Several area teams will kick off the United Women’s soccer season this weekend, as the Long Island Rough Riders, New York Surf, New Jersey Copa FC will play their opening matches.
Saturday, May 13
Long Island Rough Riders vs. Western New York Flash
5 p.m. ET – St. Anthony’s H.S., South Huntington, N.Y.
For the second successive season, the Rough Riders will host the official kickoff match of the UWS campaign. In 2016, the club defeated newcomers New Jersey Copa FC, netting two first-half goals en route to a 3-0 victory in the UWS inaugural match. It was the only regular season loss that Copa would suffer in 2016 as they went undefeated right up to their double-extratime loss to the Santa Clarita Blue Heat in the UWS National Final.
Team captain Sue Weber-Alber returns for her eighth season with the club and has been a mainstay at the center back. The 31-year-old logged a team-leading 813 minutes in nine games last year and was named to the UWS East All-Conference Team. Forward Christina Bellero (2016 All-East Conference honorable mention) also returns after leading the team with six goals (12 points). Melissa Guglielmo had a strong season in goal but will be tested as U.S. Under-23 international Diana Poulin, a former St. John’s University standout, returns to the Rough Riders.
It has been a dramatic offseason for the Western New York Flash. After winning the 2016 National Women’s Soccer League crown, the organization sold its NWSL rights to the North Carolina Courage. UWS stepped in and the Flash will look to capture its fifth national championship in their fifth different league in team history. Head Coach Gary Bruce – an assistant on WNY’s NWSL title-winning team – will have the talents of Florida State forward Maddie Pezzino to rely on, who is the most prolific goal-scorer in New York State high school girls soccer history (251).
New Jersey Copa FC vs. Rochester Lancers
7 p.m. p.m. ET – Saint John Vianney H.S., Holmdel, N.J.
As a first-year team last summer, New Jersey Copa FC took the soccer world by storm and almost reached the UWS summit. Copa will make the move to Saint John Vianney High School in Holmdel, N.J. for its sophomore campaign. After spending their its season playing out of Mercer County Community College in West Windsor Township, the 2016 UWS East Conference champions will be closer to their Metuchen, N.J. home and fan base.
NJCFC returns stars from last year’s UWS national finalists side to count upon this summer: forwards Krystyna Freda (who will re-join the team next week after her pro stint for Apollon Ladies) and Jeanine Nunez, midfielder Jackie Bruno and defender Rebecca Raber. Freda, Bruno and Nunez were 2016 All-UWS selections while Freda captured UWS player of the year honors. Raber was tied for most team appearances (10) and played a team-high 856 minutes, earning her a place on the UWS iron woman of the year team.
The Lancers have returned to the U.S. soccer landscape and will field a men’s team in the National Premier Soccer League and a women’s side in the UWS East. The Lady Lancers first player signings were goalkeeper Catie Broderick and forward Alexa Antetomaso. Broderick earned second-team NJCAA All-America honors at Monroe Community College and will suit up for North Carolina-Wilmington this fall. Antetomaso played four years at the University of Georgia, moving from defense to forward. She participated in 13 games last fall and scored the final goal in UGA’s 3-0 win over Ole Miss.
Sunday, May 14
New York Surf vs. Western New York Flash
2 p.m. ET – SUNY Maritime, Throggs Neck, N.Y.
It will be a quick turnaround for the Flash on Sunday, as the squad will make the short road trip from Long Island to Reinhart Field at SUNY Maritime in the Bronx to take on fellow UWS East newcomers in the Surf.
NWSL connections abound with both teams, as the Flash won the league championship last year while the Surf announced in April that they will serve as the amateur affiliate of Sky Blue FC this year. The Surf UWS coaching staff includes two current college head coaches and three current college assistant coaches.
The Surf will have the experience of Tatiana Saunders in goal as the four-year letter winner at Dartmouth College was selected All-Ivy League on multiple occasions. Midfielder Furtuna Velaj will provide vital experience as the Albanian international (24 caps) has had a whirlwind professional career in Europe since being a member of the Boston Breakers in 2012. The multi-dimensional Amy Marron, a former St. John’s University standout, also will be a part of the Surf. The SUNY-Purchase head coach signed a professional contract with Alamein FC of the Playstation 4 National Premier League (Australia) last year and was the team’s first international player.
New England Mutiny vs. Rochester Lancers
3 p.m. ET – East Longmeadow H.S., Mass.
Compared to the WNY Flash, the Lancers will have an even shorter time to get prepared for their second match of the weekend and an even farther road trip when they travel to western Massachusetts from New Jersey to take on the Mutiny.
The Mutiny finished in second place last summer in the UWS East but that accomplishment is a bit skewed: the long-standing organization lost both of its games to East champion NJCFC and it took the club until the final game of the season to capture runner-up status.
New England captain Kate Howarth returns for her fifth season. She led the team in points last season (nine goals, four assists) and was second in league scoring, behind UWS Player of the Year Krystyna Freda. Howarth also surpassed former U.S. international defender Meghan Schnur and took over second-place on the all-time Mutiny scoring charts (32 goals, 12 assists). She is behind top franchise scorer Mary-Frances Monroe (36 goals, 21 assists), who hails from Northport, N.Y., in career points. The Mutiny also will have the services of 2016 All-UWS honorable mention midfielder Stephanie Santos and All-East Conference defender Jennifer Cafferky this summer.