Q&A's with Hall, O'Quinn, & BerenzonAugust 15, 2012 - Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) Syracuse Silver Knights
Q and A with Silver Knights' Goalkeeper, Bryan O'Quinn
O'Quinn sets sights on community involvement
Tim Neer: How did you first get into playing soccer and playing "keeper?
Bryan O'Quinn: Actually my dad was big into baseball, he was involved in the Cincinnati Red's farm system. I grew up as a guy who loved baseball, catching things and ultimately fielding from a baseball perspective. I knew that sport before any others. When I got to be about eight or nine years old, a local traveling soccer team in my home town held tryouts and I figured I might as well do what the rest of my friends were doing and try to play soccer. One of the first tryouts the coach asked the team if anyone was interested in playing goalkeeper. As none of us had really played soccer before we asked what goalie consisted of and he ultimately said we had to catch the ball. As someone who loved baseball I immediately volunteered because I already knew I could catch the ball. Coach looked around and at that time I was probably the shortest kid on the team so he asked if anyone taller was interested in playing goal. When no one else raised their hand he was forced to pick me. From that moment on, I've been playing goal ever since.
TN: Can you pinpoint a moment from your professional career that stands out as particularly special to you?
BOQ: I've played professionally both indoor and out. From an outdoor perspective, I played for a team called the Western Mass Pioneers in the USL. My last season there was probably the most significant for me. It's hard to pick a specific moment other than when we played the Wilmington Hammerheads in the semi-finals of the national tournament in a home and away, aggregate series. Our team had lost the first game away, 1-0, which meant that we ultimately had to keep them scoreless at home and win or win by two goals. In Western Mass, we had an awesome facility to play in with an amazing home crowd, and in the return leg we actually won 3-1, which put us through to the national final. Beating Wilmington, a team who practiced all year long, every single day of the week, as apposed to a team like ours which was only able to meet a couple times a week, late at night, as we all had other jobs, was a really big deal. We just didn't have the same type of funding. So for a small town Western Massachusetts team that didn't train that much, it was a really big deal to defeat a full-fledged professional program like Wilmington on such a big stage and was something truly special for us as we had a great blend of older and younger players.
TN: How did you end up moving to Syracuse and playing for the Silver Knights?
BOQ: When I came to Syracuse, I thought I had ultimately retired from playing professionally. I moved here with my wife as she was coming to go to medical school and so I decided I was done with professional soccer and that I would just play in men's leagues in the Syracuse area and just kind of kick back and have fun. When Tommy, Pete and Jon Ramin, and Doug put this team together, I couldn't really pass up the offer. It's been five or six years since I've played professionally, but hey you might as well give it a shot if it's in your backyard.
TN: What was your personal highlight from last season with the Silver Knights?
BOQ: For me, I had the opportunity to play in about the last eight games of the year. One of those games during our late season playoff push was in Rochester, and I happened to have probably my best performance that game with twenty or so saves which seemed to really boost the energy of the entire team. Having won that game during the most vital stretch of the season and putting on my best performance, it really served as a validation to myself to let me know that I belong in this league and that I am able to perform at the highest level. The indoor game was a brand new animal for me, and I had put in so much hard work trying to acclimate myself to it. It was really a great feeling for me personally and the performance gave me validation of my hard work and confidence that I can continue to succeed at the indoor game, hopefully for years to come.
TN: What do you enjoy most about playing in Syracuse?
BOQ: For me, when I played in Western Mass, the team was very established in the community. The heritage of soccer in that Portuguese community stretched back years upon years. Therefore, the idea of fan interaction and that stuff was nowhere near as important as it is here in Syracuse. Whether it's my own maturity or being in a start up venture like the Silver Knights, I really truly enjoy the community perspective that this team has. All the public appearances that we do, all the post-game meet and greets, all the fans and to see their smiling faces and to give autographs, and to interact with the players, for me that stuff is the greatest aspect of what we do and I really enjoy it. Trying to reach out to the community, going out to schools and giving lectures, or doing small clinics at inner-city schools, for me that stuff has been really really fun and a joy to see how the public and the community has embraced this team and how we have embraced them back.
TN: What do you think it is about the indoor game and the MISL that attracts so many fans and spectators that have never seen a professional soccer game or have had preconceptions that soccer is a boring sport?
BOQ: I've had a lot of non-soccer individuals coming to watch and check out a game for a one-time entertainment value and finding that they really enjoy it. I work locally in the Syracuse area and I've had hundreds of people from my company come to games, many of which have never watched sports in their life. Others have come that have been big hockey fans and decided to come check it out, and most of the folks that have come from my office have never seen a professional soccer game and hold the notion that soccer is just that boring game you see in the Olympics. Generally, all of those people were just floored with the energy, the music, how we got the kids involved, and just the overall pace and speed of the game. Now most of these people are active followers and ask me when the upcoming games are and when the schedule is going to be released. It's nice that we are attracting a much larger audience than just general soccer fans.
TN: What is your least favorite part of playing in Syracuse?
