GM Randy Kim gives his take on Stockade FC's first tryout.
So we held our first tryout on Saturday night., "we" being Kingston Stockade FC.
But it was more than a tryout. It was the first actual boots-on-the-pitch soccer event in the history of the club. The first tangible footballing moment for the coaching staff, the front office, the scouts, etc.
Naturally, there were some concerns heading into it. From the mundane (How many balls will we need? You think the players will want blue or red Gatorade?) to the more impactful (What if nobody shows up?)
Then couple that with the fact that most of us have never run anything resembling a soccer team before, and, well, it'd be safe to say there were some nerves in play as we were driving over to The Net in Poughkeepsie.
But if we were nervous heading into the tryout, then we were left positively buzzing coming out of it.
The tryout itself was invite-only, with the players being called in by head coach George Vizvary with the help of scouts Dan and Nick Hoffay. Coach Viz then wisely opted for a pretty straightforward format, breaking the players into three teams where they'd each play two 40-minute 8v8 matches. (The only wrinkle being Coach Viz opting to use two goals on each end rather than one.)
Our chief concern, attendance, was addressed pretty quickly, as dozens of players filed into the arena well in advance of the 8:30 go time. In fact, once we rolled the balls out onto the pitch there might've been only a handful of no-shows. Coach Viz has quite a bit of local pull, apparently.
The play on the pitch admittedly started out a bit frenetic, if not nervy. Balls were sprayed about, players were struggling to find roles, and everyone seemed to be struggling to get their feet beneath them. But about 15 or 20 minutes in, after the players broke a sweat and started trusting their natural instincts, we started to get glimpses of the talent level that Coach Viz and his assistants (Rory Becker and Chuck Wilder) had assembled.
And that's when this whole Stockade thing really started to feel real. And cool.
At this point we should be honest about the challenges that we have ahead of us. We know thatStockade will be playing against some pretty tough competition in season one. Some good, seasoned teams that have pedigrees that are known in global footballing circles (looking at you, New York Cosmos). So no, this isn't me saying that we found the next Jozy Altidore on Saturday night in Poughkeepsie and we think we have a shot at running the table from the off. Wins could be a tall order this summer. We're all aware of that.
But what we did see out there in no small amounts were the following: skill, commitment, fitness and camraderie.
I'll address each of those in order. Skill: there's some decent ball being played in these parts. Headed bounce passes, chested back passes, sleek outside-of-the-foot crosses were all in abundance on Saturday night. And it made for some fun viewing from the sidelines.
Commitment: More than a few times I was personally a bit worried that somebody was going to get hurt. From guys flying into the curtains lining the pitch to some fearless tackles, the players out there meant business from the first whistle. And that level of drive and focus is always key to any success you have in this game.
Fitness: Pretty self-explanatory, but even though pretty much everyone in the group was at least a year or two out of college, you would've been hard pressed to find anyone heavy-legged or dragging by the end of the night. That's a big positive considering the season is still a few months away.
Camraderie: I spent a few minutes chatting with one of the local trialists, Nick Von Egypt, and when I asked him how many players there he knew, he quickly replied that it probably would've been easier for him to list the guys there that he didn't know. In short, when the ball was in play, both teams went after each other fiercely, but when the whistle blew at the end, there were jokes and handshakes aplenty. And seeing chemistry like that in a tryout, when guys are going after the same roster spots, has to be seen as a positive. Normally, team unity is something that develops over the course of the season, but with this group of local lads it already seems like they'd have each others' backs as soon as they set foot between the white lines.
At the end of the night, when players were starting to leave the pitch one of the trialists, Jamal Lis-Simmons, brought everyone in for a final group chant. "This is the beginning of something special," he told the players. "Let's keep this working. Whoever's out here, just keep busting your ass and working hard. Let's put Kingston on the map, alright? Stockade on three. 1-2-3 ... Stockade!"
It was a moment that gave us all chills. We were Tweeting with the Hoffays about it afterwards during the drive home.
Let's put Kingston on the map, indeed.