By Ryan Schneider
Arizona Daily Wildcat
They have nothing in common but a profound love for soccer.
This group of men who either have been enrolled at or currently attend the University of Arizona do not have much time to become blood brothers or anything like that.
At best, Demetry Panayi, Tony Pierotti, David Cranz, David Cosgrove and Lee Hancock meet twice a week for their practices with the Tucson Amigos – a semipro soccer team and four-year member of the United States Interregional Soccer League.
There simply are not enough hours in the day for these Amigos to be buddies off the playing field. On the bright side, if the quintet can’t make it to the Amigos’ practices, the group could meet for their games with the Big Dogs, another club team that four of the five UA Amigos play for. Or perhaps Panayi and Cranz will spot each other at Menlo Park, where both moonlight in its men’s league.
Amid the uncertainties of holding down a steady job and the pressures of maintaining good grades, one thing has remained constant for the five Amigos — soccer.
"A big part of the problem for the Amigos every year is the fact that you have players moving in and out and up and down,” said Panayi, a three-year veteran of the Amigos — only two players have been with the team longer. “We don’t really have anybody that has stepped forward for us yet because of school and work and those kinds of things.”
Panayi will not be the one stepping up now, either. Instead, the 25-year-old medical-school student will be studying feverishly for his board exams, which are one month away. This season, Panayi has been faced with attending classes from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., followed by Amigos’ practices one hour later twice a week. The practices generally last until 7, and then it’s study time.
"It's not really that difficult until a couple weeks before exams when we have to go on road trips,” said Panayi, who was named a 1992 USISL All-Star after he helped lead the Amigos to the finals of the Sizzlin’ Six tournament. “The weekends are big-time study times, and that’s kind of difficult to miss.”
Hancock, a psychology junior, said all the studying has paid off for Panayi, known by Amigos fans as “Doctor D.”
"He is tactically suprior to all the other players on the field because he’s smarter than all of us,” Hancock said in jest as Panayi playfully pushed him away.
Working 25 hours a week is no small chore for any college student, but toiling at the Price Club is only a small portion of Cranz’s chaotic weekly agenda. The Amigos’ veteran forward is taking 15 units at the UA while occasionally playing for the university’s club team and two other local clubs.
"I just do, really I don't think about it,” said the 25-year-old Cranz, who recently joined a Menlo Park men’s team at the urging of a Price Club customer.
The Amigos’ willingness to accept other soccer obligations does not bother Coach Wolfgang Weber at all — he understands completely. On top of his commitment to the Amigos, the German-born Weber is the soccer coach at Salpointe Catholic High School and works at a local sporting-goods manufacturing company.
"I leave them some freedom, I just expect them to give 100 percent on the field when they’re with the Amigos,” said Weber, who has coached Salpointe to 12 consecutive section titles and two state championships in his tenure at the school.
Scheduling conflicts were not always a problem for Cranz, however. After spending two years at Pima Community College and a year at the UA, Cranz took two years off from school because he didn’t have a clear idea of where he wanted his life to go, soccer included.
"Now, I don't think my life would be complete without a degree and soccer,” Cranz said.
Playing for four teams has helped Cranz more than the resultant fatigue has hindered him. That is surprising, considering the situation he encountered two weekends ago. In the span of three days, Cranz played four games in three different cities in two states.
"I'm just trying to get in shape for the Amigos,” Cranz said sheepishly. “I try to just keep increasing the rate of how quick I can think off the ball. If I remember faster what to do, then I’ll keep progressing.”
Slowing down is not an option for David Cosgrove, even though thoughts of doing just that occasionally creep into his mind when the subject of his career as a soccer player come up.
"I'm approching the end of my career, I’m a little bit older than the other guys on the team,” he said.
Cosgrove, 26, graduated from the UA last fall and is currently a soccer coach at Amphitheater High School in Tucson. He has played for the Amigos for two years now and said a few players at Amphi are aspiring Amigos.
One of the USISL rules allows for three high-school-aged players to suit up for the Amigos, enabling some to realize their dreams early.
"They look at the Amigos and me as a semipro soccer player at the highest soccer level in the city,” Cosgrove said.
One event finally united these busybodies in one place last Saturday night at Rincon High School’s football stadium. It was the Amigos’ outdoor home opener.
The Amigos' fiesta, however, fell flat in the end. The New Mexico Chiles, members of the Southwest Division along with the Amigos, proved to be too hot to handle in a 4-1 win.
"This was a big step, although losing doesn't help much of anything,” said Pierotti, a exercise and sports sciences senior. “I was pretty impressed with the turnout — every year the support seems to grow here.
"I think we have a big future in store for us now.”