Though the Dietz Stadium pitch wasn’t quite as cold as the single-digit temperatures reached during last year’s session, Kingston Stockade FC held open tryouts on Saturday, and the weather was extremely chilly.
“We expected to have to all pitch in and shovel, but there was no snow at all,” said Stockade Chairman Dennis Crowley, who like everyone else in the Hudson Valley spent the previous day marveling at yet another furious flurry past the official end of what has felt like a very long winter. “But remember, it’s about three times as warm this year as it was last year. Last year it was about 9 degrees.”
Even so, around 70 players turned up, most of them dressed in many more layers than they’ll be should they have shown enough mettle to make the cut for a season that officially gets underway in a month. The hopefuls represented fewer than half of those who applied in this year’s streamlined open call; 2017 saw so many people turn up that club officials were overwhelmed. This year, all applications were reviewed for both quality and proximity before anyone was asked to actually show up, which gave the coaching staff a better chance of seeing what some players were capable of.
“What I liked was that we had a full crowd and that everybody worked really hard and gave everything that they had,” said head coach David Lindholm.
Though the ball felt like it was made of ice, players bounded up and down the pitch, a few of them perhaps overwhelmed by the rigors of the tryouts: One unnamed hopeful hugged a large trash can at the sideline in the middle of his scrimmage, throwing up for around five minutes before asking back in. The chances that he — or anyone — will make the squad this season are very slim.
“We’re in a nice position of having most of the team back from last year,” said Lindholm. “Pretty much everybody that contributed and stayed with us the whole year last year is coming back, and we’ve got some new additions from local colleges [seen during a pair of closed tryouts last month]. So we weren’t looking for critical mass, we were just looking to see if there was a special player or two. And I think what we found instead were some guys that maybe later in the season, maybe even early in the season can help us out with numbers in training and get some experience, and we can see them in a different setting.”
Crowley said the percentage of players who were invited back after last year’s open tryouts was in the low single digits, and with much of the 2017 roster intact, the numbers will be even fewer this year. But that doesn’t stop them from trying.
“There’s a couple of guys who have been here two, three years in a row, which is great,” Crowley said. “A big part of this for people is seeing where they stack up. Are they as good as some of the other players? Are they good enough to get a call back? And I think that motivates people.”
Rees Kalthoff is a 26-year old from Newark, N.J. who played soccer in college and is still active in intramural leagues closer to home. He made the trip up the Thruway for the same reason most of the hopefuls traveled from wherever they’re from: Because they love soccer and love what they’ve heard about Stockade FC.
“I figured I’d come here and see what was up,” said Kalthoff. “It was a fun tryout. A lot of feet flying everywhere, not enough time on the ball. But you know, that’s football.”
Kalthoff said he hopes he made enough of an impression that he’ll be called back to train with the team.
“If not, I’ll come back next tryout,” he said. “[Soccer] is a big part of my life. I’m not going to stop playing.”
Wickson Joseph, a sophomore for Hudson Valley Community College, is a Haiti native and friend of Stockade forward Matel Anasta. Joseph has been to a few Stockade games at Dietz Stadium and loves the atmosphere, even though he’s not sure he was physically ready to make the cut this season.
“Even if I don’t get a call back or anything I’ll come back next year,” he said. “And hopefully I’ll be in way, way better shape. I’ve been lazy lately.”
Like Kalthoff, Joseph said he loves soccer too much to consider not trying out again or playing the game. “Growing up where I did in Haiti, you come home from school, get your homework done, and go play soccer with your friends,” he said.
One player on Saturday may still be experiencing that very scenario. Though he looked like he belonged on the pitch against much older guys, Colin Murray is a 15-year old sophomore from Rhinebeck High School. Lindholm said Murray had made a good impression.
“There was a high school sophomore out here who we liked and want to see more of,” he said. “And that’s really exciting to think about, the next generation of the team. What’s the team going to look like in two, three, five, eight years? You think about [celebrated American teenager] Christian Pulisic at Borussia Dortmund [a team in Germany’s top league, the Bundesliga]; he was 15 and his dad’s driving him to practice there. We might have somebody like that who can really help. [Murray] didn’t look young when he was playing, but then you stand next to him, and wow, ‘You’re much better than I was.’ It’s encouraging and exciting to see that.”
Few of the players who turned up on Saturday morning will get a call to come work with the first unit, and even fewer might get into a Stockade game this season. But with the team looking to build not only for the present, but also the future, club officials were pleased with what they saw on the frosty Dietz grounds.
Meanwhile, the returning players and new invitees are already deep into training, a good sign that they’ll be prepared for their important Open Cup debut on Wednesday, May 9, when they travel to John Burns Park in Massapequa Park to take on the Long Island Rough Riders Soccer Club of the Premier Development League (PDL), which will be followed just days later when they host the Rhode Island Reds at Dietz Stadium on Saturday, May 12, the official start of the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) season.
Local fans will get their first look at this year’s Stockade FC during a pair of preseason friendlies: Kingston travels to Marist College to take on the Red Foxes men’s soccer team on Friday, April 27, followed by a visit to Dietz from Newtown Pride FC on Saturday, May 5.
“I’m really excited,” said Lindholm. “The guys that are coming back from last year didn’t take it easy in the off-season. They came back fit, they’re strong, they’ve been working really hard with [fitness coach] John Nunez. And that’s exciting just to know that they’re not resting on their laurels. We won our conference, but there were only six teams in our conference and we want to win bigger things. We’ve got the Open Cup, and we’ve got another chance in the NPSL to make an impression.”