on during the first half of the match between D.C United and the L.A. Galaxy. D.C. United defeated the Galaxy, 1-0, in the inaugural Aloha Soccer Cup, a preseason exhibition game yesterday at Aloha Stadium.

Andrew Shimabuku • The Honolulu Advertiser

A lot of the parents were younger back then in 1977 than their soccer kids are now.

Keoki and Lesley Landredth of Hawai'i Kai fall into that category. Yet they were there with a passel of young Honolulu Bulls soccer players — including Jaimie Landredth, 11, a member of the champion Honolulu Bulls U12 team.

Like most of the 15,000 people at the stadium they came to see the pros. But they also came to cheer for their younger teammates competing on the field for the U11 Girls HYSA Presidents Day Championship Game.

"Watch the high-school players, Jaimie," Keoki Landredth, a U8 girls coach, told his daughter. "Watch how they move, how fast they move and how hard they kick the ball. And remember that — because when the pros come on, what you see will be on a totally different level."

Jaimie was surprised to learn that Freddy Adu, who became the highest paid player in Major League Soccer at $500,000 a season at age 14 last year, was not that much older than she is.

"He's on the team?" she asked.

Katie Yanagi, 11, holds up an autographed miniature soccer ball signed by Freddy Adu, the teen sensation for D.C. United.

Andrew Shimabuku • The Honolulu Advertiser

"Yeah," her dad said. "Must be nice, huh, to get paid that kind of money just to kick a ball around?"

Jaimie wasn't the only one who didn't know exactly who the big-name players were.

"I don't know any of the stars," said soccer player Adri Kinhult, 17, whose mom, Julie Kinhult, is the team administrator for the Kaiser High School girls soccer team — giving her "glorified soccer mom" status. "I just came to see a professional soccer game."

But Rick and Jill Tanabe of Seattle knew all about the star players. That's because they were vacationing at the same hotel where both teams are staying — the Outrigger Waikiki.

"We arrived on Thursday and found out the pros were there on Friday," said Rick Tanabe, who dropped $200 on a rental car, tickets and souvenirs to see the game. "My daughters, Courtney, who's 15, and Brittney, 13, both play soccer, and have been hounding the players."

Friends and family of the Honolulu Bulls Soccer Club cheer on one of their U-11 teams as they compete against Kaoi Express in the Presidents Day Tournament Championship Game at Aloha Stadium. The game preceded the professional soccer match.

Andrew Shimabuku • The Honolulu Advertiser

"I'm so excited," said Brittney. "I got the autographs of Cobi Jones, Freddy Adu, and some other guy on one of the teams."

Meanwhile, out in the parking lot, a half dozen sailors stationed at Pearl Harbor were virtually the lone holdouts staging a tailgate party. There was supposed to be no tailgating.

"But what's a soccer game without a tailgate party?" asked Hector Cerda, 22, who described himself and his friends as "soccer freaks who just want to have some fun before we leave for the Middle East in July. Besides, we're only drinking Pepsi. It's strong Pepsi, though."

At shortly after 6 p.m., with fewer than five minutes left in the U11 game, and the score tied at zero, the pros began to emerge from a stadium tunnel and headed around the field toward the locker rooms. A crush of fans surged toward the fence line — momentarily ignoring the game on the field — in hopes of getting an autograph or a handshake.

"Can I yell out, 'Which one of you is Cobi Jones?' " asked Chiemi Bryant, 12, to a giggling girlfriend. "Isn't he the best player on the Galaxy Team?"

Brendan Wesley-Smith, 12; Cody Sia, 12; Keenan Seguancia, 13; and Cody Sullivan, 13, are all members of the Honolulu Bulls Soccer Club who came to watch the action yesterday at the stadium.

Andrew Shimabuku • The Honolulu Advertiser

But Freddy Adu, who was carrying a case of soft drinks, appeared before Jones and strolled past the waiting fans without giving them a glance.

Moments later, Jones walked past, also without saying anything, and disappeared into the locker room with the other players.

"They just walked by and didn't say anything," said Katie Yanagi of Hawai'i Kai. Still, she said, it was pretty cool just being near the pros. Besides, Yanagi, who plays goal for the Honolulu Bulls U12 team, was holding a blue Adidas soccer ball signed by Adu.

Bystanders wanted to know where she got it.

"My brother Brian got it for me Thursday at NikeTown," she said, as people gathered to take photos of her signed soccer ball.

Reach Will Hoover at 525-8038 or whoover@honoluluadvertiser.com.