Every Sunday and Wednesday night each week during the year, Ryan Russell and Brandon Catena make the journey to the Washington Bible College in Prince George’s County for futsal practices and scrimmages over a gym floor built for dribbling and passing of a different sport.
Russell, a Westlake High School graduate who later completed his college education at Frostburg State University, and Catena, a La Plata High School graduate who spent two years at the College of Southern Maryland, both were on hand Sunday night for two hours of futsal practices and scrimmages, primarily against much younger rivals. They are members of the Sporting Maryland Futsal team.
Catena and Russell are headed to Atlantic City, New Jersey, this weekend for a 16-team tournament that is an early prep for the team’s trip to Croatia for an international event. Russell will be making the trip to Croatia, but Catena, who owns Next Level Home Improvements in La Plata, will not be making the trip across the Atlantic.
“I’m really looking forward to the tournament in Atlantic City this weekend,” Russell said. “It’s one of the biggest futsal tournaments in the country. Overall, I think close to 500 teams will be competing. Our team has done well the last seven, eight years. I think we’ve at least reached the semifinals every year.”
Catena played soccer in high school and college and began working full-time while only a few courses shy of earning his associate’s degree at the College of Southern Maryland. Although Catena will not be joining Russell and the other Maryland players on the trip to Croatia, he is also looking forward to this weekend’s tournament in Atlantic City.
“It’s always a fun time,” Catena said. “We’ve gone up there and done well each year since I’ve been playing. The one thing I love most about this game is the speed. Compared to this, outdoor soccer seems so slow. You have to make quick decisions, make quick pacers and take hard, quick shots. The pace of the game is what makes it so fun to play.”
Russell, in his first year working for Charles County Parks and Recreation, admitted the two trips to the Washington Bible College each week for futsal practices and scrimmages offer he and Catena a chance to continue to enhance their skills and build camaraderie with his teammates during a demanding, two-hour session.
“One thing about futsal is the game is fast, but it also rewards finesse,” Russell said. “There are no walls to keep the ball in play. You have to make precise passes and take good shots. You’re basically playing on a field that’s the same size as a basketball court and there’s not a lot of margin for error.”
“It’s probably been at least 10 years since I played a soccer game outdoors and after playing futsal, I don’t think I can ever go back,” Catena aaid. “Futsal is so fast and so precise, compared to this game outdoor soccer is so slow. We practice with a U-19 team and those guys are fast. But it’s good practice and helps us gets ready for tournaments like the one this weekend in Atlantic City.”