This year, the Syracuse Orange won’t be the only outdoor team playing in the city of Syracuse. The rise of Syracuse FC has given a few of the Syracuse players a chance to continue playing club soccer here in the area over the summer.
A group of local soccer investors have worked to start a squad playing in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), part of the fourth division of U.S. Soccer. The NPSL is a top level amateur league that tends to have a good bit of college influence throughout it’s ranks. Fittingly, the NPSL side has signed two of Syracuse’s own, in Adnan Bakalovic and Pat Castle.
Bakalovic, a wide forward for the Orange, got some experience this spring on the right side, slotting in ahead of the wingbacks and making some creative runs on goal. The rising junior, born in Konjic, Bosnia and Herzegovina, went to Thomas R. Proctor High School in Utica prior to heading west on the Thruway to Syracuse.
Castle is a rising senior, the backup keeper for the Orange, and a solid local addition from Schuylerville, New York, north of Albany. The addition of the two should help Syracuse FC off the field and start to build the local player ties for the club.
In addition to the two current Syracuse players on the roster, the club has a plethora of connections when it comes to past players and coaches. On the field, you have two recent Syracuse athletes, Stefanos Stamoulacatos, and Ben Ramin.
Stamoulacatos is originally from Camillus, and played in every match for the Orange in midfield from 2012-2014. He then went abroad to play in the Greece first division for Iraklis Thessaloniki FC before returning to the Syracuse Silver Knights last year. Ramin, a Baldwinsville native, was a forward for the Orange from 2012-2013, before finishing his career with the New Hampshire Wildcats.
In the front office, there a former player, a former coach, and two Syracuse University soccer legends. LJ Papaleo is the Director of Sales and Marketing for the new club. Papaleo played his freshman year for the Albany Great Danes before transferring in and playing for the Orange from 2009-2011.
President of the club, Jaro Zawislan, is a former professional keeper, who spent his collegiate career with the Clemson Tigers. He has been an assistant coach with Creighton, Stanford and Syracuse as well as head coach at Cornell from 2009-2015. He coached under former Syracuse head man Dean Foti, here from 2002-2009.
Where you get into the real meat of the Syracuse past is in the Vice President positions with Syracuse FC. As a forward, Marcello Vitale is the all time leading scorer in Syracuse Orange history. Over his career from 1979-1982 he found the back of the net a fitting 44 times. He also sits second all time in points (112) and assists (24). The other team VP, Joe Papaleo, is one of eight NSCAA All American selections that the Orange have had. He was a third team selection as goalkeeper in 1982. He also holds the records for career Save Percentage, Clean Sheets, and Wins.
The addition of the team to the area can be even more of a boon to the program if things move forward properly. College players usually will play for NPSL or PDL sides during the summer to maintain training and keep their regimen going. In getting a local option, this could open the door for some of those recruits to have a local option to work with, while staying on campus and using the summer to lighten their in-season class load.
In the past we’ve had players play for amateur teams such as KW United FC, Ocean City Nor’Easters FC, Ocala Stampede, FC Boston, and Detroit City FC, among others. Taking this option and bringing it to Syracuse may allow a bit of homegrown talent to flourish as well as allow some of our student-athletes to stay close to the program through the summer months.
Syracuse FC starts their season this Saturday, May 20, at David W. Murphy field, located on the OCC campus. If interested, the unofficial supporters group of Syracuse FC is Central Union 48. Admission is $10 and is the stadium is general seating on either side of the field.