By Aaron Tomich/NPSL.com
Living on the beachside undoubtedly has its perks: endless opportunities for soaking up the sun, riding the surf, and even the occasional pickup game of soccer at sunset.
From a young age, a South Florida native always chose to dribble through the sand while the waves crash in the background, becoming a foreshadow to his unique and accomplished footballing career.
28-year-old Conner Rezende knew the love of the sport came from the early years of his youth.
“I started playing field soccer at the age of four and never stopped,” said Rezende. “I played Division I college [soccer], trained in Crotone FC in Italy and Cadiz FC in Spain for a few years before I signed professionally with Miami FC and also Stockade FC.”
The intrigue of beach soccer was always present for Rezende, as access to the beach was easy. But the first time he had really put an effort in at a competitive level was in 2011. At a national tournament in Virginia Beach, Rezende had the opportunity to showcase his abilities alongside current U.S. Beach Soccer Men’s National Team head coach Francis Farberoff.
Rezende said that interest in the sport of beach soccer is growing stateside in America. One big question, though, is about the transition from traditional grass surface (firm and generally immovable) to the sand surface (loose and easily movable). What challenges are presented to a player like himself, who plays professionally on both?
“The most challenging element is to break the habit of running with the ball,” said Rezende. “You must constantly think ‘lift, lift, lift’. Lifting the ball from the ground and keeping the ball up is the name of the game.”
Amidst a variety of tactical and physical changes the elements of beach soccer provides, he confidently noted that he believes all soccer players should experience or train in beach soccer manners. Rezende said that training will ultimately help “strengthen a player’s tendons and ligaments in the ankles and knees and builds power in the legs, which will minimize injuries.”
He also said that playing on a beach surface definitely improves a player’s ball control abilities, noting that because the ball will continually be redirected in short, swift movements, it will subsequently train a player to build quicker response time. A general feel and anticipation for where the ball might move also is a sharpened skill produced by beach soccer.
At the height of the beach soccer competition is the Beach Soccer World Cup, which will commence in Russia come August. Rezende was named to the squad that will represent the Stars and Stripes later this summer.
“It feels like a whole new world,” said Rezende, when asked about what it means to represent the United States on a global level. “A world I couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of. My goals as a player are to help push the U.S. Beach Soccer National Team to another level, going further than we ever had in the World Cup.”
Beyond the obvious goal of winning a World Cup trophy while representing his country, Rezende hopes to play a role in the expansion of beach soccer nationally.
“There is a new league in South Florida called NBSL (National Beach Soccer League),” said Rezende. “One of the benefits of joining NBSL is that you will be in the spotlight for the U.S. National Team.”
As mentioned before, Rezende knows that grass-surfaced soccer balances out and complements his abilities on the beach. That includes his playing time with NPSL side Stockade FC.
“There is a ton of passion in the club and that passion will motivate players…The training was high level and kept me sharp before joining the U.S. Beach Soccer National Team,” said Rezende. “Also, Stockade is a family. There is support from the coaches and staff to the fans and spectators. I had no idea what kind of team I was joining, but I’m very thankful it was Stockade FC.”
In 2019, the attacking midfielder made 10 appearances (nine starts) for Stockade FC, playing 683 minutes, netting one goal and providing two assists. Rezende describes his style of play as box-to-box with a love of destroying and also creating plays in the center of the pitch. That was very true with Stockade.
“Conner was fantastic for Stockade FC in 2019,” said Stockade FC Technical Director Dan Hoffay. “His hard work and vision provided a link between our midfield and attacking players. He seemed to always be somehow involved in every goal we scored. His incredible skill translates perfectly to the remarkable talent required to play in the beach game, and at the highest levels. Stockade FC can’t wait to follow Conner and the Beach National Team this summer in Russia.”
Photo Credit: U.S. Soccer and Terri McAleer Photography