Minor league soccer makes its local debut on Saturday at 5 p.m., when FC Frederick opens its home National Professional Soccer League season against Legacy 76, of Williamsburg, Virginia, at Hood College.
The team, comprised of former high school and former and current college-level players, lost its opening match last week to Virginia Beach, 3-1.
Even in that loss, striker William Eskay, an Urbana graduate, felt the new team showed it could play at that level, even though FC Frederick hasn’t been around that long.
“This is the team that won the league last year,” said Eskay, who helped guide the 2013 Hawks boys soccer team to an undefeated season and the Class 3A state championship. “The game also showed we were a little bit out of shape.”
Bo Eskay, general manager of FC Frederick and William’s father, noted the team had a rough start in the opening match against Virginia Beach, allowing the host team a quick goal early in the match.
“But then we got that goal right back at the 17-minute (mark),” he said. “Then, suddenly, the whole thing changed. We got going and started playing with a lot more confidence. The thing we have to do is learn how each player reacts to one another.”
Making the adjustment from high school, to college, to minor league soccer hasn’t been easy.
“The substitution rules are different,” Bo Eskay said. “The biggest thing is, once you leave the match, you can’t re-enter. It’s not like in high school or college-level soccer. When you leave the field on this level of play, you’re done. It’s something that’s going to be challenging for us, both as a team and has coaches.”
Former Frederick High School keeper Zach Jacobsen played the second half half against Virginia Beach. He faced a lot of fast, on-target shots, making a few saves along the way.
“It was on a highly-competitive level,” said Jacobsen, who will attend Ithaca College this fall. “One shot squeezed by me, sort of unlucky on that one.”
Dan Shannon, a 2007 Tuscarora graduate, who played college soccer at American University, said he heard about the new team through word of mouth around the Frederick area, so he attended tryouts.
“It was a quick, two-day session,” said Shannon, a striker-midfielder. “Some of the team had already been picked.”
The team has only been together for about three weeks. In that short time, Shannon said everything is coming together in a hurry.
“We all get along well,” Shannon said. “We’re starting to mesh as a team.”
Word about the team is traveling around the Frederick area in a hurry. Jackson Eskay, William’s brother and fellow teammate, is looking forward to the Saturday home opener.
“I think it’s pretty cool,” Jackson Eskay said. “I think it’s going to be a fun experience. The fact people are finding out there’s this kind of level of soccer right in their own backyard makes everything pretty exciting. The support we’re getting thus far has been tremendous.”
The season consists of 14 matches, ending in mid-July, allowing the college players time to rest and prepare for their fall seasons. At least one player hopes he can pick up a few pointers to pass along to the high school team he will coach this fall.
“Absolutely,” said Shawn Baker, who is the new varsity boys coach at Brunswick. “I’ll take it all in.”