2023 Top 10 Moments of the Year

Written by Michael Lewis, Front Row Soccer

Thirty years on, the Long Island Rough Riders are still alive and kicking.

In fact, 2023 turned into yet another memorable and successful year for the club.

Here are the top 10 Rough Riders’ highlights of the past year:

1. Completing the player pathway

The Rough Riders launched its youth interclub league, which completed the player pathway. The league is a program for players who are at the start of their soccer journey. They can play in weekly matches while receiving professional instruction from Rough Riders coaches. Since games are played within the club against players of similar ability levels, this is an opportunity for coaches to step on the field if needed, to provide coaching instruction and feedback immediately after a play. This allows players to learn and improve in game situations. Led by program director Adam Allaway, this program supplements the club’s training clinics.


2. Changing of the guard

After three successful seasons, Tom Bowen stepped down as head coach of the men to pursue other coaching challenges. Bowen completed his tenure with a 32-4-6 mark. He directed the team to the playoffs three times, reaching the 2022 USL League Two final. Former Rough Riders forward Chris Megaloudis was named Bowen’s successor. Megaloudis, 39, who competed with the Rough Riders in 2006, is an assistant men’s soccer coach at Adelphi University. Megaloudis was a standout at Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School (Queens, N.Y.) , St. Peter’s College and Stony Brook University.  During his five-year tenure as the women’s head coach at Nassau Community College, Megaloudis directed the Lions to three NJCAA Region XV Championships, two NJCAA District titles and two trips to the NJCAA Division III National Championship. The 2018 squad reached the national semifinals. He also competed for the Brooklyn Knights, Westchester Flames, New York Red Bulls, FK Radnicki Obrenovac (Serbia), River Plate Puerto Rico, F.C. New York and Greek American Atlas. Megaloudis was capped 20 times by the Puerto Rico national team.


3. Division title winners

In Tom Bowen’s final season as men’s coach, the squad captured the USL League Two Metropolitan Division with a 12-1-1 record, outscoring the opposition, 44-9. Long Island, however, dropped a 2-1 home decision to Ocean City Nor’easters in the quarterfinals of the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Riders had many standout performances by midfielder Jeorgio Kocevski (Syracuse University), who was named the team’s player of the year, Nick Dang (Lipscomb University), the squad’s defender of the year, and center back Jansen Miller (Indiana University), the side’s unsung player of the year. Many other players had their moments, including forward Ryan Carmichael, midfielder Filip Mirkovic, defender Nico Cavallo, and goalkeeper Wessel Speel, among others.


4. Another strong season

In Matt Lannon’s first full season as head coach, the Rough Riders women enjoyed another successful campaign. They finished second in the Metropolitan Division with a 10-1-1 record, surrendering only 13 goals while finding the net 43 times. The Rough Riders were eliminated by Morris Elite FC, 3-2, in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Like the men, the team was buoyed by several impactful performances. Among those who stood out were forward Lia Howard (University of Illinois), the team’s player of the year on the strength of 12 goals in only eight matches, goalkeeper Natalie Medugno (Cornell University), its rookie of the year, and center midfielder Caroline Nuttall (Long Island University), the unsung hero of the season. Lannon will return for the 2024 season.


5. Welcome to Mitchel

For the first time, the Rough Riders hosted a playoff series – the Eastern Conference quarterfinals and semifinals – at the Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale, N.Y. on the weekend of July 21, showcasing the quality of the league to Long Island fans. In the quarterfinals, the Riders dropped a 2-1 decision to the Ocean City Nor’easters. Alessandro Arlotti scored in the 83rd minute to snap a 1-1 tie in the second game of a doubleheader. In the opener, the Hudson Valley Hammers defeated the Seacoast United Phantoms, 2-1. The Nor’easters recorded a 2-1 win over Hudson Valley on July 23.


6. Welcome to Wrexham

Defender Nico Cavallo and midfielder Filip Mirkovic lived one unique and once-in-a-lifetime experience at the $1 million, winner-take-all The Soccer Tournament in Cary, N.C. in Cary, N.C. They played with the Wrexham Red Dragons. Yes, that is the same organization about that TV show, Welcome to Wrexham. Given time off from their responsibilities playing for the USL League Two squad, they excelled for the team. The Red Dragons clinched a spot in the knockout round, winning all three matches in Group E, in their 8-1 victory over Say Word FC. Mirkovic scored the Welsh side’s first goal seven minutes into the match. Cavallo, a defender who assisted on a score earlier in the contest, tallied the game-winning goal at 45:03 as Wrexham clinched a berth in the knockout round. The team was eliminated by Conrad & Beasley United, 4-3, in the Round of 16.


7. Hayes named USWNT head coach

Emma Hayes, who guided the Lady Riders during the 2022 W-League season, was named the head coach of the U.S. women’s national team on Nov. 14. Hayes directed Long Island to an 11-3 record and the Northeast Division title. The team, however, could not qualify for the national final four. Hayes was named W-League coach of the year. She succeeded Vlatko Andonovski as USWNT head coach after the team’s disappointing performance at the 2023 Women’s World Cup. Hayes, 47, coaches Chelsea FC in the Women’s Super League season and is one of the most successful women’s team in Europe. She won’t take over the U.S. team until Chelsea’s campaign is completed in the spring.


8. 3 Rough Riders selected in MLS SuperDraft

The 2024 MLS SuperDraft certainly was a bountiful one for the Rough Riders as continued to help quality talent move onto the next level. Three players who were standouts during the 2023 USL League Two season were selected by Major League Soccer teams:

* Syracuse University midfielder Joergio Kocevski, who was taken at No. 21 overall by Orlando City SC

* Hofstra University forward Ryan Carmichael, who was chosen by Inter Miami CF as the 24th selection of the first round

* University of Pittsburgh midfielder Filip Markovic, who joined Kocevski on Orlando City as the 54th overall choice (second round)


9. The man with the Golden Glove

Former Rough Riders goalkeeper Danny Vitiello continued to make a name for himself with Sacramento Republic FC as he was named the USL Championship goalkeeper of the year. Vitiello, 27, who played with the Rough Riders in 2018, produced career highs in regular season appearances (30), saves (82) and shutouts (11) while securing the Golden Glove for the second time with a 0.83 goals-against average. In 2022, Vitiello backstopped Sacramento in a giant-killing, Cinderella run to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final as it lost to Orlando City SC, 3-0.


10. 30 years on

Soccer clubs may come and go, but the Rough Riders continue to thrive. They have built a solid foundation over the past three decades. The organization started in 1994, with men’s and women’s teams, and has grown greatly since. The Rough Riders have won four national championships. The men captured titles in 1995 and 2002, the Lady Riders were crowned W-League champions in 1995 and 1997. Since their inception in 1994, the Rough Riders have built a respected club that also includes many championship teams, boys and girls, at the youth and USL Academy levels.


Don’t miss out on exciting club news, ticket offers, program discounts and more!


Don’t miss out on exciting club news, ticket offers, program discounts and more!