Dixon gets a Strong look at U.S. football

Last weekend it was Paul Dixon’s turn to take a truly unique look into the world of “American football.”

As one of the premiere club/high school soccer coaches in the area, Dixon was invited to the Southland, to USC.

Why? Well, he had befriended Trojans’ head women’s coach Jim Millinder years ago and helped him land Montgomery High’s Stacey Strong (now a starting SC midfielder as a sophomore) and this year get a verbal commitment from Windsor High and Santa Rosa United center/midfielder Ashley Fryer.

“He almost got Lilly Sorentino (SR High/SRU), too,” Dixon said of Millinder, “but she decided to attend Loyola Marymount. Wouldn’t that have been something to have three girls from Sonoma County on that team?”

But back to Dixon’s trip. He watched the USC women’s soccer team beat Eastern Washington, 2-0, last Friday and then shutout UNLV, 4-0, on Sunday.

In between came his eye-opener – Paul and wife Helen, along with eight other recruits and family members from around the country, were invited to the USC/Nebraska football game.

The whole bit – looking at the five Heisman Trophies, tail-gating, primo seats, pregame on-the-field visit where he rubbed elbows with Marcus Allen.

“That atmosphere is something else,” Dixon said. “It will be a long, long time, if ever, that soccer can replace that in this country.”

Of course, there isn’t much of anything that SC does second-rate and Dixon’s Irish soccer roots were encouraged by the playing facility and the training room and the generally first-class soccer operation that has been provided for Strong & Co.

“It’s off the campus on the opposite side from the Coliseum,” Dixon said of the playing field, “and it is a gorgeous facility.”

Strong and Fryer may be the first USC recruits from this area, but Dixon no doubt it paving the way for others.


Strong, who starred at Montgomery and with the Santa Rosa United Storm for years, has found her niche at USC.

“I love it here,” she said. “Everything has worked out very well. College soccer is a lot like a club team. We played some very, very good teams and others that aren’t so good. And, no, it’s nothing like high school soccer. That is a different game altogether.”

After a 2-0 win (their sixth straight shutout) over the University of San Diego today, USC is 7-1-1 with previous shutouts over Harvard, Drake and North Texas in addition to the pair last weekend.

“Stacey just runs from the show from the midfield,” Dixon said. “She was a perfect addition to that team.”

“Some things were a little more difficult as a freshman, but I’ve adjusted now,” Strong said. “Like for the first time you are away from home and all of a sudden there are so many decisions you have to make on your own. Responsibility changes almost overnight and everything is really up to you when you go away to school.

“But everyone here has been great and they have made it as easy as possible for me and the soccer situation is great.”

During her freshman season, Strong was one of just two freshmen to start all 21 games. She finished third on the team in scoring with 11 points and tied as the second leading scorer with four goals.

She received SoccerBuzz Freshman All-America honorable mention and was named to the SoccerBuzz West Region All-Freshman Team.
She was a member of the Pac-10 All-Freshman Team.

She was invited to the U.S. Under-20 National Team Camp in January 2006.

USC’s next game is Sunday at Loyola Marymount.