When Matt Poland sets foot on the artificial turf of Rochester Regional Stadium on Saturday night, memories will flood him.
Not only will he have returned to his hometown, but to a field where he built a slice of his soccer resume.
The 2010 Rochester Mayo graduate made occasional visits to RRS as a player, including non-league battles with Rochester Lourdes.
“It will be interesting to come back and see how it feels,” the 29-year-old Poland said.
Poland is descending on Rochester on Saturday (6:45 p.m.) as an assistant coach with first-year franchise Chicago House Athletic Club, a professional team that is part of the National Independent Soccer Association. Chicago House is taking on Rochester amateur team Med City FC as part of the NISA Independent Cup.
Chicago House, which won’t begin its regular season until Aug. 7, lost its first Cup game on July 9, falling 2-0 to FC Milwaukee Torrent.
“We are still trying to get things together as a team,” Poland said. “A lot of our guys hadn’t played a game since October. Our biggest thing right now is trying to get everyone in game shape.”
As for Poland, he is trying to get accustomed to things after having coached in Europe the last three years. After spending four years playing professional soccer in Finland, for Sporting Kristinestad, Poland made the switch to coach Sporting Kristinestad. That came after suffering a career-ending knee injury.
Things initially went well with his head-coaching stint, but then started to take a turn this past year.
A philosophical difference between Poland and management concerning the team's construction drove him to move on this past March.
“Overall, I thought they weren’t spending enough time on developing their own players through our academy system,” Poland said.
Poland then left Finland and his Sporting Kristinestad team for Florida, where he became head coach of Naples United, which like Med City FC is a member of the National Premier Soccer League. Poland was a roaring success there, his team ranked as high as fourth nationally in the NPSL.
In June, though, Poland got a call from Chicago House head coach and former MLS and U.S. National team player C.J. Brown. A marathon zoom meeting between the men was next, followed by Brown then quickly asking Poland to join him as a Chicago House assistant coach.
Poland didn’t hesitate with his answer and has been a part of the franchise since June 9, he and his wife moving to her hometown of Chicago.
While Poland admits to missing Europe and all the cultural learning that he was afforded there, this opportunity to work next to Brown has been special.
“I’m learning a lot from him,” Poland said. “We put in long hours — like 12 hours a day. But it is good because I am learning so much and being challenged. There are parts of being a head coach that I miss, but I came here fully committed to being an assistant. It’s been less stressful, because now I just have the opportunity to throw ideas out there. Learning from C.J. (Brown) only helps.”
As much as Poland is enjoying this latest opportunity, he sees himself likely landing back in Europe someday as a professional soccer head coach.
“I do miss Europe, after spending six years there,” he said.
First time for Med City FC
In facing Chicago House on Saturday, Med City FC is playing a professional team for the first time in its five-year history.
Med City FC General Manager Frank Spaeth is excited for the opportunity. He’s eager to see how his players stack up.
“This will be a higher level than we’ve played against,” Spaeth said. “It will be fun to get a new team in here to play.”