Kingston Stockade FC dropped their season opener in a 3-1 loss to visiting Hartford City FC that was all but settled in the first eight minutes of rain-soaked action. It was a disappointing result, but not one likely to define Stockade’s first season under new head coach David Lindholm.
“That first eight minutes really did us in,” Lindholm said. “After that we were sharp. We had most of the game after that. But just to be able to defend a two-goal lead puts them at such an advantage that it really makes our job very difficult. That’s disappointing, because we played 80 minutes of good soccer and paid for eight minutes of falling asleep at the beginning.”
In their first-ever National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) match, Hartford came on strong, taking advantage of a Kingston backline that, at least initially, failed to match their pace. Hartford’s Ryan Taylor opened the scoring four minutes in, with Paulinton Johnson doubling the lead just four minutes later.
Hartford settled into a defensive posture after the second goal, and Stockade answered the call, spending much of the remainder of the half — and indeed the entire game — in enemy territory. Mike Corbi hit the post at 25 minutes in for Kingston, and he sent the nearly 500 home faithful in attendance into hysterics three minutes later when he was taken down in the box with no call from the officials. Matt Koziol sent the ball over the bar at 36 minutes, and Corbi’s game header attempt was just off a minute later.
Stockade’s energy remained high coming out of intermission, and just nine minutes in Koziol’s free kick finally put the home side on the board. It was Kingston’s first goal of the season, and despite a continued push onto Hartford’s side, it would be their last of the game. At the 70-minute mark, Taylor put the game out of reach for Hartford with a flick over Kingston keeper Steve Skonieczny’s outstretched arms.
Despite the outcome, there was a lot to like about the game, both on and off the pitch. The Kingston side, perhaps buoyed by a solid crowd of vocal supporters who refused to budge even in the worst downpours of the first half, never hung their heads. There were moments of great fluidity on both sides of play for Stockade, too. Even Kingston forward Michael Creswick’s yellow-card-by-enthusiasm had something of a midseason feel.
“We were really starting to come together at the end of the first half, and we came out strong in the second half,” said Club Chairman Dennis Crowley. “3-1 is a lousy score, but I think we played a better game than that suggests. We have a lot of talented guys on the squad and we have more joining us because a lot of college players are wrapping up their semesters and exams, so they’ll be with us by the time we play our next game.”
A festive atmosphere
The stands at Dietz Stadium, even in the heaviest rain, maintained a level of enthusiasm fed by a long offseason and a Stockade side that after its shaky start, played the game like they expected to win. Percussion Orchestra of Kingston beat their drums dry throughout the game, and a lone pair of Hartford supporters on the visitor’s bleachers kept up their end of the bargain, lending the atmosphere of a much larger crowd and stadium. A playlist by DJ Randizzle, a.k.a. Stockade GM Randy Kim, replicated the feel of a Premier League dance party, heavy on BritPop and indie classics. And the addition of a pre-match tailgate by Keegan Ales and Joe Beez provided an opportunity for Kingston and Hartford fans to mingle.
“It’s great,” said Crowley after the game. “We continue to have a great crowd. It’s been raining all day and people still come out with great energy. Starting with this game we’ve got something great to build on, and I think it’s going to keep growing and getting better.”
For the first time in the club’s still-brief history, Stockade FC will have an in-season bye week, returning to action with a visit to New York Athletic Club on Saturday, May 20, followed by their next home match on Sunday, May 21 when they host the Rhode Island Reds. Rhode Island was the first regular season visitor to Dietz last season, which resulted in Kingston’s first-ever win. To help turn that into a tradition, Lindholm said he’ll have to try and help his players be ready to play from the opening whistle.
“I have to think about preparation, I have to think about the warmup that we do,” Lindholm said. “We didn’t come out sharp, so that forces me to say what do we do? How do we address that in practice? We have to look at everything. What do I say to the guys before the game, how do we train, how do we get ready in the warmup? That’s something I’ll be looking at over the next couple of weeks. We have to start a little sharper. That was the difference.”
Kingston won’t have to wait too long for a chance at redemption. They visit Hartford on Saturday, May 27.
“They’re going to be a different team when we play them next, and we’re going to be a different team when we play them next,” Lindholm said. “In this league with the group that we have and the group we will have, we’ll feel like that every weekend. It’s disappointing, because I think man-for-man we’re going to feel like we’re the better team, but they played better and won the game. That’s the bottom line.”