One of the things Western New York has lacked for quite some time is a soccer team to root for. That changes when Memorial Day weekend rolls around.
The National Premier Soccer League now has a franchise in Buffalo. FC Buffalo opens their inaugural season Saturday afternoon at Robert E. Rich All-High Stadium with a match against Erie.
Game time is 3:00pm. Tickets are just $5 at the door and as a Memorial Day weekend special, all veterans and military personnel that show ID will get in for free.
Co-owner Nick Mendola, also an on-air personality at local radio station WECK, has long been infatuated with soccer. He cites the organization’s mission statement as the reason behind bringing the sport back to Buffalo.
“FC Buffalo is an organization dedicated to the growth of both soccer and community in the Western New York area through a commitment to the blue collar work ethic and exceptional passion of the region we represent.”
FC Buffalo’s name is the “Blitzers”, named after CNN political analyst and Western New York native Wolf Blizter. The name voted on by fans on the team’s website poll by almost 900 of the 2,300 votes casted.
“The term blitz comes from the German word for lightning, which is all over our logo and the official flag of our beloved home, Buffalo,” Mendola said. “To go along with that, of course, is the fact that the majority of our staff comes from a background of broadcasting, journalism or English and CNN’s Wolf Blitzer is a well-respected representative of Western New York who remains devoted to his long-suffering hometown.
The team features a 22-man roster, including University at Buffalo star Mike Unwin. He scored nine goals, ripped 46 shots and tallied 19 points for the Bulls in 2009, all top marks for the school.
Other prominent players include Kyle Westerholt, who comes from an accomplished soccer family. His dad played at St. Bonaventure and brother plays at Buffalo State College. Kyle just finished up his time at Canisius. He played fullback for the Griffs after posting 43 points during his senior year at City Honors high school.
Orchard Park midfielder Tyler Williams is short in stature but sick with the ball. He’s a sophomore playing for Manhattan College. Beyond the playing field, he’s worked with physically and mentally handicapped youth soccer players with the TOPS Soccer Program.
Also featured on the roster is another pair of local players having great collegiate success. Nate Stern came from Newfane while Eric Steinmetz hails from Iroquois high school. Together, they helped Mercyhurst advance to the NCAA Division II tourney this year.
The team will play 12 games, with six of them being at home. All home games are played at All-High.
For a complete schedule as well as other team news and notes, visit their official website right here.