“Another year older, another year wiser” is what the youthful Long Island Rough Riders women’s team is thinking heading into the 2017 United Women’s Soccer season.
The Rough Riders boasted a very young squad last season and expectations are even higher following those experiences and another college season for many of the players. Long Island went 4-3-3 in 2016, finishing third in the East Conference with 15 points behind New Jersey Copa and New England Mutiny.
“Our goal this year is to return to the playoffs,” head coach Steve Cadet said. “Last year was a little up and down with such a young team, but we were within striking reach of a playoff berth.”
Led by captain Sue Weber-Alber at center back and Melissa Guglielmo in goal, the Rough Riders had one of the top defenses in the league, tying for second in goals allowed (10). The Rough Riders had plenty of scoring opportunities on the offensive end, but failed to convert consistently, finishing the season plus-6 in goal differential. Improving on those chances, especially given the attacking style of play utilized, is a major key to this season’s success.
“If we can do what we did last year, but be a little more crisp and clinical with that final pass or shot, we’re in position to have a good year,” Rough Riders general manager Flavio Ferri said. “Back in my playing days I was a forward. It’s a momentum thing. If you miss a few easy ones, you remember that and it gets harder and harder. We never broke out of that last year. We scored some goals but for the amount we created we should have had more.
“We’re banking on having more experience under our belts and hopefully a little luck. We’re confident in the players we’ve brought back; they’ll be able to get the job done this year.”
Forward Christine Bellero returns after leading the team with six goals and 12 points last season. Alexa Schneider (two goals, two assists) and Erin Neville (two goals, one assist) also return. Weber-Alber led the Rough Riders and was ranked No. 10 in the league with 831 minutes played. Guglielmo was fourth in the league with 32 saves.
Long Island opens the season against UWS newcomer Western New York Flash at 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 13 at home. The Rough Riders host 2016 league runner-up New Jersey Copa FC the following Saturday before embarking on four consecutive road games.
“It’s hard to read this season since so many new teams have entered the league,” Cadet said. “This is definitely a plus for the league and women’s soccer in America overall. Hopefully the Rough Riders can continue to help grow the league and an attractive brand of soccer.”
by Michael LoRé