Long Islands Pro Soccer Team Ready for Changes, New Challenges
The game of soccer is played all over the world, and Long Island is no exception. Visit any patch of grass larger than a SUV this time of year and a youth league will be competing in a soccer match. Kids as young as four start out learning the skills to dribble the ball up the pitch and put it in the net. Perhaps one day in the future some of them will master those skills and suit up for the Long Island Roughriders, who are banking on widening their fan base to include the soccer-playing youth out here.
We treat our games as events, said Roughriders general manager Flavio Ferri. We make it a fun atmosphere at games, with halftime entertainment and clinics and our mascot, Teddy. These things are really important.
The Roughriders have been playing on Long Island since 1994 and won the USISL championship a year later, fielding known stars such as Tony Meola, Jim Rooney and Giovanni Savarese. In 2002, the franchise won its second championship, this time as members of USL D3.
Ferri was the head coach last season when the Riders went through an off year in the USL D3, finishing 3-12-5. This season, they will compete in the PDL of the USL. On February 13, Dan Fisher was named head coach and Ferri GM.
He [Fisher] brings two big things to the table, Ferri said. First, recruiting. He was a college coach and has a PDL background (head coach of the Brooklyn Knights from 2003 to 2005). Second, he is a well-respected coach. The players will be coming into a professional atmosphere.
In regards to the change of division, Ferri added, We made an agreement with the league [USL] and the intention is to move up next year. The final decision wont be made until the end of the season.
We did this primarily to take on the womens team. With our resources and time, we felt it was a good move to drop down and then move up again.
The majority of home games this season will be of a double-header variety, with the womens team playing before the mens. The women will be competing in the W-League and is a different club than the former Lady Riders. Having two games scheduled is also another reason why the team has switched its home field from Mitchell Field to Michael J. Tully Park in New Hyde Park.
Its a big advantage, said Ferri. We were able to schedule six double-headers, which is a huge plus for our organization, players and fans to see two games for one ticket price. Plus, the fans are much closer to the field (at Tully). We played one game there last year and the players and fans loved it.
The Roughriders schedule runs from May to July, with eight home games and eight road games. Long Island native Jordan Cila was signed on April 26 and the former MLS standout figures to be an important part of the success of the team. Rich Bradley, last seasons team captain, was re-signed. The majority of the roster was filled through tryouts, and an interesting point is that college players are allowed to participate in the PDL and then return to their respective universities, something that is not allowed in D3.
It will be an interesting spring and summer for the two teams. Many changes from what we have become used to, but ones that have great potential.
Long Island was USL-1 long ago, USL-2 the last few years, and now are in Premier Development League. Please note that, while admission is still charged, this team is no longer professional. However, there are provisions for PDL teams to be in the US Open Cup.
I see all these articles about drawing the kids to games, in town after town, ad infinitum. The tactic doesn't work. The teams that are successful are the ones able to draw ADULTS to games.