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BN Soccer's Best XI for FC Buffalo's 10th anniversary

In addition to the club's trip to Germany to celebrate FC Buffalo's 10th anniversary, supporters, former players and the media will also help choose the Best XI from the Wolves' history.

Picking a Best XI is difficult for a range of factors, especially in determining a player's value to the club. Is a steady contributor over two or three seasons more valuable than a statistical stalwart who played just one season?

For transparency's sake, these are the criteria, in order of weight, that led to the formation of this team: impact - statistical and eye-test - over the course of multiple seasons (loyalty, longevity, connection with fan base); statistical excellence in one season; leadership and overall affect on club culture; pure soccer ability.

To weight the team toward players who've suited up for multiple seasons, we have limited our slots for single-season players to three. Expect the official FC Buffalo team, announced soon by the club, to differ from the side we've picked.

GOALKEEPER

Andrew Coughlin: Keepers are known to get better with age, but Coughlin excelled from the start. Serving as the backup to former high school teammate and eventual U.S. National Teamer Alex Bono at Syracuse, Coughlin's own prowess was on display in the summers with FC Buffalo.

One of the league's premier shot stoppers, Coughlin parlayed two terrific summers into a transfer to Canisius College, where he still holds several single-season records. Though he's likely finished with his FC Buffalo career, Coughlin still plies his trade professionally indoor with Utica City FC.

Honorable mention: Dan Panaro.

BN Soccer's notes: Choosing Coughlin was a no-brainer. He was the starting 'keeper during the lone playoff season and came up with several big stops down the stretch of that 2013 season.

[To see FC Buffalo's all-time stats, visit the club's website]

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DEFENDERS

Chris Walter, right back: No one will debate Walter's place on the 10-year-anniversary Best XI. With a record 65 appearances - nearly twice that of second-place McFayden - the Nichols School and Hartwick alum is the heart and soul of the club thanks to his leadership, toughness and consistent ability.

Players and fans may joke about his 29 yellow cards - a mark never to be eclipsed - but Walter has made many an opposing striker think twice before testing his side. Few have the passion for the game - and sheer hatred for losing - as Chris Walter.

Andrew Larracuente, center back: If not for a season-ending injury suffered on the road at Erie, Larracuente would have had a more storied FC Buffalo career (and perhaps beyond). The Medaille alum, who also suited up for FCB predecessor Queen City FC, had two traits every center back would love: the poise to play out under pressure and the positioning to cut out attacks without needing game-changing athleticism.

'Cuente was a tough tackler, too, but those two previous traits were what endeared himself to fans early in FC Buffalo's history as a club.

[Related: Check out FC Buffalo's NPSL schedule for 2019]

Fox Slotemaker, center back: With two years of service and an exceptional first name, Slotemaker - a University at Buffalo stalwart during its run of Mid-American Conference title game appearances - was a tough-as-nails center half for the Wolves. The Kiwi was productive, too, with three goals and three assists (and 10 cautions) in 23 games with the side.

While he preferred to keep a low profile, Slotemaker's defending spoke for itself; his toughness paired nicely with FC Buffalo and UB mate David Enstrom, who played in front of him in the No. 6 role.

Jake Rinow, left back: The Cornell graduate played parts of four different seasons with FC Buffalo, and his bruising - at times reckless - style of play endeared himself to fans. Some of the Lancaster grad's bone-rattling tackles would both motivate his side and inject life into the Situation Room, FC Buffalo's supporters group.

His competitive spirit rivaled Chris Walter's, and when the pair was on the field together, the opposition spent considerable time picking themselves up off the turf. Injuries, unfortunately, kept him out of long stretches of multiple seasons.

Honorable mention: Liam Callahan, Bobby Ross, Keith Traut, Kevin Kappock, Corey Phillips, Nick Garcia, Mbwana Johnson, Johnny MacBeth, Adam Lauko.

BN Soccer's notes: Defense is unquestionably FC Buffalo's deepest and most talented position in the history of the club. If we were allotted more than three single-season players, Callahan, Traut, Kappock and Garcia would all be given serious consideration. Given his commitment to the club and value when the Wolves made the playoffs, Ross was the first name left off the list.

