The Weekend Ahead: Royals Welcome Syracuse FC to NPSL on the Road

Syracuse FC vs. AFC Cleveland Royals
Saturday, May 20, 2017, 7:00 p.m.

David W. Murphy Field; Syracuse, NY
Game 2: 2017 NPSL Regular Season

After a heartbreaking 1-0 extra-time loss to FC Cincinnati Wednesday in the U.S. Open Cup, AFC Cleveland look for a quick rebound in NPSL play against Syracuse FC this Saturday.

The Royals will be taking part in the first match of Syracuse FC’s inaugural NPSL season, bringing with them the point earned via last week’s 3-3 draw with Dayton Dynamo. AFC Cleveland will expect a better result Saturday to propel them up the Midwest East Conference table.

Royals midfielder Skye Harter stressed the importance of this weekend’s matchup against Syracuse FC.

“I think it’s crucial, we only got one point last weekend so getting three points is important to get back in the title race,” said Harter.” “The NPSL is a competitive league and we need to be ready for that because points now will become very important at the end of the season.”

Playing a newly-formed club will provide its own challenges, as it will be difficult to predict how Syracuse FC will approach the reigning NPSL champions. Despite the tie being the longest away trip of the regular season, coming just days after the squad’s midweek trip to Cincinnati where many key players went 120 minutes, the Royals will be hungry for a win and will feed off an inspiring Open Cup performance.

“Players will be given the opportunity to play and need to keep the standard up that we worked hard as a team in the first two Open Cup matches to achieve,” said Head Coach Mike Sesar. We walked into two hostile environments and performed well; I hope that we can carry this forward and continue to move the ball well this weekend against Syracuse.”

The Royals look to use lessons learned from their first three performances to fine-tune their own tactics. Last week’s matches also provided the club with needed time to improve match fitness and develop chemistry with new teammates, which the squad hopes to use to their advantage when going against their East Conference opponents who have not yet played in a competitive match.

“We will look to push the tempo of play and make them work hard to cover the field,” said Sesar. “Against a new squad like Syracuse FC it’s difficult to assess what you are facing; We can mainly focus on what we do as a team.”

We were coming out with a new group and new players, so I think just more time as a group training and getting to know each other is going to help us a lot,” said Harter. 

Syracuse FC will be coached by current Nazareth College men’s head coach Matt Tantalo, who also served as the head coach of the Rochester Lancers in 2016. The club has mainly filled their roster with local veterans and current members of Syracuse University’s nationally-ranked men’s soccer program. Two players to watch out for on the opposing team this weekend will be Adnan Bakalovic and Patrick Castle, both current Orangemen who helped their team reach the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet Sixteen in 2016.

Other weekend news

The club will also be taking part in a sports facility dedication at Franklin Delano Roosevelt Elementary School within the Glenville community Friday, May 19. The brand-new facility at is the result of a collaboration between the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, United Arab Emirates, and US Embassy. Representatives from the club, including President/CEO Terry Lawriw and select players, will be running drills will be running drills with kids at the new facility prior to the event.

Photo Credit: T.J. Powell