A group of 37 dedicated soccer players braved bitterly cold weather and a biting wind in a bid to claim a place on the Boston City FC National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) or Bay State Soccer League (BSSL) rosters, ahead of the upcoming 2019 season.
The Lions’ new home field of Harry Della Russo Stadium hosted the eager athletes who had ventured from a close as the club’s home city of Revere to as far away as Lancashire in England to participate in tryouts.
“There were different levels of player out there today who brought certain qualities and I think there were a handful who can compete for a place in the first team and play with our second team, who start their season in a few weeks,” said new head coach Michael Bustamante. “I’m happy with what we saw, there is room to grow and there were some players we enjoyed watching.”
Assistant coaches Cesar Deossa and Roberto Mazzinghy put the trialists through a series of exercises and drills before a number of small-sided games challenged the players to excel in close quarters. An hour-long 11-on-11 scrimmage closed the session, allowing Bustamante a chance to view players’ attributes in multiple situations.
“I try to break it down and what I’m looking for is guys who understand the game, so I put them in different aspects of the game and try to challenge them not only physically but also mentally,” he explained. “I’m looking for guys who are sound technically and tactically and we’re looking to see what kind of athleticism they have as well. We saw some good combinations of those and putting players in small-sided games and then the full pitch shows you what some of the players’ skills and weaknesses are.”
Among the trialists was Zion Balogun, a recent transfer from college in Texas to the men’s Boston University soccer team, though the wide midfielder hails from Tottenham in London, where he was with Spurs as a schoolboy before joining Leyton Orient and Enfield Town.
“I definitely think that everyone is trying to show their own abilities during a tryout, so that influences some of the things you do,” he said. “But there were some good quality players here who could play well together as a team. I’m excited to see what happens going forward and I hope I get my chance.
“The game is a lot more tactical here in America and coaches are interested in movement of play and how players read the game and that takes a little adjustment. It’s different, but I’m looking forward to learning while I’m here and to try and help Boston City.”
Joining the trialists were several members of the club’s BSSL Boston City FC II squad, and two first team regulars in striker Jhonata Batista, who is the club’s third-leading scorer with nine goals in two seasons, and goalkeeper Jake Wagmeister.
“It’s important to be here with these guys who are trying out because you know, or you hope, that a few of them will end up with the first team, so it’s good to have a positive first interaction with them and start building a relationship,” said Wagmeister, the Ironsides Crew supporters player of the year in 2018. “Personally, I want to have a good season myself and I can help that by getting as many touches with my hands on the ball and be ready to go when we start training.
“I think it’s great to have Michael Bustamante here as coach. I played against him in college a few times and I thought he was a standout player, so I think he’s going to bring a great mentality to the club. He understands what it’s like to be a professional and he will be a great person to bring this club to the next level.”
Coach Bustamante appreciated the two established players joining the session and added: “I’m starting this program afresh with a different approach and culture, so it’s good to see them come out and show some interest in the process. It speaks volumes to their enthusiasm. Every player, even if they played with the first team last year, they’re competing for a spot. If you start early, it says a lot about your character and your willingness to help guide some of these younger players.”
The Boston City FC NPSL season kicks off on April 27 with the club’s first home match in Revere on Saturday, May 4 against Hartford City FC. Season tickets are available at https://www.bostoncityfc.com/product/season-tickets/