Stockade FC took its first step in assembling the roster for its inaugural season on Saturday, Feb. 27 when 30 prospective players showed their grit during an invite-only tryout.
The audition process was overseen by Head Coach George Vizvary and his coaching staff, as well as the team’s chairman, Dennis Crowley and its general manager, Randy Kim. By all accounts the unorthodox scrimmage was a success, with players not only turning up at a high level of fitness, but also showing a dedication to the team-first concept.
“I was incredibly impressed, not just with the quality of the players, but the fact that the whole tryout in general ran so seamlessly,” said Crowley.
Held at the Net at Gold’s Gym in Poughkeepsie, the private tryout was held under a shroud of secrecy, with players receiving invites from the coaching staff and scouts. The indoor pitch was wider than it was long, and each goal keeper was responsible for a pair of goals.
“It was incredibly fascinating to watch,” said Crowley. “We had a great time and I was very, very impressed.”
Kim said most of the prospective players seemed to know one another, but that didn’t prevent them from battling.
“There was a lot of camaraderie in the arena, but once they all got on the pitch they were all business,” Kim said. “Already, they seem to be taking such a great level of pride in representing the Hudson Valley and Kingston, and that was just so cool to see.”
Vizvary — affectionately known as “Coach Viz” — is the team’s greatest link to local pride in both soccer and the Hudson Valley, counting among his many accolades an historically successful run as the head coach of the men’s soccer team at SUNY Ulster from 1968-2010. Two days after Stockade FC’s first tryout, Vizvary spoke about his own sense of pride in bringing competitive football back to the area.
“It is important to be able to step in in the City of Kingston and bring it to so many that remember Kingston Sports Club (a semi-pro team in the ‘50s and ‘60s on which Vizvary starred), although some of us are playing in Heaven FC right now,” he said. “But it was a good soccer town and people remember. Now we are bringing it back to people to see what the game is about, how the children are going to love it and how the public is going to love it. Let’s face it, it is three different reasons why players are playing: They are playing for self, they are playing for the team and they are playing for the public. And everything is there.”
But to make the cut with Stockade FC, players will have to show more than local pride. A recent post on social media primarily for anyone interested in the team’s open tryout, scheduled for Saturday, March 19 from noon-2 p.m. at Dietz Stadium, mentioned the Cooper Fitness Test, which includes a two-mile run in less than 12 minutes. Crowley said players probably wouldn’t be expected to actually make that run, but to understand that the team is taking semi-pro very seriously.
“I don’t want to embarrass anyone; this is a very, very high level we’re playing at, and they have to meet this bare minimum of fitness,” said Crowley. “Putting that in there was my polite way of saying, you know, this is not a rec league. This is happening at a very high level.”
Expectations? Oh yes
And given that the start of the season is still more than two months away, the level of fitness at the first tryout was very high. Also very high: Vizvary’s expectations.
“We are going to have an undefeated season,” he said. “How will this happen? We have to have quality players who are able to do technically and by fitness to beat the opponent. We have to have a tremendous amount of fitness in order to have the ability to answer the technical demand of the game.”
The undefeated season is less a realistic goal than it is an attitude, that Stockade FC is going into each of the 16 regular season games of the season expecting to win, whether they’re playing Greater Lowell United Football Club or the New York Cosmos B.
“The level of quality from team to team can vary quite a bit,” said Kim. “Some teams only use college players, some teams are an extension of the youth team. Some teams pay their players and are an extension of a North American Soccer League team, so I would imagine the competition is going to vary quite a bit. At the end of the day, I think what we put out there will make people proud. I can’t say as to wins and losses, or how many points we’ll get over the course of the season, that’s a tough one. But I think when fans show up and watch this team play, and see these local kids that a lot of them knew or do know, it’s going to be exciting. Because they’re going to play hard and they’re going to make everyone proud.”
The team’s NPSL North Atlantic Conference schedule will take them from Boston to Rhode Island during eight road matches, with another eight played on their home pitch at Dietz Stadium. Though the team’s official schedule has yet to be finalized, the Stockade FC website lists May 21 and 22 as its anticipated home opening weekend, with back-to-back games on the Saturday and Sunday. Who will be dressed in Kingston’s black and gray — with possible touches of orange that give a nod to Kingston’s Dutch heritage — remains to be seen. Kim said he expects they’ll be a part of the community they represent in more than just geography.
“You want guys you feel are going to represent the team well and represent the community well,” Kim said. “I think that’s key, because we’d like to have events and different things where we get the guys out, whether it’s meet-ups or local youth programs and just kind of have them represent the club and community.”
Vizvary said that the team’s inaugural lineup will be players who fit with what Stockade FC is trying to accomplish.
“What we would like to have is one or two piano players, and the rest of them would have to be piano carriers,” he said. “We need to have workers that are able to dismantle one of the greater teams, referring to the Cosmos. Maybe we can do it. Who are the winners? The winners are those that they have better players individually, better players in groups and a better team to beat their opponent. We have to play as well as we can, and I am looking forward to coaching a team such as that.”