For Utica City FC fans, the end to the 2018-19 season fell flat, losing Game 2 and the Minigame to the Baltimore Blast at home. As the fans left the Adirondack Bank Center that night, they were wondering, “When does next season start?” For GM Tommy Tanner, the thought was, “How can I improve this team for next season?”
As most of you know, I was a season ticket holder for the Syracuse Silver Knights, and free agency was something that wasn’t really a thing. Normally, new player announcements would start around October and be spread out until a couple weeks before the season started. This statement was echoed by Tommy in a text I got from him recently. “This is the first year I’ve known we’d have a team coming back next season.” This allowed him to go out and reload for next season, and to be honest, he did an amazing job. First of all, I want to say a “see you soon” to our players that will not be back next season.
To Joey Tavernese: Thank you for showcasing your talents to the masses here in Upstate New York. From starting in Rochester, making your way to Syracuse, and finally ending up in Utica, your dedication to the game knows no bounds. A few years ago, my daughter Hannah couldn’t make a game because she was home sick. I decided to go to the game by myself, and after that game, I called her to say hi. You came over and started talking to her on FaceTime. From then on the Silver Knights were known as “Bo, and Joey, and friends” according to Hannah. If you ever need a case of Utica Club sent your way, let me know. I’ve got you covered!
To Stephen DeRoux: I’ll be honest. When I saw we had signed you last season, I was over the moon. I watched you play in Baltimore for those dreaded Blast, and I knew you would make a huge difference in the back. And you did. The backflips were great (I’m still working on mine by the way…) and you were a force to be reckoned with. It gets hot down there in Florida, keep the hair game on point!
Now onto my thoughts on our new players: I’ve had the opportunity to watch most of these guys live, and others on YouTube. All five players will be able to contribute right away.
Ricardo Diegues was a thorn in the Silver Knights side when he played for the Florida Tropics. Two years ago, he scored 28 goals and assisted on 16 others in 22 games for Florida. Last season, he played 19 games, he scored 24 goals while assisting on four others. He’ll be a huge presence up front at the target position, making him and captain Bo Jelovac, a great 1-2 combo at that position.
James Togbah comes over from the Kansas City Comets, and he brings speed and offensive presence as a defender. In his 2018-2019 campaign, Togbah tallied 18 goals and assisted on eight more. The most impressive statistic is his eight power play goals, which was 2nd in the MASL, trailing Ian Bennett’s nine. Along with these impressive offensive stats, let’s not forget what position he really plays: defense. He was third on the Comets in shots blocked with 25.
The third signing for Utica City FC hits very close to home. During the 2016-2017 season, I had the opportunity to follow Moises Gonzalez. I loved the way he played. He scored one of the best goals I had ever seen. In a game against Baltimore, he placed a bicycle kick over William Vanzela’s hands, helping Syracuse to victory. That season he scored 15 goals and added nine assists. I was hoping he would stay with the team, but he wanted to be closer to home, and signed with the Rio Grande Valley Barracudas. In those two years, he scored 48 goals and 29 assists. He’s going to be such a valuable asset on restarts and on the power play unit as well. I’m very excited to be reunited with an old friend!
Along with Moises, Diego Zuniga will be joining us from Rio Grande Valley. I had the opportunity to watch Diego play for the Baltimore Blast back in the 2014-2015 season. That year he scored 12 goals and five assists for the 18-2 Blast. Last year, he signed with RGV, and he picked up where he left off from that season with Baltimore. In his 2018-2019 campaign, he scored 22 goals, including the goal of the year in my opinion, and was a bit stingy with only two assists. He helped the Barracudas get into the playoffs after a disastrous 3-19 season in 2017-2018.
So, in the offseason, Utica City has made improvements in the target position, midfield, and defense. But, what about the most important position of all, goalkeeping? Over the last several years, the goalkeeping duties have been given to Andrew Coughlin. When it comes to back to back games, having two goalies is huge. With the signing of Matt Perrella, Utica City now has one of the best 1-2 goalie tandems in the league. Last season, Perrella went 4-7 with a 6.17 GAA. Those stats may not be eye popping, but I know if you put him in net for Utica City, you will have a completely different result. Perrella also has ties to Syracuse. In the 2015-2016 season, he did play one game for Syracuse, as a backup to Silver Knight great, Bryan O’Quinn.
Of course, we cannot go without welcoming back two key players from last year’s team, Bo Jelovac and Logan “Superman” Roberts. Bo had another great season in the MASL, scoring a career high 20 goals and 12 assists others. Logan was voted “Breakout Player Of The Year” by UCFC after scoring 10 goals and a pair of assists. Bo’s strength and Logan’s speed were key factors in the success of Utica’s inaugural season.
With the addition of five new players to the roster, there was going to be some attrition. And don’t be surprised if more players decide to move onto new opportunities. These moves will help get Utica City over that speed bump that is Baltimore in the quest for the 2019-2020 Ron Newman Cup!
Until next time, what say you MASL Nation?