Derek Armstrong came to the San Diego Nomads in 1980 to satisfy a temporary thirst. For the past 25 years, his presence within the organization has proved not only to be a staple of Nomad soccer, but the catalyst for local and national tournament championships along with alumni becoming prominent soccer superstars.
The Nomads’ latest accomplishment took place May 6-8 in Mission Viejo, where the Under 15 boys emerged from a pool of 32 southern California teams to capture the state championship with a 3-1 win over the Alta Loma Aztecs.
Netting two goals was Elio De La Torre, while Carlos Fernandez chipped in with the other Nomad tally.
“They have developed into a really solid team,” said new Head Coach Paul Taylor. “They have become one of the top teams in the country.”
That’s high praise, but this particular Nomads squad has exceeded expectations culminating in last year’s National Championship season. Compiled from some of the most elite soccer players in San Diego county this is the fourth year the team has been together, making them the team to beat at next month’s regional tournament in Denver.
Although the thin air could play a factor in his team’s success, Taylor remains confident and optimistic.
“I think this team has a legitimate shot at winning,” he said. “As in everything, it’s about how we prepare. We’re all excited about what we can do.”
The Nomads will have the extra burden of losing the coach who led them to the tournament victory. Paul Dougherty’s contract expired and has since moved on to another venture.
“It will be difficult without (Dougherty) being there,” said Taylor, “but we understand we need to move on, in sports and in life.”
Should the Nomads continue their national success, their title defense as reigning national champions will conclude at the Walt Disney Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando.
To be successful is defined by a continued level of the highest accomplishment, and the Nomad Soccer Club has followed that guideline to tremendous aplomb. According to the team’s Web site, the greatest of standards are not only desired, but expected. Success seems to be viewed as unacceptable.
From the Web site: “They also must win much more than they lose. If they don’t, they’ll suffer in the recruiting wars for the best local talent, lose even more games and the downward spiral will continue. ...”
In addition to the tradition of excellence, Armstrong, who wears the hat of head coach, director and president, has instilled a sense of soccer family in his teams through the farm system, in which players begin playing together at an earlier age and continue to grow as teammates and friends. The same system is used throughout the soccer world in Europe, mainly England.
Founded in 1976, the Nomad Soccer Club evolved from the La Jolla Soccer League but the recruitment has swallowed up the elite from all of San Diego County. “If you want top level soccer, you must include the whole county,” Armstrong said, rather earnestly proud of his accomplishments with the Nomads when he cites the humble beginning of the club.
“The club was founded because they wanted to compete around country rather than just southern California,” the 60-year-old England native said. “We had ambitions to become a top club in the state, but over the years we’ve become one of the top clubs in the country.”
Armstrong directs a program in which there are 11 boys teams along with 11 girls teams, each of which ranges in ages 8 to 18. All of whom, ideally, would like to continue striving and advancing with the program.
"(Armstrong) has done a fantastic job of recruiting and keeping these teams together,” said Taylor.
Through their trips throughout America and those abroad - three girls teams will travel to Spain, with a potential English tournament likely - the Nomads have made quite a name for themselves in the world of club soccer.
Although the Nomads’ recent success has been noteworthy, more impressive is the list of alumni that once donned the Nomad red and blue.
“Oh, yes,” said Armstrong with a notable influx of pride, “we have plenty of alumni who have become quite famous by playing soccer.”
Materializing from local soccer heroes to national and international favorites, the Nomads have provided the soccer world and its fans with 15 U.S. National team members, eight Major League Soccer players and two Olympians, Paul Caligiuri and Yari Allnut. Caligiuri, who played during the beginning of the Nomad Soccer Club’s exisistence, is considered by one soccer Web site as one of the greatest U.S. soccer players of all time.
While the Nomads revel in their recent glories and past success stories, Taylor proceeds cautiously. He knows, through his experiences with club soccer in England, that once you’re on top people are gunning to take you down.
“We’re very capable, this team,” he said. “We’re trying to get the titles that have eluded us, and we don’t want to settle for less.”