By Michael Lewis
So, just who or what is Black Rock FC?
No, it isn’t a place or castle in the Game of Thrones.
And no, it isn’t a soccer team formed by CBS employees (the national television network’s home in New York City is called Black Rock).
It is a team in USL League Two that will play the Cosmos in the first round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at Rocco B. Commisso Stadium in Manhattan Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
That’s who/what they are.
But the team is much, much more than that.
Black Rock FC, the brain child of former Berkshire School soccer coach Jon Moodey, is a team composed of high school prep and college players that will enter its second year in USL League Two after making its debut in the formerly named Premier Soccer League in 2018.
The team hasn’t had much time to prepare. Many of its players are in the midst of taking final exams.
“We’re looking to get the best squad we can together,” Mooney said last week. “I can tell you that May 8 is not an easy date on our calendar. We don’t have any hired guys coming in. They’re all 18- to 22-year-olds. We’re going to be young, a little green, but our guys won’t lack confidence and we’ll go out and give it our best. That’s what we always do.”
Moodey estimated that his team will have one day of training after arriving in New York City Tuesday and before an evening classroom session at the team hotel and a morning tactical walk game day.
“Going into this match, the grandeur of the moment — in some ways I’m going to let them play,” he said. “They do well when there’s not a ton of pressure and they’re just out playing with their typical passion and enjoyment. Rest assured I would love to [get] through a round and turn a few heads. That would be amazing.”
The beauty of the Open Cup is giant-killing potential. The Cosmos, for example, have stunned NYCFC twice and the Red Bulls once in the competition. As favorites, the National Premier Soccer League club also has been upset, most recently by the Brooklyn Italians in the 2018 play-in round, 3-2.
“We want to prove ourselves,” Moodey said. “I want to show people what we can do. I think we’ve built up some good early success and we have the attention of some investors. That will help us with some of the philanthropic things we want to do with our club around education and leadership. We’re taking good steps. This game is a highlight for us.”
The club has produced seven professional players, two who were chosen in the first round of the MLS SuperDraft. You might have heard of them. One was former New York City FC forward Jack Harrison, the very first pick of the 2016 draft, and Bermudan international Zeiko Lewis, selected by the Red Bulls as the 17th overall choice in the 2017 draft. Harrison is with Leeds United, which will be involved in a playoff for an English Premier League berth.
In its inaugural season, Black Rock acquitted itself well, winning its division and finishing the regular season with a three-game winning streak. It was eliminated by the Red Bulls Under-23 team in the conference semifinals, 2-1.
As it turns out, one of Moodey’s first serious soccer experiences turned out to be the Cosmos.
While growing up as a seven-year-old in New London, New Hampshire, the first soccer pennant Moodey hung on his bedroom wall was that of the Cosmos.
His father bought him one as they were leaving Giants Stadium after a game in the 1980’s.
“Soccer in America in that time wasn’t much,” Moodey said. “For a young kid growing up there wasn’t just a lot of soccer role models. It just wasn’t a big thing. I grew up playing youth soccer and never had seen the game on TV and never understanding what soccer looked like done properly. That was the first game I ever saw.”
He still has the treasured souvenir. “It is the longest-standing article I have in my archives,” Moodey said.
Now, Moodey and his band of rising soccer stars have an opportunity to secure another Cosmos souvenir, a scalp in the Open Cup, though he respects what the team has accomplished through the years.
“I recognize what the Cosmos mean on the U.S. soccer landscape,” he said. “I’m thrilled they’re still doing well. It’s awesome opportunity to play a legendary organization and test ourselves in that way. It’s a great honor and it’s something that I’m really excited about.”