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Keep your shirt on! Sidekicks ready to draw again
Photo courtesy of Dallas Sidekicks - Sidekicks icon Tatu is keeping his shirt on these days as he leads the franchise's new team back onto the pitch following an 8-year hiatus. Tatu is now the team's head coach and general manager. The Sidekicks open play at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Allen Event Center.
It's been a long time since fans have enjoyed the sight of Tatu ripping off his jersey following one of his many goals. But after eight years, the Sidekicks are loaded, they have Tatu back with them, and they are ready to start shooting goals. The Sidekicks open their maiden season in the Professional Arena Soccer League on Saturday at the Allen Event Center.
Tatu will keep his shirt on these days to maintain proper decorum. He now sports the franchise's general manager and head coach jerseys.
The Sidekicks ranged the field in Reunion Arena from 1984 through the 2004 season before pulling the plug on operations. Longtime coach Gordon Jago is back as the team's TV color commentator. He will sit alongside venerable play-by-play man Norm Hitzges as the two trumpet the team's slogan: "We're Back!"
For both Jago and Tatu, Saturday will be the realization of an ambition long imagined.
"It's been a long process," Tatu said. "We've been through a lot of different ownership group possibilities. I was almost losing hope, but when it really happened, I started getting really excited.
"It's a dream."
He has kept his coaching skills sharpened, winning seven state championships in 10 years of being the head coach at Prince of Peace parochial school. Tatu went on to say the new ownership group is what he was looking for to get the franchise back on the pitch.
"This is a good fit. I know the owner very well. We've actually worked together before in other soccer ventures."
New majority owner Ronnie Davis bought the team in May. Tatu, J.L. "Sonny" Williams and Jim Tolbert have minority stakes in the franchise.
"We are 100 percent trying to build upon our past traditions of the Dallas Sidekicks, but also honor the past while coming up with some more new, modern ideas for the team," Davis said. "That's why we are retiring Tatu's jersey. That's why we are retiring David Doyle's jersey. And we are very excited about playing in the Allen Event Center.
"Where parking is free!" Davis was quick to add.
He said the free parking underscores what the franchise wants to be known for in the Metroplex.
"The Sidekicks have already been being about community, and that's the one thing I always hear Tatu preach to the players. That whole deal about Charles Barkley saying that we're not role models is not something we agree with," Davis said. "We absolutely are role models and we embrace that responsibility and we want our players to think of themselves as role models.
"So it's not only playing on the field with good sportsmanship but it's also after the game with autograph requests and [then] being out in the community doing what we can to help and anything along those lines. We want to reach out to the fans and connect one fan at a time and therefore impact the community in as positive [a] manner as we can as a professional sports franchise."
Tatu pointed out the veterans the team will rely on to re-start a winning tradition for the Sidekicks.
Those include Sagu in the goal, with backfield mates Nick Stravou and Kiley Crouch. Minding the midfield will be stalwarts Ricardo and Patrick Shamu. Shawn David will lead the attack up front.
"I'm going to spread them around on different lines, but those are the core players," Tatu said. "Hopefully they'll be able to mix with a couple of international guys we've brought in to bring the speed we need.
"My concerns going into the first game is that we're primarily outdoors guys trying to play inside, so I need to help those guys how to understand to play the inside game," he continued. "Our team defense is not there yet. And I do not know yet about the size of the monster we're going to play. A lot of those teams have players that were in the MISL, so that creates some areas of concern. I don't know exactly what I have. I'm not sure about making a championship run, but I think we are going to be pretty good.
"It'll be a happy day if we've got a sellout and we win the game," he decided. "That's been the dream for eight years and if it happens, then I'm thrilled."
So keep your shirt on. The Sidekicks are back in town.
For information on purchasing tickets to Saturday's opener or any Sidekicks games, go to ticketmaster.com.
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