Hofstra Players Resign for 2023 USL League 2 Season

Written by Michael Lewis

Four Hofstra University players who were instrumental in boosting the Long Island Rough Riders into the 2023 USL League Two final, will return this season.

The quartet includes goalkeeper Wessel Speel, defender Pierce Infuso, midfielder Roc Carles and forward Ryan Carmichael.

Long Island reached the championship game on Aug. 6, dropping a 2-1 decision to the Ventura County Fusion. The Rough Riders (15-3-1, 11-2-1) finished second in the Metropolitan Division before making their playoff run.

Speel, who is 6-7, made sure he cleared the ball out of harm’s way. He finished the season with a 1.39 goals-against average and was part of six clean sheets.

“He’s a presence,” head coach Tom Bowen said. “He communicates well, and that’s what you need, especially towards the end of the season and in the playoffs. He grew in confidence, and he got better as the season went on. I think he’d admit it himself. The midway point of the season and into playoffs he really stepped up and became more confident in himself.

“When he started to come and collect crosses, he was very commanding his box. That’s what you want from a goalkeeper. He will take the pressure off your defense. When [balls] are coming into the box, he comes and collects it. It just gives your backline confidence. They know they’ve got somebody like that behind them.

“Just another great lad. He’s somebody who I think really enjoyed the summer. We enjoyed having him and I think the boys enjoyed having him around, the character in the group. So, he was big for us.”

Not only was Infuso a star on the field, the Merrick, N.Y. native had some pretty heady performances in the classroom at Hofstra.

On the pitch, Infuso was chosen as a Colonial Athletic Association second team selection. He was the anchor of a Hofstra defense that allowed only goals and held opponents to under three shots on goal per game entering the postseason.

Off of it, Infuso was named to the United Soccer Coaches the Scholar All-America Team after compiling a 3.73 grade point average as a finance major and anchoring a Hofstra defense that allowed just over one goal per game. He also was selected to the All-Colonial Athletic Association Second Team, the All-Atlantic Region Second Team, and was a College Sports Communicators Academic All-District selection.

Looks certainly can be deceiving. Take, for instance, Carles. The Mataro, Spain native doesn’t look very imposing. He is 5-8 and 145 lbs. But when the midfielder is called upon, he turns into a bundle of energy that makes life difficult for the opposition.

For his overall performance this past USL League Two season, Carles was named the Rough Riders rookie of the year.

“His energy is contagious,” Bowen said. “He’s small. But he’s one of those players you would not like to play against. He seems to be all over the field. He’s in your face. He’s productive on both sides of the ball. He’s tenacious.”

And then some.

Bowen said Carles raised his game during the postseason.

“Just the amount of running,” he said. “We’d love to have our GPS trackers on him and Albert Kang In the middle of the field. They just did not stop running.”

Carles, who finished the season with four goals and two assists in 17 appearances, worked hard to set up the first goal in Long Island’s 2-1 victory over Vermont Green FC in the Eastern Conference semifinals on July 24.

“That goal kind of typifies him,” Bowen said. “I think he gave the ball away initially and then he won it back and gives the ball to Ryan and Ryan sends it in and Matt [Vowinkel] scores. He and Albert Kang did a lot of the dirty work that often goes often goes unappreciated and unseen in terms of just nonstop running and winning the ball back to give it to other players and give the opportunity for other players to shine. I think they’re a coach’s dream.”

Carmichael was one of two Rough Riders named to the League Two All-League team as the Armagh, Northern Ireland native was named the team’s offensive player of the year.

“He’s a special player,” Bowen said. “I think he’s one of the best forwards in the country, at the college level in particular, and obviously the USL proved that, too. He’s just got everything.

“He’s almost skin and bones when you look at him but he’s super-fast, running behind. He can hold the ball up. He’s got a great first time [shot]. He’s also deceptively very good in the air. He’s got a number of great headers. He’s just a defender’s nightmare.

“If there was one player I would hate to play against, it would be him because he can do everything you know. As a forward you need to put them all in the back of the net, and he did that over and over again for us.”

For the record, the 5-11, 145-lb. Carmichael accomplished that feat 13 times in 17 games last summer. He also had four assists.

He missed only two of 19 matches. That included the League Two final against the Ventura County Fusion as a leg injury kept the Hofstra University junior on the sidelines. LI dropped a 2-1 decision in the championship game.

“No disrespect to any of the other players,” Bowen said. “I think he would have just offered us something different that we really needed in the final. I think if Ryan gets to the final then we’re coming home with a national championship. I truly believe that.”

Just as importantly, Bowen also has been impressed with Carmichael’s character.

“He’s just a great lad. He’s a special player and just another great lad to have around the group,” he said. “The boys all love him both as a player and as a person. He’s the player that the other players point out. He’s the player that other opposition coaches point out as being special. He’s got a bright future in the game, for sure.”


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!