Even with the Hudson Valley feeling the icy grip of winter, Kingston Stockade FC is heading into 2017 with plenty of news and plenty of noise. The club this week announced that midfielder Dylan Williams had signed a one-year contract to play soccer in Australia. Meanwhile, a pair of other Stockade players participated in this weekend’s National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) player showcase in California.
Matel Anasta and Matt Koziol escaped winter and headed off to Carson, Calif. for the NPSL showcase, which saw them join other young talent from the league in a four-team showcase. Broken into regions — Northeast, West, South and Midwest — the teams were comprised of NPSL standouts hoping to be noticed by professional scouts and coaches. With the tournament taking place at the StubHub Center, home of the Los Angeles Galaxy, Koziol said he felt they made the most of the opportunity.
“I think we performed well,” said Koziol on Monday from California. “We didn’t get the results that we were looking for for the Northeast team. We lost in penalties on the first day to the Midwest, and then we had a loss today. But we did play some good soccer out here. Overall it was a pretty good experience.”
Stockade FC Chairman Dennis Crowley said he was pleased both Anasta and Koziol had been selected to play in the showcase.
“Every team submits people they’d like to be able to make it, and we kind of crossed our fingers and hoped somebody would,” Crowley said. “And we were extremely grateful to have two make the cut … Just the fact that they’re out there and they’re playing and participating, that makes me happy.”
Anasta and Koziol joined 14 other players on the Northeast roster, including some familiar foes from other teams in the NPSL’s North Atlantic Conference, including the Brooklyn Italians, Greater Lowell United FC and the Rhode Island Reds.
“It’s designed to be at the same time as the [Major League Soccer] combine and draft,” Crowley said. “That’s not a coincidence. That’s where the coaches are, and that’s where the scouts are. It’s not uncommon from what I hear for some of the folks from the MLS and the [North American Soccer League] to go and see what’s happening with the NPSL showcase. It regularly becomes a way for players to move on to reserve squads, maybe in the USL or NASL, and maybe bump themselves up a little.”
Koziol said they hadn’t spoken to any scouts, but the coach of the Northeast team said to keep in touch in the future.
“Without Stockade there would be no way we’d be out here,” Koziol said. “It provided us a unique opportunity to come out here and be part of the showcase.”
Anasta said they were making the most of the experience.
“I’m mainly just trying to enjoy it simply because it’s just an honor to be selected to go and represent Kingston Stockade,” he said. “I was mostly just gracious, but I also wanted to go out and put on a good show and represent for the Hudson Valley.”
The experience has also been a nice change of pace from the standard indoor training that’s part and parcel with playing soccer in a part of the country where winter chases athletes indoors.
“Playing on a regular-sized pitch helps,” Koziol said. “Playing indoors you don’t get the full breadth of the game with long balls and things of that nature. Playing with a regular-sized goal helps, too.”
Anasta said the trip has also helped strengthen his friendship with Koziol, which could reap dividends on the pitch during Stockade’s second season.
“We already knew each other and were friends with each other, but this definitely brought us closer,” he said. “We flew down together and came a day early and have been rooming together throughout the whole thing. We’ve built on our friendship.”
Bound for Tasmania
One player who won’t be back, at least in 2017, is Williams, who’ll head to Australia later this month to play for Launceston City FC, a club in the NPL Tasmania, an eight-team league in the country’s second tier. Williams scored three goals and had five assists during Stockade’s inaugural season.
“Playing with Stockade confirmed my desire to continue my soccer career and and play professionally,” said Williams in a Stockade press release. “It consistently tested my ability against a higher level of competition and really helped me grow as a player and center midfielder.”
Crowley said that while the club will miss Williams on the pitch, he was thrilled to see him jump at the chance to go pro.
“That’s a big deal,” Crowley said. “Sending guys to the showcase is exciting, but one step beyond that and someone gets signed to play internationally and become a pro player is like, OK, this is working. The talent is here.”
Crowley added that the recent offseason action for Williams, Anasta and Koziol was a sign that people are paying attention to what’s happening in local soccer.
“When we wrote that original manifesto for the club, we thought long term, over the next five to 10 years, we want to make sure that the talent in the Hudson Valley gets the look it deserves,” he said. “For that to happen 10 months after we start the club, that’s phenomenal. I’m very excited and proud of the guys.”
Crowley said he thought some of that was possible because of the efforts the club made to get the word out during the 2016 season in as many ways as possible.
“Because we stream the games, and because we’re making a lot of noise about it and posting on social media, people pay attention and good things happen when there’s a lot of people paying attention,” he said.
That’s also being felt as the club inches closer to the 2017 season. Any concerns the enthusiasm built around the team last summer would be squelched after the final game have proven unfounded.
“We’ve sold about 150 season passes already,” Crowley said. “I don’t know if we sold 150 all of last year. So that’s a huge deal. We’re having active conversations with the sponsors and the gear and jersey manufacturers. Last year the whole thing didn’t seem real because no one knew if anyone would show up or care. We’re starting to book fields for tryouts, and there’s probably 250 people from around the world already who want to try out. There’s people from South America and Europe who’ve reached out and said they want to try out. If you can buy a ticket to the Hudson Valley we can get you in here. I think some of them are expecting that we’ll pick up the travel expenses, which we won’t. But at the same time, the awareness of the club is a thousand times what it was last year. All the balls are kind of in motion right now. It makes me feel great it’s happening.”