Head coach Tom Bowen realizes that the Long Island Rough Riders will give players an opportunity to play, grow and develop their games.
He also realizes he could lose some players on the way, which the squad did earlier this year when midfielder Jared Gilbey went overseas to try out with several teams.
Gilbey recent signed with a professional contract with Thisted FC Elite in Denmark.
“He was one of our best players in the opening month or two,” Bowen said.
Gilbey certainly made an impact, scoring two goals and adding seven assists, which is still a team high for the season, in nine games.
“He had an opportunity to go to Europe and trial with a few clubs,” Bowen said. “While we do want to win a championship and obviously now, we’re in a position, we’re more than happy to see players to move on and play at the next level, too. From the group we have now, there’s a fair few more who should be playing at the next level.”
Not only did the 5-9, 150-lb. Gilbey make an impact as center midfielder on the field, he was a leader on and off it as well. He was a member of a pair of NCAA Division I championship teams while attending Stanford University.
“He was kind of like a box-to-box midfielder, a playmaker,” said Bowen, adding that Gilbey “was a very good, experienced leader to have around the group.
“He’s not the only top player who we lost along the way. As the weeks went by, we lost a few more players for different reasons, the group just came tighter and tighter and closer together.
“Having these big rosters are great, so many players to choose from. You’re deep, you have players coming off the bench. For us, it was more of a case, ‘You’re leaving, you’re leaving. Go ahead.’ I don’t want to say it was a blessing in disguise. It certainly brought the group a lot closer and tighter knit.”
The Rough Riders will meet the Ventura Fusion in the USL League Two championship game in Ventura, Calif. on Saturday at 9 p.m. ET.