Rochester FC — set for new soccer frontier — opens Friday
Fifth-year amateur soccer franchise Rochester FC has made a big leap, joining the USL League Two. Rochester FC will do that with a men's and a women's team.
ROCHESTER — This is new terrain for Midhat Mujic and Muharem Dedic.
So far, the owners of amateur soccer franchise Rochester FC are liking the way it looks. These are the greenest soccer pastures they’ve been affiliated with.
In late July, Bosnian immigrants Mujic and Dedic made a large investment, buying the rights to move their fifth-year Rochester FC franchise up from the United Premier Soccer League to what some regard as two rungs above, to USL League Two.
They didn’t just make that leap with their men’s team. They also purchased the rights to have a team in the second-year women’s USL W-League.
Both Rochester FC outfits kick off their seasons this week, the men starting with a home game against fellow USL 2 team Milwaukee Bavaria at 7 p.m. Friday at Rochester Regional Stadium. The Rochester FC women start at 4 p.m. Sunday, taking on the Milwaukee Bavarian women at Rochester Regional Stadium.
For Mujic and Dedic, who also still own and operate a UPSL team in Rochester as well as some youth teams, the last few months have been as exhilarating as they’ve been draining.
“We are really excited about the level of soccer that we’ve brought to Rochester and the talent that is there,” Mujic said. “We’ve been watching them for the last three weeks now and it is amazing to see the men and women who have come here to play. A lot of these players, they could have gone back to France or Brazil, Spain or Chile. But they have instead dedicated three months out of the year for Rochester.”
The 31-year-old Mujic admits to being exhausted from these ventures, even if it is mostly the happy kind.
“So far, we are taking it one day at a time,” Mujic said. “This hasn’t been easy. It’s a big undertaking to bring in 40-some players who are not from Rochester and find them housing, food and jobs. It’s been a big jump from last year.”
Coaching the Rochester FC men’s team is Sebastian Narvaez, a native of Cali, Colombia. He’s not new to Rochester. The 37-year-old played goalie in 2010 in Rochester for the long-ago defunct Rochester Thunder.
Narvaez, who has professional playing experience and has been a coaching assistant for professional teams in Colombia, is excited for this latest opportunity. He likes the idea of being back in Rochester.
“My one (summer) in Rochester was great,” Narvaez told the Post Bulletin in February. “I got a really good connection there. It was a great way to get with the people of that community. They treated me really well.”
Narvaez sees the USL 2 as a league that can get players to the professional level. That is his goal as he coaches Rochester FC.
“I am passionate about seeing guys improve,” he said. “I want them to play to a really high standard. I believe how we train will do that. We want to be a team that can compete on any field, against any team.”
Mujic is expecting an aesthetically pleasing version of soccer to be played by Rochester FC's men’s and women’s teams.
There is some high-end talent on the men’s side, with a host of Division I college players on the team as well as a few who have played for their national teams. Pedro Palhares, a midfielder from Brazil, stands out. He has played professionally in Brazil and been sponsored by Puma since the age of 12.
There is some local flavor on the team, too. That includes former Byron player Adam Krakora, a defender who now plays for Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wis. The Rochester FC men’s reserve team is loaded with Rochester-area players.
“Talent-wise, we are very good,” Mujic said. “These guys are hungry and want to win. They are all playing at a high level. Their goal is to play professionally. I think this league gives them the best opportunity for that.”
The Rochester FC women’s team’s roster (21 players) is smaller than the men’s and much more stocked with local talent. It will be coached by Dedic.
Among the locals is former Lourdes All-State player Lindsey Birch, a starter this past season as a freshman for Division I University of Nebraska Omaha.
Birch appreciates the chance to play in her hometown as well as in a league as highly regarded as the USL W.
Last summer, Birch played for a team out of the Twin Cities in the WPSL.
“When I saw that Rochester was getting a USL team for women, a higher league than the WPSL, I knew I wanted to join it,” Birch said. “Being a Division I soccer player, I want to play at the highest level possible in the summers. I want to keep improving. Plus, it’s nice that I can play locally.”
Birch won’t be the only Division I college player on this Rochester FC women’s team. Others are Western Illinois teammates Sarah De Gannes and Emerson Ellington, St. Thomas University’s Lissa Mizutani, Northern Iowa’s Maira Alevator and Texas Rio Grande Valley’s Ana Recarte-Pacheco.
Century graduates and twin sisters Kristen and Melanie LaDue are among the collection of Rochester players on the team. Both play for Saint Mary’s University in Winona.
ROCHESTER FC USL2
(all home games at Rochester Regional Stadium)
May 19 — Bavarian United, 7 p.m.
May 27 — Minneapolis City SC, 7 p.m.
June 2 — at Thunder Bay, 7 p.m.
June 4 — at TC Manitoba, 1 p.m.
June 7 — USL RKC SC, 7 p.m.
June 10 — at Minneapolis City SC, 6 p.m.
June 16 — St. Croix SC, 7 p.m.
June 29 — Thunder Bay, 7 p.m.
July 1 — TC Manitoba, 7 p.m.
June 5 — at USL RKC SC, 7 p.m.
June 8 — at St. Croix SC, 7 p.m.
June 15 — at Bavarian United, 7:30 p.m.
ROCHESTER FC USLW
(all home games at Rochester Regional Stadium)
May 21 — Bavarian United, 4 p.m.
May 24 — at Aurora FC, 7 p.m.
May 31 — Green Bay Glory, 6 p.m.
June 4 — Aurora FC, 3:30 p.m.
June 9 — at Bavarian United, 7 p.m.
June 11 — at Green Bay Glory, 3 p.m.
June 14 — USL RKC SC, 7 p.m.
June 18 — at Chicago City SC, 3 p.m.
June 21 — at Chicago Dutch Lions FC, 7 p.m.
June 27 — Chicago City SC, 7 p.m.
June 30 — at USL RKC soccer Club, 7 p.m.
July 2 — Chicago Dutch Lions FC, 1 p.m.