BOQ: (laughing) Least favorite? Gosh, it's kind of me being selfish with the community I grew up in and where my wife and I went to school, we had a couple different places where we really really loved the pizza and the Italian food. Unfortunately, we haven't found anywhere in Syracuse where the pizza or the Italian food is quite as good as at the University of Massachusetts. If I had one gripe, that would be it, but we have found a ton of other restaurants that we love.
TN: Having put the first season with the Silver Knights behind you, what are your goals and expectations for next season both as an individual and as a team?
BOQ: I think personally I obviously know more about the game now, so I'm definitely more comfortable. I think I played probably more of a passive role last year trying to learn and absorb and be kind of like a sponge. I think this year, I don't want to call myself a veteran, but I've been through a season now and know what to expect, so I think I'll be able to do more for the team from an on the field perspective. Hopefully I'll have the opportunity to play in more games and compete for a full time starting role. I also think I'll have the opportunity to have a bigger impact from an off the field and leadership perspective with that first season with the indoor game now behind me as I have more of a veteran nature about me. From a team perspective, I'd like to be an ambassador in helping to get the community to embrace this team more. Whatever it might be, just having the opportunity to get our brand out there and build a bigger and better fan base I think is well within our reach. I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility to get 3,500 or 4,000 fans to the War Memorial on average. We just need to keep finding ways to tap deeper and deeper into the community. I think with that type of fan involvement the war memorial will be an absolutely fabulous place for our games.
Q and A with Silver Knights' Defender and Assistant Coach, Ryan Hall Hall describes unique "player-coach" experience and his return to Syracuse
Tim Neer: What are your earliest soccer memories? How did you first start playing?
Ryan Hall: I started playing soccer when I was around five years old. I was the typical recreational league player, and a multi-sport athlete. My parents had me involved in just about every sport available. It just happened to work out that as I grew up in Virginia, soccer was played in the spring. I was really big into football, so I was able to do that as well. One thing led to another and fortunately I was able to continue playing soccer from then on.
TN: When did you first realize that you had the potential to play soccer professionally?
RH: I definitely started realizing it in college. Coming out of high school, everybody's a big fish in a small pond. When you go to college you realize that you're a small fish in a big pond. The first couple years at SU I definitely went through a big learning curve and made adjustments. As my junior and senior years rolled along, the pieces began to fall into place. Toward the middle of my senior year, I started to notice some potential. I never dreamed I would have a ten-year career, but as any player does, I aspired to reach the top level in my profession. I definitely was motivated to try to work harder in order to reach the professional level.
TN: When were you first contacted by a professional organization? In college?
RH: yes, the Cleveland Force of the MISL, and the Syracuse Salty Dogs drafted me while I was still in college. During my senior year, right around Christmas time, Cleveland called me as their draft was around then. Later in the early spring, the Salty Dogs contacted me.
TN: Do you have any favorite moments in your ten-year professional career that stand out as particularly special to you? Maybe an entire season or a specific game or a particular play you made?
RH: I have a few favorite moments in my pro career. Playing for the Syracuse Salty Dogs was definitely one of them. Going into the playoffs against the Richmond Kickers, playing at Cortland, we went into PKs. I distinctly remember Scotty Schweitzer missed as the first PK taker. Our goalkeeper went on to save the last three PKs in order for us to win. It was an unbelievable game. Another memory was actually in college, it was the year UCONN went on to win the National Championship. We played them at UCONN when they were ranked number one in the nation, and we beat them, 1-0. And lastly, of course, was last year. The home opener here in Syracuse with the Silver Knights was an unbelievable experience. Obviously, I ended up getting injured in that game and spent the night in the hospital, but the atmosphere at the game was just unbelievable. It was electric. You couldn't have written that game any better.
TN: What are your favorite aspects about bringing your extensive professional career full circle and back to Syracuse?
RH: For me...my family. My mom, dad, brother, and his kids are all in the area. That was a huge benefit for me with moving to Syracuse. Obviously, having gone to college here, I still have a lot of friends in the area. The move has been more-or-less the perfect storm for me to return and play in front of my family since I've been on the road for the past ten years. Everything has kind of been thrown together to put an end to that chapter of my life.
TN: Given all of your experiences across the country, in Cleveland, Chicago, California, and New Jersey, how do your experiences with the Silver Knights so far compare to those you have with other teams?
RH: It's unique in the fact that I'm both a player and an assistant coach. Now I'm learning the business aspect and what really goes on behind closed doors. I don't think players, to a certain extent, really understand the amount of work that goes in to the production of a game, what really goes on in order for them to even have a team. So this whole experience is very unique for me and I'm extremely grateful that coach Tanner and the organization actually gave me the opportunity to come back and not only be a player, but also an assistant coach.
TN: Has the relationship between you and your teammates changed at all now that you are also their coach? Is it different than the relationships you have traditionally held with other teammates?
RH: It's definitely a little unique, but it doesn't change too much. Obviously I have to distance myself from them when we're off the field when they are doing whatever they want to do. Once we're on the field I'm no different than any other player, just a little more experienced. When we're on the field, obviously Tommy is the coach and I'm the player. The only difference is that I'm more of a senior player.
