FC Buffalo will open its fifth season at 7 p.m. tonight against the Erie (Pa.) Admirals on the road, then return for their home opener in a new venue.
The Wolves will begin the home schedule against AFC Cleveland Royals at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Canisius College Demske Sports Complex after playing last season at All High Stadium. The team plays in the Great Lakes East Conference of the far-flung National Premier Soccer League, an amateur organization which extends from coast to coast.
Among the returnees from last season are Bobby Ross, team Defensive Player of the Year.
Coach Brendan Murphy, a Williamsville North and St. Lawrence University graduate and also the head coach at D’Youville College, has some new talent on the roster.
One is Russell Cicerone from the University at Buffalo, who was the Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year.
“We are allowed to use college players,” team president and part-owner Nick Mendola said. “Our season ends with the national championship game in early August. Cicerone is a guy were most excited about.”
Other new faces are Nico Pagaloa from Orange, Calif., who is one of four players on the roster from Point Loma Nazarene College in San Diego, and Andrew Bednarsky of Hackettstown, N.J., who was a first team All-American at St. Lawrence.
FC Buffalo was 8-4 in 2013 in regular season play and lost to Erie in the playoffs.
“They’re our big rivals,” said Mendola, who says driving the team bus is among his duties. He is one of five co-owners of the team. “None of us is wealthy,” he said. “We’re just trying to grow a program. We get about 1,000 a game and someday we hope to have a professional team.”
Cleveland’s star player is Vinny Bell, who played college soccer at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland.
“He’s a big, bruising goal scorer, one of the best players in the league,” Mendola said.
Besides Cleveland and Erie, the Fort Pitt Regiment from Pittsburgh is also in the Great Lakes East Conference.
The Great Lakes West is comprised of Detroit City FC, Michigan Stars, Lansing United, Westfield Selects (Indianapolis) and Cincinnati Saints.
Buffalo will play a 14-game regular season, three games each against Great Lakes East opponents and one game each against Great Lakes West opponents.