For Stockade FC, it’s time to get kicking

Hopefuls knock the ball around the Dietz Stadium turf. (Photo by Phyllis McCabe)

Kingston Stockade FC’s 2019 season will offer numerous franchise firsts, some connected with new Coach Jamal Lis-Simmons, previously the club’s defensive stalwart and only captain. One positive first has already been achieved by Stockade this season: The first-ever open tryout in warm weather. 

Lis-Simmons laughed when reminded of the bitter chill and cutting winds of years past, as players from across the region gathered at Dietz Stadium to show their mettle in a series of drills and scrimmages, working to be among the select few to make the cut.

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“The first three years it felt like it was the coldest day of the year,” said Lis-Simmons. “So that was a huge plus. Lots of sunshine.”

Lis-Simmons was speaking a few days after around 75 hopefuls laced up their boots and took to the pitch for open tryouts on Saturday, April 6. The four-hour showcase gave club officials to see players who haven’t already played for Stockade FC, as well as those who weren’t involved in a pair of invite-only tryouts in prior weeks.

“We have a good group of guys who do some scouting, so we have guys who are on our radar that we want to bring in, and those are the guys we’ll bring in for our invite-only tryouts,” said Lis-Simmons. “But the open tryouts are a good opportunity to get the community involved in the process, and it’s an opportunity for us to potentially see some guys that have not been on our radar.”

While Lis-Simmons is no longer playing, Kingston is returning many of its key players from prior seasons, slowly releasing names of fan favorites like midfielder Matt Koziol, striker Pedro Espindola and forward Michael Creswick on social media. Bruce Jeter, Mikey Lanzetta, Danilo Markovic, Scott Zobre, Juan Parada: All familiar faces rejoining the squad, all potentially taking a roster spot coveted by players at invite-only and open tryouts. Lis-Simmons said there’s a lot to figure out, but that the club was impressed by a few players on Saturday.

“I’d say there were a few guys who sparked our interest, and we’re looking at maybe bringing them in for a training session to see how they look compared to everybody else,” Lis-Simmons said. “And there are some guys we’ll keep on our radar for the future. Guys who showed some talent but might be on the younger side, and with some experience could potentially be in the fold for coming years.”

Semi-pro teams like Stockade FC are sometimes faced with the challenge of opening their season without college players who’ll come to play significant roles, as they are ineligible until their spring seasons are complete. That usually happens during the first couple of weeks of May, by which time the regular season will already be underway.

For Kingston, the season is bookended by matches against perennial powerhouse the New York Cosmos, beginning with a battle at Dietz Stadium on Saturday, May 4 at 6 p.m.

“We’re all about competition,” said Lis-Simmons. “I’m a firm believer in that if you want to be the best team you’ve got to beat the best team. For us, it’s the first game on the schedule. We’re excited for our first opportunity to go against a high-quality team and see where we stack up.”

By then, Stockade FC will have played an informal two-way scrimmage with Marist College and Fairleigh Dickinson University, as well as the annual preseason friendly visit from the Newtown Pride on Saturday, April 20 at 6 p.m. 

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