Farber, McNeley captain U.S. Arena Team past Mexico

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(Courtesy photo) Sandpoint head coach Evan McNeley, left, joined Brian Farber recently as U.S. Arena League team captains at a tournament in Boise. The former Oregon State and San Diego Socker teammates both have strong Sandpoint ties.

SANDPOINT — Two old friends and teammates represented Sandpoint as captains of the U.S. National Arena soccer team recently in a 3-2 championship win over Mexico. The game was played in the Idaho Steelhead’s hockey rink in Boise, which was covered with turf.

Former Bulldog standout and outdoor and indoor pro soccer player Brian Farber joined current Sandpoint boys head soccer coach and longtime pro indoor player Evan McNeley on the pitch for what could be the final time together as professionals.

McNeley, who played last season for the Tacoma Stars of the Premier Arena Soccer League, is considering calling it a career but hasn’t come to a definitive answer yet. If the game in Boise before more than 6,000 fans was his last, it was a good one to end on.

“We played down in Boise for a USA game. Me and Brian were captains of team USA, we were Idaho natives, we got a great response from the crowd,” recalled McNeley. “It was potentially my last game. If that was my last game, that was one I want to go out on.”

Farber, who still plays for the San Diego Soccers of the PASL, is still going strong and playing at a high level. He’ll be a key player for the U.S. team in the upcoming indoor World Cup. The U.S. team beat Somalia 11-0 in the opener of the four team tourney, while Mexico beat Colombia 7-3 in the other semi. Last year Brazil beat U.S. in the final, also in Boise.

In the championship, Farber scored the go-ahead goal in the third quarter and then added a short-handed goal in the fourth that proved big when Mexico later cut the lead to the final score of 3-2.

While the goals were special, the biggest highlight for Farber was representing the U.S. alongside his best friend and longtime teammate.

“The goals were awesome on a personal level but the highlight was being a captain with Evan and having him go out on top with a U.S. victory and champions of the tournament,” said Farber. “There is no better feeling than winning a match over the biggest international rivals we have and having your best friend in the huddle hoisting the trophy next to you. If this was in fact Evan’s last game, I am happy with the way he went out.”

Farber scored a goal against Somalia and took off his jersey to display an I love Idaho shirt with the heart replaced by a potato. It got the crowd going and was a pretty funny moment.

While McNeley is busy leading the Bulldogs, Farber is busy preparing for another season with the Sockers and a few more international matches before the World Cup in Mexico.

Farber, who started his soccer path out of high school at North Idaho College, and McNeley first played together at Oregon State University, where Farber’s speed and quickness fueled the attack and McNeley shined while leading the defense.

McNeley recently finished his 14th season of pro indoor soccer, with stops in Milwaukee, New Jersey, Monterrey, Tacoma and 55 games alongside Farber with the Sockers.

Farber played professionally outdoors for the Portland Timbers, San Jose Earthquake, Houston Dynamo and Minnesota Thunder, before a long run as one of the best indoor U.S. players ever, including MVP and all-league seasons galore with the Sockers.

Farber eventually started what is now called the Strikers Soccer School camp, which McNeley now runs and which thousands of local kids have enjoyed through the years. The two friends remain tight, with Farber holding McNeley in very high esteem as a player.

“He has been a champion at nearly every team he has been on. His leadership is a big part of why his teams consistently win,” claimed Farber. “Playing along side of Evan again was awesome and it was a night I won’t forget for a long time.”

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