Though the United Soccer Leagues is well into its winter hibernation, Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Tony Donatelli has turned his attention to professional soccer of the indoor variety.
Like many other USL First Division professionals, Donatelli takes advantage of the long off-season in USL-1 by playing in the Major Indoor Soccer League, with the midfielder a member of his hometown club Philadelphia KiXX. With the 2008 MISL season having started last month carrying through until April of next year, the 23-year-old is able to maintain his fitness before transitioning back outdoors next spring.
2006 and early 2007 was a special time for Donatelli, as he not only claimed the USL-1 championship with the Whitecaps, but he also helped the KiXX to the MISL title this past April. With Philadelphia aiming to repeat as league champions, the midfielder has been relatively satisfied with the team’s season start. “It’s been going pretty well,” Donatelli told whitecapsfc.com. “We started off slowly by losing our first four games, as we had a lot of new players that needed to be acclimated into our game, but things are starting to turn around.”
After a poor run of four straight defeats to begin season 2007/08, Donatelli and Philadelphia have returned to winning ways after recent results over Mexican-based club Monterrey La Raza and California Cougars. The Glenside, Pennsylvania native insists the KiXX do not feel the burden of being MISL champions. “Having won the championship last year, teams are going to be giving their best effort against us, so we know we have to be prepared to play in every game,” Donatelli said. “I don’t think there is any added pressure. Instead, we’re looking forward to winning another championship.”
One of the KiXX’s opponents in the nine-club MISL are Detroit Ignition, who are now led by former Whitecaps men’s team head coach Bob Lilley. Donatelli believes the Ignition will be a tough rival for Philadelphia. “They are one of the top teams,” he said. “Bob has gone to Detroit and done a very good job. After they made the finals last year, we knew they had a lot of good players back and that they were going to be a tough opponent. They got the better of us in our first two meetings this season, so we are looking forward to playing them again.”
After a successful rookie campaign with the KiXX last year, Donatelli feels his transition back to indoor this fall has been less of a challenge. “The big thing is just getting used to the fast-paced nature of the game,” he revealed. “In indoor, it’s tougher because you have to make decisions a lot quicker. I’m very happy with the way I’ve transitioned, as I already had a year in the league last year and I knew what to expect when I came back.”
Playing for Philadelphia the past two winters has also allowed Donatelli to remain close to home during the early stages of his professional career. “I’m always having family and friends come out to the games and I get to spend a lot of time with them,” he said. “It was something I always dreamed about and it’s great that it has become a reality.”