TN: Do you do coach at all from the bench during games and bark at the younger players?
RH: I do, but so do a lot of the other veterans. This game is very unique and most of the younger players are not used to this style of play. It generally take a full season for younger guys to get adjusted so there is a lot of barking, not just from myself and Tommy, but also from a lot of the other veteran players. I definitely do a lot of coaching. Is it something much different than most of the other veteran players? Not at all, because I'm getting barked at as well when I make mistakes.
TN: What is it about the MISL and the indoor game that attracts such a wide variety of sports audiences, especially those that have very little soccer experience or familiarity?
RH: I think one of the first things is the fan interaction with the players. They are really right on top of the game, especially with the glass being down on the side of the arena. The indoor game is very fast paced, high scoring, and has lots of physicality. I think these aspects are embedded in American sports culture. The indoor game brings a lot of non-stop action. It's almost like hockey, but soccer, without the pads.
TN: Personally, what was your highlight from last season with the Silver Knights?
RH: Truthfully, the highlight for me was watching the progression of our team and our fans. We had unbelievable support from the git-go, and it increased throughout the season. Unfortunately, we came up a bit short from making the playoffs. But to see where we started from the beginning of the year, despite the fact we started out 3-0 while other teams were finding their niche, we really progressed and became far more consistent as the year rolled on.
TN: Do you have a least favorite part of playing in Syracuse?
RH: I really don't mind the cold weather, but I hate the slush. The in-between. Not the snow, not the rain, but that dirty slush with the salt in it bothers me. It gets all over your shoes and clothes. Other than that, I really don't mind the cold weather.
TN: Putting last season behind you, what are your goals for the upcoming campaign? What are your expectations for yourself and for the Silver Knights as a soccer team and as a professional organization?
RH: From a team perspective, I have a minimum goal of making the playoffs. No exceptions. We have a year under our belt, now there's no excuse for why we can't be in the playoffs. A championship is obviously everyone's aspiration, but a minimum goal would be to make the playoffs. Personally, I want to stay healthy with no injuries. Also, I want to do whatever I can to help Tommy and help this organization prepare both on and off the field to put out a better product. Whatever I have to do, whether it's late-night film studies or making community appearances, I want to do whatever I have to do to help this team, organization, and community.
Q and A with Silver Knights' Midfielder, Andre Berenzon Berenzon looks to bounce back from injury with MVP season
Tim Neer: Do you have an early childhood memory from playing soccer or can you describe how you first began to start playing?
Andre Berenzon: I don't really remember exactly how I got started. Growing up in Brazil we started playing on the street with our friends. As early as seven years old I was in front of the house playing on the street with kids from all over the block.
TN: When did you first begin to realize that you could play this sport professionally and make a career out of playing soccer at a high level?
AB: When I made my first academy team in Brazil, Paulista FC, at 15 years old. When I made that team I realized I could actually go forward with it and try to make a career out of it.
TN: I see on your personal website that you are very passionate about coaching soccer. What is it about coaching that causes you to feel so strongly about it?
AB: I enjoy coaching just because throughout my life I have been able to gather so much knowledge through the different coaches that I have played for and worked with and I feel a strong responsibility to pass that knowledge through. I come across so many kids that have so much talent, but without the right instruction they are never going to make it. I love doing it, I feel a certain necessity about it, it's like my goal in life.
TN: What were your favorite aspects from last season playing in Syracuse?
AB: Personally, my favorite moment was when I set my career record of nine points in one game in my first game with the team. Overall, from a team perspective, I loved all my teammates, I didn't have a problem with anyone, and it was a really great environment. It was a great atmosphere every single time we met, at practice, at the games, with both my teammates and my coaches, I got along with everybody. That really never happens, usually in professional soccer there is at least one person you won't get along with, that was the first time in my ten year professional career that I did not have a single problem with anyone and it was just an amazing atmosphere all the time.
TN: Least favorite?
AB: My least favorite moment was in the fourth game at home against the Baltimore Blast when I tore my ACL and was unable to finish the rest of the season.
TN: Is there one moment that stands out for you in your entire professional career as most special?
AB: Even though I got injured and only really played in three games it would have to be last season. In those three games I got more points than I ever have had in an entire season. Professionally, the whole stretch of that little season I played for Syracuse was pretty much my best professional moment.
TN: After putting the team's inaugural season behind you, what are your expectations both personally and as a team for this upcoming season with the Silver Knights?
AB: As a team, my expectations are nothing less than making the playoffs. As an individual and as a professional athlete, I'm always looking to be the best of the best. Since I'm playing in the MISL, I'm looking to be the MISL MVP.
2012/2013 Season starts this November
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Announcement of the 2012/2013 Silver Knights Home Opener Coming Soon!
Major Indoor Soccer League Stories from August 15, 2012
- Q&A's with Hall, O'Quinn, & Berenzon - Syracuse Silver Knights
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