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National group slaps Fargo youth soccer coach with 'very rare' suspension

FARGO-In a "very rare" move, national officials have suspended for four months a Fargo coach who has a long history of causing controversy in the world of area youth soccer.US Club Soccer, a national youth soccer governing body, decided last week...

Matt Noah coaches a 10-12 boys soccer practice Thursday, May19, 2016, at Kennedy Park in Fargo.Dave Wallis / The Forum
Matt Noah coaches a 10-12 boys soccer practice Thursday, May19, 2016, at Kennedy Park in Fargo.Dave Wallis / The Forum
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FARGO-In a "very rare" move, national officials have suspended for four months a Fargo coach who has a long history of causing controversy in the world of area youth soccer.

US Club Soccer, a national youth soccer governing body, decided last week to suspend Matt Noah, president of the Fargo Soccer Club and a North Dakota State University scientist, from all coaching until Jan. 1, 2017.

"In the end, Mr. Noah overreacts to any perceived wrongdoing and then cannot let anything go. This ongoing pattern of conduct is detrimental to the game and our organization," according to a US Club Soccer memo about the suspension, dated Wednesday, Aug. 24.
The suspension came after an unspecified complaint launched a disciplinary investigation in June.

In explaining their reasoning, officials with the national organization cited a long list of Noah clashes, several of which have previously been reported in The Forum. "Mr. Noah has had disputes with referees, referee administrators, club officials, tournament directors, facility managers, local park district officials and even his own employer. Whether he is right or wrong in his perceived grievances is irrelevant; it is the way he conducts himself in each of these interactions that is the problem. Every interaction seems to end up with a threat of filing a complaint and/or grievance (or litigation)," US Club Soccer said in the memo.

When reached by phone on Monday, Aug. 29, Noah said he had no comment.

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The memo from US Club Soccer outlines the terms of Noah's suspension, which does not allow Noah to be present at or in any way coach or supervise games, scrimmages or training sessions.

Noah is also prohibited from making "public pronouncements via speech, correspondence, or social media that are deemed to be in violation of the US Club Soccer Policies," the memo said.

However, Noah will be allowed to continue as administrator of Fargo Soccer Club, which he formed after a fallout with an existing youth soccer club about a decade ago. He's also allowed to attend games as a parent if his children are playing. However, he must remain on the parents' side and may not contact any coach, referee or game or tournament official at any such game.

According to the memo, after receiving complaints of Noah's conduct, a three-person hearing board was formed in June. Noah was informed of the complaints and that a hearing would be held on the matter on Aug. 2. On July 27, more information was sent to Noah about an unspecified incident at the US Club Soccer National Cup Finals in Colorado.
A telephone hearing was held Aug. 2, and Noah was given more time to submit his own information to the board by Aug. 12, which included emails and video clips.

Before making its decision, the hearing board examined 114 pages of materials from the

US Club Soccer staff and 188 pages of materials from Noah.

In the end, the board decided that Noah had not taken responsibility for his own conduct.

"Mr. Noah places great emphasis on the actions of everyone else as a rationale for his actions," the memo said. "However, he completely fails to understand that it is his individual behavior and not the actions of others that is the issue."

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Tyler Heffernan, a spokesman for US Club Soccer, said while data is not available on suspensions, it is "very rare" for the program's disciplinary committee to suspend a coach.

It is unclear what impact Noah's suspension will have on Fargo Soccer Club teams. The Fargo Soccer Club's current season has games that run through mid-October. It would likely start its next outdoor season in mid-March although the club usually offers indoor clinics and traveling competitions.

Noah became president and coach of Fargo Soccer Club in 2007, when he founded the club after a messy break-up with Red River Soccer Club. He had returned to Fargo in 2006 and started working at NDSU after earning a master's degree living in New Jersey, Chicago, California and Boulder, Colo., working for technological companies like Dell, AT&T and startups.

The father of seven children wanted to form a competitive team for children under 9 years old. He told The Forum the club initially OK'd the idea but changed its mind and said he couldn't coach. Club officials eventually banned Noah, though his children were still allowed to play.

The dispute even involved the police at one point. When Noah showed up to watch his son play in a Red River Soccer Club game, officers were called. After police talked to him, Noah left.

While Noah has had a contentious relationship with many in the soccer world, he also has strong supporters who say they appreciate the attention he pays to his players' development. In a profile of Noah published in The Forum in June, one of his players credited the coach with helping New Americans on his team transition to life in the U.S.

His youth soccer teams have also been relatively successful. As of July, the Fargo Soccer Club U-15 team, nicknamed the Warriors, won four tournaments, including the US Club Soccer Midwest Regional In Waukegan, Ill. Heading into the tournament, the team was ranked No. 1,762 in the nation for U-15, according to gotsoccer.com, and it left there with five wins in five games, making the team the first North Dakota club to win a US Club Soccer Regional and to qualify for a National Cup.

The disputes cited by US Club Soccer in its suspension of Noah includes when he publicly accused the Fargo Park District earlier this year of having racist policies for refusing to line soccer fields at Brunsdale Park where many of his minority players practice and play. The district denies that it treats those facilities differently than others.

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The park system banned Noah from meeting with Park District employees or elected officials after that incident.

The national officials also cited an incident in late 2015 when Noah claimed NDSU was unfairly excluding Fargo Soccer Club from competing in a youth indoor soccer tournament it had organized. The reason, according to NDSU, was that other youth clubs did not want to participate if Noah's club was involved. They let his club enter, but the other clubs dropped out.

"The result was no tournament. Mr. Noah won and the kids lost but he completely fails to understand," says the suspension memo from the national office.

Other complaints against Noah described by US Club Soccer in the memo include allegations that he:

• Accused a referee crew of making bad calls in a U-11 game, then posted disparaging comments on his club website about a 13-year-old referee who refereed the U-11 game.

• Argued that a referee mentor at a game who stepped in to act as a "fourth official" violated the tournament rule calling for a three-referee system.

• Threatened to sue if a game was not rescheduled so he could go to church.

• On two separate occasions was ejected from a match and then refused to leave the field in a timely manner.

• Claimed other clubs violated guest player rules but took advantage of the rules for his teams. He compared using guest players in a U-13 girls game to players from another country showing up for a World Cup game.

As the West Fargo editor, Wendy Reuer covers all things West Fargo for The Forum and oversees the production of the weekly Pioneer.
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