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As the exclusive PDL affiliate of New York City Football Club, the Long Island Rough Riders continue to work closely with the Major League Soccer club. Not surprisingly, sharing a similar ethos, including playing style, is a main focus as the Rough Riders look ahead to the upcoming 2017 season and beyond.

Owned by City Football Group, NYCFC play a possession-based game that begins out of the back with the goalkeeper and defense. The Rough Riders, named the club’s PDL affiliate on April 21, 2016, have incorporated that style of play into their game plan.

“We’ve never been or tried to be a direct kick-and-run team that overpowers opponents,” Long Island general manager Flavio Ferri said. “In essence, it’s more about making tweaks and adjustments than revamping everything. We’re looking to focus on building out of the back more than we have done.”

While the Rough Riders continue to try to acquire the best talent for each season, the recruitment process has also been modified based on the adoption of The City Way.

Ferri said he’s looked for the best players to fit into this style of play and for players to fill certain roles. Andre Morrison, a center back from the University of Hartford, is comfortable with the ball at his feet. Attacking midfielder Daniel Bedoya, a New York Red Bulls Academy product, is a technically gifted player who keeps his head up and looks for a passing option in the middle of the field. Stephen Roche, who missed last season with a lower-leg injury, is an experienced pro who fits into the club’s new style as well.

“We want to play an attractive style of soccer,” Ferri said.

The Rough Riders went 6-5-3 last season, finishing third in the PDL Northeast Division with 21 points from 14 games. While the team had some success, Ferri doesn’t want his players to be satisfied.

“Really, we were disappointed — at least I know I was,” he said. “We had a winning season, but the product on the field has to be better this year. We’re looking to make a push into the playoffs.”

Not only have the Rough Riders revamped the roster with a slew of first-year players including Andy Lopez, Stephen McKenna, Harrison Weilbacher, Jeff Medina, Morrison and Bedoya, there is also a solid core of veteran players like Daniel Gwyther, Colin Murphy, Tom Wharf and Roche.

Sergio Valencia joins as an assistant coach, while Stephen Gourlay of Hammer Athletics is the strength and conditioning coach.

The Rough Riders begin the season on Saturday, May 13 at 7:30 p.m. at home against the Westchester Flames.

“The first game is always important no matter who you’re playing because it’s the next one,” Ferri said. “We’re hoping to get off on the right foot.”

by Michael LoRé