Kingston Stockade FC’s 2021 playoff experience can be best summarized by Jim McKay’s classic Wide World of Sports intro: The thrill of victory…the agony of defeat.
Stockade FC’s season came to a close in the championship final of the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) North Atlantic Conference on Saturday, July 17, a 3-2 defeat at Hartford City FC that saw both teams trade goals until time ran out. The home side opened the scoring in the 14th minute before Scott Zobre scored off a back post drive by Hugo Guerra. After Hartford City went ahead four minutes later, Guerra provided the equalizer just before halftime.
Both sides battled through a half-hour stalemate after the break before Hartford took the lead for good with the Stockade FC back line out of position. Unlike earlier in the game, Kingston was unable to find an opening to go level.
The season-ending loss came just four days after one of the most thrilling games in Stockade FC history, a 1-1 (4-2) win in penalties in the quarterfinals at new rival New York Shockers, a measure of revenge against a side that evened the season series on Saturday, July 10 by handing Kingston its first loss of 2021. Kingston was up first in the rubber match, thanks to a perfectly placed cross by Tom Stickley that was headed in by Scott Zobre in the 39th minute. But the Shockers would equalize in the 63rd minute.
Stockade FC went down to ten men after Paterson Kabore was issued a red card in the 71st minute, but the two teams failed to score again through the remainder of regulation and two intermission periods, which led to the first-ever decision on penalties in Kingston’s five-season history. It was there that Richard Morris, Stickley, Noah Robinson and Paul Makaj would convert four of Stockade’s five opportunities, while goalkeeper Lorenzo Nunez kept the Shockers to just two. The win on penalties was witnessed by a large home crowd and a significant contingent of Stockade FC supporters who headed 50 miles up the New York State Thruway for the game.
“The guys really showed a ton of heart,” said Stockade FC head coach Jamal Lis-Simmons. “It does feel like each year our club has been able to create some of these very special moments and that was definitely one of them for sure. To go down a man, battling on the road like that. I think we played down a man for probably close to 50 minutes through the overtime session. The guys really just put their heart on the line and gave it everything they had. The emotional fatigue, the physical, the mental fatigue, uh, that goes into all of that is a lot. And we were just fortunate that the guys that stepped up to take their PK’s, they stepped up with a lot of confidence and brought us home.”
Kingston Stockade FC closed out its 2021 season with a 6-2-4 record. It was the club’s first since 2019, with the entire 2020 campaign wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic. The season opened with a limited capacity at Dietz Stadium, usually an inhospitable atmosphere for visiting teams with packed stands and boisterous fans led by the Dutch Guard Supporters Group. As the season progressed, restrictions were lifted and the crowds were impacted by rainy weather. But just having them back at all meant the world to Stockade FC.
“You know, it meant everything,” said Lis-Simmons. “Obviously, I think everyone struggled through 2020, missing out on lots of different things that we would normally be doing. So to get everybody back on the field, doing what we love, it meant a lot. I think there was a point at the beginning where we thought we might be playing in front of no fans. It was big for us as players and coaches. And I think it was also big for our community as a whole.”
While the 2021 season is over, there’s still a bit of Stockade FC left this summer as the club will host a high school clinic at Dietz Stadium on Saturday, July 31 from 9 to 11 a.m. The clinic is open for athletes ages 12-17 and will give local kids a chance to work with Stockade FC players and staff ahead of the fall high school soccer season. All athletes must bring a soccer ball, cleats and shin guards. A $5 suggested donation is also welcome.
For more information, visit stockadefc.com/youth.