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THIS KID IS ALRIGHT: A CHANCE AT SOMETHING BIG ISRAEL, PRO DREAMS BECKON MILKEN'S MICHAEL GREENBERG.

Byline: Heather Gripp Staff Writer

Michael Greenberg has a sense of urgency about winning a Southern Section boys' soccer title. He's just a sophomore, but he knows this will be his last shot at the coveted championship. Greenberg, an Encino resident attending Milken Community in Los Angeles, is moving to Israel this summer with his family.

Soccer will be a huge part of Greenberg's life after the move. His family is involved in building a soccer and hockey facility in Israel, and Michael has been invited to play for one of the country's premier club programs.

``There are many different reasons for going, says Avery Greenberg, Michael's father. ``Firstly, for religious and emotional reasons. Secondly, it fits very well into Michael's aspirations as a soccer player. It will give him the opportunity to play at a higher level and pursue his dream of a professional career.''

Before he leaves, Michael Greenberg is doing his best to form some lasting memories at Milken. He was selected the Liberty League's co-MVP as the leading scorer for the team that went undefeated during the regular season, routed Ribet Academy of Los Angeles 6-0 in the first round of the Southern Section Div. VI playoffs and plays this afternoon at Oak Park in a second-round game.

``It's kind of my senior year,'' says Greenberg, who moves to Israel in August. ``It's the last time I'll play with my friends and this team. It's really tough for me.

``I wasn't even sure if I wanted to play for the high school team this year, but it's amazing how everyone's come together and the team's a lot better than last year. I think we can go far. I don't want it to end.''

Greenberg, 15, is the middle son in a soccer-loving family. His older brother, Josh, also plays for Milken. Their father's connections in Israel helped Michael land a tryout with the country's former national team coach, who runs an elite youth club program.

Although his father has had lofty expectations for Michael's soccer future, Michael needed time to decide the sport could be more than a hobby. For years, hockey was his favorite sport.

``Now,'' says Michael, who plays for for the North Valley Fusion, ``I would like to go as far as I can in soccer, and when he isnt competing for Milken.

Greenberg has 26 goals and more than 20 assists this season.

``When he's on, he's one of the best for his age,'' Milken coach Rod Lafaurie says. ``We have a lot of good players on our team, but what Mike does is he makes us special. Every team needs that special player. He's a gamebreaker. If we're not doing well, he'll step up and make something happen.''

Michael wasn't as thrilled about his father's desire to make something happen. At least not at first. Avery Greenberg's plan to bring a state-of- the-art sports facility to Israel, where he has family, meant an upheaval for the entire family.

``It's not like I really had a choice about it - my dad really wanted this,'' Michael says. ``But I'm kind of excited about it now. It's a whole new aspect of life. But it'll be hard leaving all my friends and everything I know.

``I'm trying to make the best of it. Soccer's a big part of that. It's a good opportunity. When I went (to Israel) and saw their players, it was pretty competitive. Basically, the only difference from the U.S. is the language.

``I would like to play professionally some day, and maybe this will help with that.''

Heather Gripp, (818) 713-3607

heather.gripp(at)dailynews.com

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Michael Greenberg was the Liberty League co-MVP after scoring 26 goals and leading Milken Community to the championship.

Gene Blevins/Special to the Daily News
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 21, 2006
Words:636
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