The 2017 National Premier Soccer League season is just a month away, and after the monumental task of selecting this year’s roster, Kingston Stockade FC officials are starting this week to put their team through the rigors of a preseason training regimen. The club brought back fewer than half of its roster from its inaugural campaign last season, and it’s also brought in a new head coach, David Lindholm.
This week, Lindholm said he was pleased the roster will include veteran players like last year’s captain, Jamal Lis-Simmons, NPSL player of the week in early June 2016, and Kingston’s top goal scorer Michael Creswick (Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, England), as well as fleet-footed defender Matel Anasta. Of the 33 players on Kingston’s initial roster, 14 will be familiar faces to faithful fans, including members of the Dutch Guard Supporters Club.
“One of the reasons it’s great is they know much more about this club than I do at this point,” Lindholm said. “I’m a relative newcomer, and they’ve been around it for the team’s entire history. I think they really care about the team, they care about soccer in the Hudson Valley, and they understand it in a deeper way than I do. And those guys have a wealth of soccer knowledge that I can draw from. I would never claim to know more about soccer than anybody else. I have a good understanding of the game, but I can always learn.”
An assistant coach at Bard College since last summer, Lindholm coached in both the NCAA’s divisions I (University of Massachusetts) and III (Western New England University and Middlebury College, where he won the national championship in 2007).
Beginning in 2008, Lindholm spent six years in the front offices of Chivas USA and the Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer. With Colorado, Lindholm served as the club’s director of media relations, working alongside professional coaches like Predrag “Preki” Radosavljević, Robin Fraser, Gary Smith and Pablo Mastroeni.
Lindholm’s playing days include four years as a goalkeeper at Middlebury College prior to graduation in 2005. He followed college with two seasons at the semi-pro level with the now-defunct Vermont Voltage of the USL Premier Development League.
By the time Lindholm moved to the area to coach at Bard, Stockade’s 2016 season was over. But he was still very familiar with what Kingston was up to because he ran in some of the same professional circles as the team’s chairman, Dennis Crowley.
“I was familiar with the team because I knew some of the people that Dennis had been talking to at the very beginning when he was in the early stages of founding the team,” Lindholm said. “I worked for Major League Soccer for a number of years, and he had some friends in the league office in New York and I knew them. So they actually asked me if I knew any coaches in this area when they were getting the team off the ground. When I moved here I got back in touch with those guys, and they put me in touch with Dennis. It was a happy coincidence.”
Lindholm takes over a team that was run during its first season by local coaching legend George Vizvary.
“It’s clear that what he gave the team was a really solid foundation to build from,” said Lindholm. “I think that George and the coaches that were there last year — many of whom are back this year — and Dennis and all the players, they committed to this project and gave it everything they had. I think my responsibility is to try and keep that going in the right direction and to try to make sure the players have a good experience and to understand they’re playing for the fans to a large degree.”
Lindholm, himself a former goalkeeper, said he was looking forward to working with veterans David Giddings and Steve Skonieczny, to help shore up the defense.
“With goalkeepers especially, I think experience can help them,” Lindholm said. “You see some of the best goalkeepers in the world are in their 30s, and in their late 30s even. That position is so much about decision-making and attitude and mental preparation for the game, and age can help you. Having guys that are experienced coming back to the team, it helps across the board. But it definitely helps in that position, for sure.”
With well over 200 prospective players trying out for Kingston this season, some veterans hoping to make the club for a second straight season were left disappointed.
“There were definitely a few of them, and those were incredibly tough decisions,” Lindholm said. “But it was really a credit to everybody at Stockade — Nick and Dan Hoffay, especially — just for getting so many talented players out there for us to see. The pool was so deep in terms of quality and talent that it made us have to make really tough decisions. It makes the job hard, but it’s also exactly what you want as a coach.”
Even with the roster down to 33 players, Lindholm said there will still be tough decisions to make on a game-by-game basis.
“I hope to be really transparent with guys about why they’re being selected for games and why they’re not, and we can have a conversation about why they missed out on the starting lineup or the 18,” he said. “I’m more than happy to have those conversations. My hope is that everybody’s working so hard in practice it really does feel like a badge of honor to make the 18-man squad for a game. I hope that if a guy misses that rather than getting down he’ll use that as motivation to work harder and maybe he makes the guys who are ahead of him play better and the team improves.”
Improving upon a 5-8-3 record from a year ago is within Stockade’s sights. “We’re still looking for our first road win as an organization, and I think that’s motivation in and of itself,” Lindholm said. “We have opportunities to do some things the club hasn’t been able to do yet, and everybody that’s here has a chance to be a part of that.”
Preseason friendlies are in the works for this month, but the first match of the regular season is scheduled for Saturday, May 6 when Stockade hosts Hartford City FC at Dietz Stadium. The 12-game schedule also includes home stands against the Rhode Island Reds (Sunday, May 21), New York Athletic Club (Saturday, June 3), Boston City FC (Saturday, June 10), Seacoast Mariners (Saturday, July 1) and first year club TSF Academy (Monday, July 3). Stockade closes out the regular season on the road the following week when they visit Boston City on Saturday, July 8. All Saturday and Sunday games at Dietz begin at 5 p.m. this season, while the visit from TSF Academy won’t start until 6 p.m.
A divisional split means Kingston won’t face off against last season’s top club, the New York Cosmos B, unless they meet in the playoffs. But Lindholm said it was less helpful to predict which teams will rise to the challenge than for Stockade FC try and create its own season narrative.
“It’s so hard to know who’s going to be good and who’s not going to be good,” he said. “As you see in soccer everywhere, the teams that are at the bottom can always beat the teams that are at the top. There’s often a lot of roster turnover and even team turnover in the league, so it’s impossible to predict and it could be anyone. And that’s motivation for us, too: Why shouldn’t it be us?”