By Michael Lewis
Shep Messing and JP Dellacamera just might have the highest profile of any managing group in lower division soccer in the United States.
They are managing directors of the Connecticut Fusion, playing in its maiden United Women’s Soccer season.
And, they want to take the team even higher, with hopes and plans for the future for an expansion team that has enjoyed an encouraging 1-1-0 start.
Last weekend Connecticut dropped a 3-2 decision to the New England Mutiny in its home and season opener and then stunned New Jersey Copa FC, 2016 UWS finalists, 4-1, as Rachel Morrier tallied twice.
“We love it, JP and I love it,” Messing said earlier this week. “I think we really put together in an extraordinary limited resources and time, a good team. I think we should be 2-0. I think we were the better team in both games. We’re still looking to upgrade with players. The atmosphere was good at the games. We love it.
“This is not a short-term thing for us. We’d like to build it, we’d like to grow it. We would like to maybe [move] into the NWSL. We’re very, very happy with the start.”
With the Boston Breakers folding, the National Women’s Soccer League does not have a presence in New England.
Messing, who is a color announcer on Red Bulls’ MSG Networks telecasts, said he and Dellacamera decided to operate a women’s team because the opportunity was too good to turn down.
“That was the opportunity that came up first for us,” he said. “JP and I talked about, we wanted to have some kind of role, whether you call it ownership or managing directors, we wanted to run a franchise. And we’ve been exploring it, with USL owners, teams, NASL. Anything below the level — we don’t have the money to do Major League Soccer or NWSL.
“We didn’t have a preference, men or women. I would like to say we’d like to do both. Maybe next year in Farmington, we do a men’s team as well. So, we didn’t have preference.”
Dellacamera has announced many U.S. women’s national team games, including Women’s World Cups, over the years. He made the call of Brandi Chastain’s game-winning penalty kick goal in a shootout win that decided the 1999 WWC final in Pasadena, Calif.
“JP’s background in women’s soccer is iconic as an announcer,” Messing said. “Over the last months I connected with Michelle Akers about doing stuff together. It just made sense. I think the entry level is easier and the upside is greater, rather than … an NASL team or a USL team — but I think it’s an easier entry and path to move upward in the women’s game.”
The Fusion will play at the Rochester Lady Lancers’ home opener at Marina Auto Stadium Sunday at 2 p.m. Messing performed for the Lancers during the 1979 North American Soccer League season.
“I love it,” he said. “You know the one thing about sports, nobody can say it’s not emotional. Anybody who is involved in the sport or with a team, it’s an emotional investment. So, I’m just proud of the Connecticut Fusion as anything I do. I am so psyched that we’re playing in Rochester over the weekend. I wish I could be there. I’m upset on how well Rochester did last weekend.”
Messing then chuckled.
“I’m looking at the stats, the scouting reports,” he said. “I’m only cautiously optimistic. I can’t believe the game Rochester had last weekend.”
He was referring to the Lady Lancers’ 9-3 victory at the Worcester Smiles Sunday, the first win in franchise history after going winless in their 2017 inaugural season. That came after Rochester recorded its first road point in history, a 2-2 draw at the New England Mutiny some 24 hours prior.
“I think like a goalkeeper,” said Messing, who also backstopped the Cosmos and New York Arrows. “When I saw nine goals on the board, I wasn’t happy about that.”
“I’m excited for the game,” Messing said.