After five years of service to AFC Cleveland, Carter Poe has stepped down from the Head Coach position at the club.
Poe began his AFC Cleveland career as one of the club’s first ever signings in 2012, and he was instantly tabbed with the leadership qualities to be the club’s first captain. He started as a defensive midfielder in all but two matches of AFC Cleveland’s inaugural season – proving to be crucial to the Royals’ early success.
When asked about his fondest memory about playing in that initial season, Poe replied, “I remember two things the most: the first was playing for and captaining a team from my home city. That was really special to represent Cleveland. The second was winning the conference championship. We went down to 10 men against Erie on the road, and we somehow came back from being down a goal, forced overtime, and won in penalties. I still can’t believe we did that.”
Carter returned to captain the side for the 2013 season, and in 2014 he was named an assistant coach along with his responsibilities as a player.
“I felt that after two years captaining the team he showed his desire to help AFC Cleveland grow and he provided some good knowledge to staff and also provided a voice for the coaching staff on the field,” then Head Coach Andy Hoggarth commented.
“Being a part of the staff that third season was a very good experience for me,” said Poe, “It helped me to grow as a coach and learn more about the NPSL from a coaching perspective. In addition, at that time I was really growing in my passion for coaching and AFC Cleveland was a great way to further my development.”
When the 2015 season approached, the club was in need of a new head coach, and there was only one person on the mind of AFC Cleveland President/CEO Terry Lawriw.
“It was always Carter,” Lawriw beamed, “he was always our first choice. He did such a great job as a player and the captain when the club started and I could tell the players trusted him and wanted to play for him.”
After a first season at the helm and taking the club back to the Midwest Region Playoffs, Poe returned for his second season of head coaching (his fifth year of service to the club) in 2016.
“I came back in 2016 because I felt we had unfinished business,” Poe mentions, “We had a great group in 2015 that I really enjoyed working with, and we fell just a bit short of what we wanted to achieve. I felt that we had set up a good infrastructure for success and believed that if we could get most of those guys back for 2016 and add a couple others here and there, we would have a chance to do something special.”
2016 proved to be a magical year for Cleveland sports, and AFC Cleveland’s rise to winning the championship was nothing short of awe-inspiring. The Royals rode a stout defense and flair-filled midfield toward a first Midwest Region title, and it was pure heart and determination that earned AFC Cleveland its first star.
“I still can’t believe we did what we did,” Poe recalls, “Mario [Gastaldo, Assistant Coach] and I talk sometimes about how crazy it was. There were so many hurdles to overcome – the scorching heat and playing with 10 men in the Midwest semifinal, going to penalties twice, and a delayed and almost rained out national semifinal in New Jersey. In the midst of all of this, we had a limited roster too! But the players were brilliant. They met every obstacle head on and really embraced the mantra that in Northeast Ohio nothing is given and everything is earned.”
As is true in other sports (see the Cleveland Cavaliers success under Tyronn Lue), sometimes it takes a former player as head coach to get the best out of them.
“Carter is just one of those guys that is universally respected,” says Vinny Bell, AFC Cleveland Forward, “As a player, coach and friend he gave you his all and was always a straightforward, stand-up guy. When the team knows their coach has that kind of focus, work ethic and knowledge of the game you definitely notice the level of play rise.”
Poe serves as the Head Soccer Coach of the University of Mount Union, and he and his newlywed wife Rachel look forward to beginning the next chapter of their lives as a family.
“As I move on from AFC Cleveland, I’d like to thank everyone involved with the club,” states Poe, “First of all I’d like to thank Terry [Lawriw, President/CEO] for giving me a chance, believing in me, and allowing me the freedom to build the team how I wanted. I’d also like to thank everyone who works with the club. There are so many people who volunteer their time and money to make AFC Cleveland successful, and these people really drive the club and make it possible for the players to come in and enjoy a professional environment. Furthermore, I’d like to thank the fans who were so loyal to us since day one. You guys have been amazing and I could never thank you enough for your support! Additionally, I’d like to thank all the staff that worked me at AFC Cleveland including Noulis Siamidis, Brock Kertoy, Alex Ivanov, and especially Mario Gastaldo. Finally, I’d like to thank all the players I was privileged to work with during my time at AFC Cleveland. You guys were always the most important part of the club to me. I appreciate your hard work and dedication, and I’m so happy to see all the success you guys were able to achieve. You deserved it!”
“From everyone at AFC Cleveland, I would like to thank Carter for everything he has done over the last five years”, AFC Cleveland President/CEO Terry Lawriw remarks, “He’s done so much for us from being captain to leading us to a championship as a head coach, and we’re so grateful to have him always be a part of the AFC Cleveland family.”