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MIDFIELDERS

Russell Cicerone, winger*: The most dynamic player to ever wear an FC Buffalo uniform is also the only one to average more than a point per game, with a minimum of 10 games (eight goals, six assists in 13 appearances).

The Major League Soccer draft pick had startling pace, clinical finishing and a never-ending work rate, perhaps his most underrated trait. He announced his arrival by scoring twice in a road thumping of Erie in 2014, which sent him off running to a torrid campaign.

Second all-time in UB scoring, Cicerone already has three professional deals to his name, including Portland Timbers 2, FC Cincinnati and St. Louis FC.

[Related: How hockey-crazed Michigan built Cicerone into a soccer pro]

Ian McGrath, center midfield*: The Evansville great spent just one season in the Wolves' blue and yellow, accumulating three goals and one assist in 10 games. It wasn't the statistics vaulted him onto this team. The lanky 6-foot-4, do-it-all midfielder ruled the center of the park, showing an ability to strike from distance, use his frame to win 50-50s and make wise decisions with the ball.

McGrath has since signed two professional contracts, with Nashville SC of the United Soccer League and more recently Queen of the South in the Scottish Championship division.

Dan Stevens, center midfield*: The vast majority of FC Buffalo fans right now won't be familiar with Stevens, the University at Buffalo alum who absolutely ravaged the NPSL in his one season with the Wolves (2010). The center midfielder captained the league's all-star team - let that sink in - and buoyed his dominance into a professional contract in Finland.

Stevens was everything a No. 8 should be: he covered acres of ground, stepped hard into duels, could spot the final ball and deposit goals himself. At least at the NPSL level, he had no weaknesses.

Mike Reidy, winger: Like the other three midfielders on this list, Rochester native Reidy used FC Buffalo as a stepping stone to a professional career. The fourth round pick in the Major League Soccer supplemental draft (2013) was a joy to watch on the left wing. He was uber-quick, eager to take defenders on 1-vs.-1 and often created chances through his aggressiveness. The Colgate grad was a one-man dynamo and a true nightmare to mark.

Honorable mention: Josh Faga, Ian Mort, Bayley Winkel, Brian Knapp, Richie Wilson.

BN Soccer's notes: Faga, Mort and Winkel were all very much in the conversation, with Faga playing professionally with Rochester, too, after his FC Buffalo stint. Had Knapp played in Buffalo a few years earlier - when he was a futsal professional in South Korea - he likely would have leapfrogged Reidy.

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FORWARDS

Kendell McFayden: If Walter is the first name on the Best XI team sheet, then his good friend McFayden is a close second. Just as competent at center back as he was at forward, McFayden had cups of tea with the USL's Austin Aztex and Rochester Rhinos before truly embracing his hometown club. "Kenny" is the best athlete to ever wear the Buffalo blue, and even at 30 years old is among the fastest in the NPSL.

Andy Tiedt: The former University at Buffalo striker wasn't always an angel off the pitch, but he is undoubtedly the best No. 9 the Wolves have ever had. Willing to get his nose dirty and work at less-than-sexy hold-up play, the Akron Tiger was also a major goal-scoring threat in the opponents' 18-yard box thanks to supreme heading ability and more-nimble-than-you'd-think footwork.

Honorable mention: Mike Unwin, Ngwese Ebangwese, Brett Larocque, Akean Shackleford.

BN Soccer's notes: Unwin and Tiedt's stats are almost identical, except Tiedt played twice as many games with FC Buffalo. Although he was considerably less productive on a per-game basis, Tiedt's commitment to the club earns him the nod. In terms of vivacity, though, Unwin, Ebangwese and Shackleford all brought confidence, a swagger and big personality to the squad.

HEAD COACH

Brendan Murphy: Head coaches are measured by success, and Murphy is the lone gaffer to take the Wolves to the playoffs, in 2013. His sheer size, booming voice and integrity commanded respect from his players; he was considered a "players' coach" for much of his four-year tenure, which helped attract talent.

Don't agree with the selections? Feel free to reach out on Twitter at @BN_Soccer.

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