Carolina Core FC

The OSC Interview: Carolina Core FC Head Coach Roy Lassiter

by Fran Stuchbury
February 21, 2024 - MLS NEXT Pro (MLS NEXT Pro)
Carolina Core FC

Carolina Core FC Head Coach Roy Lassiter
Carolina Core FC Head Coach Roy Lassiter
(Carolina Core FC, Credit: Fran Stuchbury)

OurSports Central contributor Fran Stuchbury interviewed MLS NEXT Pro Carolina Core FC Head Coach Roy Lassiter after his team's 5-2 pre-season loss to USL Championship side North Carolina FC Saturday. No stranger to the area, Lassiter played college soccer at North Carolina State from 1990 until 1992, where he finished third in NCAA Division I scoring, tallying 22 goals his senior year. He scored 25 goals as a junior and 13 as a sophomore for the Wolfpack.

During Major League Soccer's inaugural season in 1996, Lassiter led MLS with 27 goals. Over his seven-year MLS career, he finished with 88 goals and won a MLS Cup with D.C. United in 1999. He was also a member of the United States men's national team from 1992 until 2000.

Lassiter's coaching career started with the Kitsap Pumas in the National Premier Soccer League in 2017 then on to as an assistant with MLS NEXT Pro's Houston Dynamo 2 in 2022 and 2023.

His son, Ariel Lassiter, currently plays for MLS's CF Montreal.

Carolina Core FC, based in High Point, NC, begins its inaugural season in March, playing in MLS NEXT Pro, MLS's developmental league. Unlike most teams in the league, the Core are not directly affiliated with an MLS team.

Fran Stuchbury: How do you feel about the squad after this game?

Roy Lassiter: Well, I'd say I'm really proud of the guys. We are coming up against a seasoned team like North Carolina; they really gave us a good lesson. It's preseason, and I wanted to play a strong team. I wanted my players to face good competition because that's what competition they're gonna face in MLS NEXT Pro. So these are learning moments for us to go back and see what we did good and see what we need to work on more, but these are good opportunities in preseason.

FS: Do you have any standout players you want to mention?

RL: I'm just thankful for their effort, a team effort, they came back and got a couple goals, settled themselves into the game. They got more confidence as they went along. I felt that they could compete with them. You're talking about a USL League One championship team that moved up to USL Championship this season. This is a really good team, and they have very good players on it. Some of our players haven't seen that type of competition. It was very good to see, and I'm proud of them to finish out the game.

FS: What interested you in the Carolina Core FC job enough to relocate your family from Houston to North Carolina for it?

RL: Well, first of all, I'm from North Carolina. I wanted the opportunity to run an organization from the ground up, one I started up. Eddie Pope is the General Manager of the club. I wanted to be a part of that, as well. It was just an opportunity to get around a different group of boys, help them in their development, and help them move to the next level.

FS: How was your experience playing for the NC State Wolfpack Soccer club?

RL: We won the 1990 ACC championship defeating Virginia 2-1. We lost in the NCAA semifinals matchup to UCLA 1-0 in 2OT. It was great back then. I've gone to see a game since then, a couple months ago seeing NC State play. And so I can I want to continue to go and see the games as well.

FS: Is their a possibility you will try to get some NC State soccer players to join Carolina Core FC?

RL: Absolutely, If they're good enough they absolutely can do it for sure.

FS: You led Major League Soccer with 37 with the Tampa Bay Mutiny back in the league's first year. How would you compare MLS back then to what it is right now?

RL: Much more advanced now than it was then. You have much more dynamic players. Teams play out of the back a lot more, a lot more technical players, faster players, stronger players. So it has evolved since even when I started with Major League Soccer in 1996.

FS: Was your career highlight winning a MLS Cup with D.C United?

RL: That felt really good, those are stories that I can tell these players of how I got there. The work you had to put in, the time you got to put in, the effort you got to put in. The sacrifice that comes with that. So it's just stories that I'm able to tell the players.

FS: As Major League Soccer gets bigger will MLS NEXT Pro be even more important down the road?

RL: No doubt about it. I'm sure that's the road that they want to take. They will take a lot of players from MLS NEXT Pro on to Major League Soccer teams. It's a developmental league for developing to advanced players, to advance our country and our game and our sport, and so all MLS NEXT Pro is going to do is continue to grow.

FS: What challenges does Carolina Core FC face as an independent team, with no MLS affiliation? What are the pros and cons?

RL: A MLS club is going to have more players, more options, a wider variety of players to choose from. They can have players from their academy, they have players that come down from the first team, so they'll have a little bit more of a player pool than a normal independent team. The advantage is that we will always have our players, they won't have to go off to a first team, or they won't come to an academy. We will always have ours week in and week out. They can have some continuity, be able to grow together and play together and know that I'll always have that group of players for training. For an MLS NEXT Pro team affiliated with an MLS team, sometimes they don't.

FS: You were on the United States men's national team and played for the World Cup. Are you excited about the World Cup coming back here, and what should the fans expect when it does come back?

RL: I think that's going to be great. We haven't had it here in a long time, since 1994. I think that's a good way to recognize that this sport is growing here, the fan base is growing here. The recognition and the intelligence level of people looking at soccer is very much growing here, and Major League Soccer is growing here. So that's what's provoking the World Cup coming back to us.

FS: It seems like you guys have a nice regional rivalry with Crown Legacy FC, MLS's Charlotte FC's affiliate. Is it going be the best rivalry in MLS NEXT Pro?

RL: I don't know. I hope, really hope, it is. We haven't played a game yet. Crown Legacy FC has got a year on us already, and they were successful last season finishing with the second best record in MLS NEXT Pro. So we have a little work to do, a little catching up to do, but hopefully it can be a rivalry.

FS: Would you eventually like to be a head coach in Major League Soccer if the right fit came along?

RL: Definitely. It will be worth looking at, seeing the options and seeing what's out there. But right now I want to take this time to grow with Carolina Core FC grow as a coach and help develop players.

FS: For fans who have an interest in coming to Carolina Core FC games, why should they?

RL: It's an exciting team to just come into MLS NEXT Pro. It is something new to come to High Point and the Triad Area. I think we have some exciting players, players who have played in in MLS NEXT Pro as well and overseas. They support the sport. So that's why I think they should come to the games.


Roy Lassiter took flight in the inaugural 1996 Major League Soccer season with the Tampa Bay Mutiny.

Images from this story

Carolina Core FC Head Coach Roy Lassiter
Carolina Core FC Head Coach Roy Lassiter

(Fran Stuchbury)

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