After the first round of tryouts on Monday, FC Buffalo has gotten a jump on its 2016 roster by signing nine players, eight of whom grew up in Western New York.
Overall, 34 players auditioned in front of the Wolves' coaching staff and owners in Sahlen's Sports Park, going through warm-ups, rotating in small-sided 8-vs.-8 matches and finishing with an 11-vs.-11 scrimmage in a session that lasted two hours.
A few things to keep in mind in relation to this news:
*Signing doesn't involve a contract or money; it's a verbal commitment between club and player
*FC Buffalo kept 34 players on its roster last season, and all saw minutes in either preseason, NPSL or friendly action
*The Wolves can invite an unlimited number of players to training during the summer, but they can only field a team of 18 on match-day
[Look back at "10 homegrown players who should be on FC Buffalo's radar"]
Here are nine of the players who will suit up for FC Buffalo in summer 2016, confirmed by the coaching staff:
Troy Brady, senior at Grand Island High School
What you should know: Brady is the Western New York High School Player of the Year, a two-time All-Western New York choice and a first-team All-State selection.
How he plays: Whether you think of him as a No. 8 or a No. 10, it doesn't really matter -- Brady is at home in the center of the park in an attacking role, but he's not a zero defensively, either. A scouting report would praise his burst of speed with the ball at his feet, finishing, touch and decision-making.
How he can improve: Brady is currently undecided on his college choice, but FC Buffalo will help him adapt to playing against fully grown men. His toughness, durability and strength on the ball will be put to the test.
Frank Cotroneo, senior at Grand Island High School (Empire Revolution DA)
What you should know: Brady's classmate, Cotroneo took the Empire United Development Academy route, which meant he was ineligible to play high school soccer. The academy star signed with Big East school Villanova, where he'll play in fall 2016.
How he plays: Outside backs who are competent both offensively and defensively are at a premium, especially in an era of soccer where 3-5-2 and 4-5-1 formations are common. Although he's been used as a midfielder in the past, Murphy deployed Cotroneo as a right back on Monday, which is the same role he embraces for Empire.
Cotroneo isn't bashful about pushing forward, but he's athletic enough to recover and hold down his defensive responsibilities.
How he can improve: As the level of soccer rises, so do the demands of an outside back. When should you join the attack? In what situations should defense come first? A wrong decision can be costly on the score sheet, and opposing formations can make it even more difficult for an attacking fullback to read. (Also, can Cotroneo serve the final ball?)
Noah Mehta, finished his freshman season at Duquesne University
What you should know: A graduate of the successful Sigma FC Academy in Ontario, Canada, Mehta is coached at Duquesne by Chase Brooks, who led Niagara University to the NCAA Tournament in 2012, and assistant Josh Faga, one of the top players in the Wolves' history.
Mehta heard good things about FC Buffalo from University at Buffalo senior Marcus Hanson, his Sigma FC teammate in League1 Ontario last summer, and he's said to be willing to make the hour-long commute across the border to training, which means the Wolves won't have to house him.
How he plays: Although I haven't seen Mehta play beyond his two hours on Monday, he described himself as a simple player, and his performance in tryouts reflected that.
Smart and smooth on the ball, Mehta's head is always up, and he plays quickly and unselfishly. He saw time in all 18 games for the Dukes in the Atlantic 10, collecting two assists.
How he can improve: Although Duquesne loses five starters to graduation, most of the losses come on defense or up front. A crowded midfield awaits Mehta next fall, so important minutes against the strong competition of the NPSL Midwest Region should keep him sharp heading into preseason.
Hassan "Abdi" Sabtow, senior at Riverside High School
What you should know: Chosen to Large School All-Western New York in 2014 and second-team All-Western New York in 2013, Sabtow is currently a senior at Riverside who's played club for Black Watch in the past. It's unclear what his intentions are for college.
How he plays: Oozes with potential -- very quick and sudden, becoming a better finisher. A real pain to try to mark. At an age where few forwards boast breakaway speed, Sabtow is blessed with the pace to run down long balls, dart in behind defenses or dribble with speed at defenders. How many local players can you say that about?
