Judging by FC Buffalo's early signings for the summer, it looked like the club's ownership and coaches were focused on assembling a squad of predominantly current college players. Thursday's announcements of Niagara University graduate Andrew Ferguson and Canisius College alum Regan Steele add a bit more balance to the side.
Voted All-NPSL Midwest Region first team in 2015, his first season with the Wolves, Ferguson tied for second on the team with nine points (three goals, three assists). Along with his brother Nanu, Andrew Ferguson represented FC Buffalo at the NPSL Scouting Combine in January after an injury-plagued season ended his career with the Purple Eagles.
When healthy, Andrew plays with effective flair -- in his first match with FC Buffalo, against the Cincinnati Saints, the Wolves winger juggled the ball over a defender on the left side of the field, took another touch with the ball still in the air, then promptly pinged a 40-yard volley across the field that nearly hit the far winger in stride.
His versatility -- he can play as a false No. 9, on either wing or as an attacking center midfielder -- makes it easy to find a place for Ferguson on the field.
Currently a coach for the Western New York Flash Academy and an assistant coach for the Canisius College women's team, Steele still has the itch to compete at a high level. The New Zealand native played four years with the Griffs, tallying six goals and 10 assists over 69 games (58 starts), so he's seasoned both as an athlete and coach.
To me, Steele is best employed as a withdrawn forward with positional freedom to create -- he boasts a dangerous unpredictability with and without the ball, anticipates teammates' runs well and is a pain to defend when he dribbles with a head of steam. It doesn't hurt that Steele is one of the best-liked players locally, too.
[Read about Steele and the Amherst Sharpshooters in the BDSL premier preview]
It's likely that Ferguson and Steele will assume important roles immediately, as FC Buffalo waits for the rest of their college players to return from school. Their early-season production may determine how involved they are as the season progresses and competition for playing time becomes more fierce.
Here's a look at the remainder of FC Buffalo's signings before the season opener, at 7 p.m. May 14 at Robert E. Rich All-High Stadium against the expansion Rochester River DogZ FC.
*Nicky Watson, forward: With seven goals and four assists, the 5'8 striker was the most productive player in Eric Barnes' first two years at NU. With the Purple Eagles in turmoil, Watson returned to South Carolina to play for Wofford College, another NCAA Division I program, where he collected two goals and three assists as a junior. There's a real chance that Watson can carve out playing time up front this year.
*Hunter Walsh, forward: The original intention at UB was for Walsh to join the team for the 2016 season, but when the Bulls' Real Madrid Academy recruit fell through, the St. Joe's grad stepped into Stu Riddle's squad early and served as a key substitute in UB's run to the Mid-American Conference championship game. He's fast, relentless and getting better in front of goal.
*Braden Scales, midfielder: Scales' consistent improvement landed him a starting role on the wing at UB as a junior. Responsible defensively, the local product opened some eyes with three goals and five assists last season, and preserved the momentum with a strong spring, where he event spent some time at right back. At FC Buffalo, the serious injury to Andres Vega opens up an opportunity for Scales.
*Stephen Copley, defender: The 6'2, 160-pound fiercely mustached center defender comes to FC Buffalo from UC Riverside, where he'll enter his redshirt senior season this fall. Copley has earned more prestigious honors each season -- he was All-Big West honorable mention in 2014 before scooping up second-team honors last year. He'll be in the mix to start in the middle of the back line.
*Johnny McBeth, forward: The Hartwick College transfer -- who hails from Scotland like FC Buffalo and Hartwick teammates Jamie O'Grady and Jack Donaldson -- spent the first two years of his career at Division II Upper Iowa University. His three goals and seven assists in 2015 were enough to earn him a pile of postseason plaudits, and the summer with the Wolves will be a nice springboard to Division I soccer.
-- FC Buffalo's first wave of signings after tryouts
-- Wolves' second wave of newcomers, highlighted by Jamie O'Grady
-- FCB's third wave of additions, featuring two from Southampton Solent in England
-- FC Buffalo's 2016 schedule
-- Know your NPSL opponents for 2016
Email Ben Tsujimoto, who's not Scottish at all, at email@example.com