The wait is finally over. Cleveland Soccer Club will take part in its first competitive match this Saturday, May 19, exactly three months after it was announced Cleveland SC had been accepted into the NPSL and would be playing in the Midwest East Conference.
Despite the short timetable, Cleveland SC has secured a roster filled with local talent and NPSL veterans that have the potential to make the club’s first season one to remember. The path won’t be easy however, as the East Conference is one of the most competitive divisions from top to bottom. In the 2017 NPSL regular season, five teams were in contention for two playoff spots and ended the season with only 3 points of separation.
One of those clubs, the Rochester Lancers, will travel to the Sixth City Saturday to join Cleveland SC in their inaugural match.
The Lancers are returning some of their top players from last season’s team that was one point shy of qualifying for the NPSL playoffs, including NPSL Midwest Best XI selection Will Stone (F). One key Lancers departure from 2017 that will please Cleveland SC supporters was forward Antonio Manfut, who will represent Cleveland SC during the 2018 season.
The Lancers have already begun competitive play after qualifying for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and facing another East Conference opponent, Erie Commodores FC, in the tournament’s first round. Though Rochester’s Austin Gerber tied the score in the 45’ of that match, the Lancers ultimately fell 4-3 in penalty kicks.
Cleveland SC will face the Lancers with a number of their own recognized stars, including Coletun Long (2017 Midwest Best XI), Chris Cvecko (2017 Midwest Second Best XI), plus others receiving Best XI votes (Tom Beck, Vinny Bell, Bobi Cancar and Mike Derezic).
Head Coach Ryan ‘Ozzy’ Osborne believes his players are up for this weekend’s challenge.
“I think preparation over the last week and a half has really ramped up as the boys have sensed that game one is almost here. I think we are in a good place and hopefully we can execute the philosophy and style of play that we have been working on come game day,” said Osborne. “There is no doubt that Rochester will come here looking to spoil our opening night and it is essential that we exceed them in every way and start the season with a win’
Cleveland SC will play their inaugural match in front of fans in attendance at Don Shula Stadium on the campus of John Carroll University. Tickets are available at ClevelandSC.com and at the gate the day of the game.
Preview provided by Cleveland SC