How he can improve: He's raw and will benefit from FC Buffalo's training atmosphere and coaching. Don't expect to see him in the 18 on Day 1 next summer, but training with and learning from older players -- while competing at the highest level he's ever seen -- could help him work his way into the lineup as the season progresses.
Isaiah Barrett, red-shirt sophomore at Binghamton University (Wilson High School)
What you should know: After being named to the America East Conference All-Rookie team in 2014, Barrett latched on with FC Buffalo in spring 2015, but he suffered a serious knee injury that forced him to miss the summer with the Wolves and his sophomore season at Binghamton.
He has returned to health and trained without restrictions on Monday.
How he plays: The first thing you notice about Barrett is his size. A solid 6'0, 170 pounds, the Bearcat is a physical force in the midfield, likely in a holding role.
He'll have the spring season at college to shake off the rust and rebuild his confidence following the injury, and he could hit summer 2016 in stride.
How he can improve: A major part of getting over an injury is mental -- having faith that what happened before won't happen again.
The Wilson High School alumnus fortunately has the time to ease his way back into form without the pressure of missing matches.
Andrew Crawford, finished freshman season at Rider (Empire Revolution DA, Williamsville South HS)
What you should know: Reserve center back for Rider University, which won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament. Played three years for the Empire Revolution Development Academy.
How he plays: Smart and tidy with leadership potential, all qualities you'd like your center back to possess. As a starter for the Empire Revs the last three years, he's played against several Major League Soccer academies and can read the game at a high level.
How he can improve: Of the signings, Crawford has perhaps the clearest path to start, as FC Buffalo faces uncertainty in who will return from its back four.
Given the surprising quality and variety of forwards in the Midwest -- big, strong targets and scampering false No. 9s -- Crawford will have his work cut out for him.
Ben Noel, finished his freshman season at University of New Hampshire (Empire Revolution DA, Williamsville South)
What you should know: A teammate of former FC Buffalo forward Ben Ramin at New Hampshire, Noel went to high school at Williamsville South but played for Empire United Buffalo and then the Empire Revolution DA.
How he plays: Noel is a target forward who would benefit from consistent playing time after seeing 168 minutes across nine matches as a freshman. I don't know much about him, other than his reputation for using his body well and above-average athleticism.
How he can improve: For forwards asked to play on an island, you can never be technical enough. Through FC Buffalo, Noel can continue to hone his hold-up play and muscle off stronger defenders than he trained against in college.
Chris Walter, five seasons with FC Buffalo (Hartwick College, Nichols High School)
What you should know: A team leader with FC Buffalo who's earned the trust of the coaching staff through his commitment and effort. Grew up in Western New York and returned after his college career at Hartwick. His older brother Ryan previously played for the Wolves, too.
How he plays: Can play a variety of roles, especially outside back, winger or as a No. 6 (holding midfielder). Loves going to ground on tackles, but has superb timing. Tenacious and vocal, his energy is infectious.
How he can improve: What kind of an influence will Walter be on a team that's younger than previous years (at least that's the way it's shaping up)? Leadership opportunities abound, and he's the most recognizable name to the Wolves' fan-base (although there's yet to be a t-shirt made with his face on it.)
Josh Beshaw, finishing sophomore year at St. Bonaventure (Lockport High School)
What you should know: Summer 2015 was Beshaw's first with FC Buffalo, and he made a strong impression in training but did not see much action in games. Voted "Most Improved Player" in the summer squad, but had his sophomore collegiate campaign with the Bonnies shortened due to a lingering hamstring injury.
How he plays: Fast, strong forward who can strike a ball with authority. High work rate and great attitude, coaches say. Can be deployed as a winger, if necessary. Shows some similarities to Brett Larocque, FC Buffalo's breakout star from this past summer.
How he can improve: Force his way into Brendan Murphy's lineup by potting chances, moving dangerously without the ball and proving to be versatile positionally. Has the potential to break out next summer.
Email Ben Tsujimoto at firstname.lastname@example.org