The Connecticut Fusion, New Jersey Copa FC, Long Island Rough Riders and the New York Surf start their United Women’s Soccer season this weekend.
A quick look at the games:
Connecticut Fusion vs. New England Mutiny
7 p.m. ET – Farmington Sports Arena (Farmington, Conn.)
The UWS season will kick off in the East Conference, as the Connecticut Fusion roll the ball out on its inaugural campaign hosting the New England Mutiny in the first edition of what could be a spirited local derby. The two teams are located less than an hour apart and were already competing in the offseason for players. Connecticut has rostered several former Mutiny players but also will have a host of young, up-and-coming talent to rely on as well.
Experienced players (and University of Hartford alums) such as forward Chanel Johnson and midfielder Stephanie Santos will team up with current Hawks Anna Cronin, Hayley Nolan (two-time America East All-Conference), Molly Socha and Sierra Stone (2017 America East midfielder of the year) to form a strong and pliable backbone for head coach Tom D’Agostino. The Fusion also will have the experience of Trinidad & Tobago international Liana Hinds and the youthful promise of goalkeeper Meghan Dalton to count on in defense.
New England has built its roster to make a run for the conference title in its 19th year in operation. Mutiny all-time scorer and captain Kate Howarth returns for her sixth season. She can count on the return of 2017 All-UWS midfielder Brenna Brown to back her in attack. First-year goalkeepers Taylor Dorado and Lysianne Proulx will have stout veteran leadership in Jennifer Cafferky (four-time NEC defensive player of the year) and Chantelle Swaby (U.S. Under-19 WNT) to lead the central defense. Former USWNT standout Meghan Schnur returns in midfield.
The Fusion is owned by soccer announcers JP Dellacamera and Shep Messing.
Saturday, May 12
New Jersey Copa FC vs. Long Island Rough Riders
4:30 p.m. – Saint John Vianney H.S.
New Jersey and Long Island will renew what can considered as the biggest rivalry in the three-year history of action in the UWS East. The fact that 2017 conference champion Rough Riders return to the scene of the crime where they gave Copa their first-ever home defeat just adds to the anticipation. New Jersey hosted Long Island last July in the 2017 East Final and the visitors ran away with a 5-1 win to qualify for the UWS Championship and hand the hosts their first home loss in two seasons.
The Rough Riders pushed eventual UWS champion Grand Rapids to penalty kicks in the National Semifinal but could not finish their playoff run. Long Island scored a conference-best 35 goals last regular season and tied for the second-best defense (10 goals allowed). New head coach Karim Diallo will have a host of returning talent to bolster his team’s bid for back-to-back East titles: 2017 East player of the year Kim Marra, All-UWS defender Taylor Groth and All-UWS East midfielder Alexa Schneider. Diallo was named head coach of the New York Institute of Technology women’s soccer team in April.
New Jersey head coach Roberto Aguas is also returning some key talent to this season’s roster as All-UWS midfielder and team captain Jackie Bruno and All-UWS East forward Jeanine Nunez will suit up for their third season in Copa colors. Aguas also has recently added former Celeste and FC COPA Academy alumni Sydney Cummings (Brown University), Christina Rodgers (Providence College), Alexis Williams (George Washington), Andrea Leitner (Albany), Katarina Nilsson (Northeastern), Katrina Demary (NJIT), and Jenny Callaghan (NJIT) to the roster for the upcoming season.
Worcester Smiles vs. New York Surf
7 p.m. ET – Foley Stadium
The Worcester Smiles kick off their inaugural season in the UWS East, hosting a New York Surf organization that took the bull by the horns in its first season in 2017. New York began its UWS tenure with an affiliation with Sky Blue FC of the National Women’s Soccer League and almost qualified for the two-team East Final with a 6-2-2 record. The Surf can count on the return of five of its top six scorers from last season, led by All-UWS forward midfielder Furtuna Velaj (2017: five goals, three assists).
Third-leading scorer midfielder-forward Maegen Doyle (2017: three goals, four assists) led the University of Bridgeport in scoring last fall with 27 points (12 goals, three assists). All-UWS defender Brooke Salmon and goalkeeper Colleen Hickey (2017 – six games, 540 minutes, 27 saves) anchor the New York defense again. The Surf will prove to be a task for Smiles head coach Anthony Cosky in his team’s first season. Cosky will need his experience as head women’s soccer coach at Becker College to craft a lineup that can handle the rigors of the UWS East.
Former University of Connecticut and New England Mutiny midfielder Andrea Plucenik has joined Worcester’s roster. Goalkeeper Brittany Henderson was a two-time MAAC defensive player of the year for the Loyola Greyhounds and recorded a league and career-high nine shutouts in her senior season in 2009. The Commack, N.Y.-native is second all-time at Loyola with 296 saves and 25 career shutouts. College of the Holy Cross additions in defender Elise Cobb and midfielder Sydney Fisher add youth to the lineup.