"These stories are so much more interesting than the franchises which tend to dominate mainstream soccer media."
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It's special edition time ladies and gents! This year, AP has completed a coup: interviews with US Open Cup opponents, Tartan Devils FC (Click Here to read their interview) and Derby City Rovers! This is an exciting game for both teams, not only because it is the USOC, but because of the potential second round game. Louisville City vs Derby City Rovers in Louisville, or Louisville City vs Tartan Devils FC in Pittsburgh. There's a lot riding on this one beyond mere bragging rights. Without further adieu, I present 'Swashbuckling Futbol.' Check it out.
How did you come to be involved in soccer?
I started playing when I was about 4 years old. The youngest of 3 brothers I naturally wanted to be a part of everything they were doing so I followed them onto the field. I went on to play at Centre College and shortly after got involved in coaching. After coaching club and high school soccer in Kentucky for several years, I joined the Chicago Magic soccer club in 2007. The four years I spent their completely changed my trajectory within the game as I was able to gain experience working alongside a very strong staff (4 different coaches who at one time were members of the USYNT and USMNT staff) and observe the methods of some of the top clubs around the country. When I returned to Louisville in 2011 I got involved with the then “River City Rovers” PDL team and shortly thereafter launched the Rovers Youth Academy where I could implement many of the ideas and methods I had picked up over the last few years. In 2013 I became the majority owner and have since sought to build a club truly focused on the development of elite young players.
What's the 'origin story' behind Derby City?
The PDL franchise began play in the summer of 2011 and the Youth Academy was launched in the fall of 2012. Our focus is creating an environment centered around developing elite young players by incorporating many of the methods used by top clubs around the world, but all too often absent from the typical set-up in youth soccer in the US. Our PDL team functions as an extension of our Youth Academy, offering the next progression for our best and brightest young players. We will have several Youth Academy graduates and a few current Youth Academy players in this year’s side. In the not-too-distant future we hope to field a PDL side where the majority of our players are products of our own Youth Academy.
Why is the team nickname Rovers?
I have to be honest and admit that the name was chosen by the previous owners before I got involved, but I chose to keep the name because it firmly grounds us within the heritage and culture of the game with several British for-bearers. A rover is a pirate, which I also think works well for us in terms of engaging kids and families—what kid doesn’t enjoy dressing up like a pirate? We have a pirate mascot, Captain Martin Mayhem, at our games and a treasure chest full of pirate swag for the kids to have fun with. So it works on both levels, as a serious soccer name, as well as a mascot that’s fun for the kids. There is also a historical connection with the city of Louisville and the American river pirates following the Revolutionary War, though this is admittedly a happy accident rather than a raison d’etre. Here’s a link to an article on our website about this connection: http://www.roverssoccer.com/page/show/2295914-club-history
The team currently plays in the PDL. (Premier Development League) How would you describe the level of competition? Do you have any rivals in league play?
The competition within the PDL is very strong as the league has proven itself as a pathway to professional soccer and thus attracts high quality players. We are in the Great Lakes Division which is home to the last 2 league champions, Michigan Bucks and KW United. Michigan has been a rival in recent years as we were one of only 2 teams to beat them last season.
This isn't Derby City's first foray into the US Open Cup. What are you hoping to accomplish in the Cup this year?
We just want to embrace the excitement of the occasion and the opportunity to showcase our players. A cup run would be great, though the timing is tough for us because our college based players are still just arriving in town and preparation time has been very short.
How excited are you at the thought of playing Louisville City, in Louisville? A Derby City Derby, so to speak?
That would be a fantastic opportunity for us as a club to showcase our players as well as our unique brand of soccer, which we call Swashbuckling Futbol. If we are fortunate enough to advance our hope would be that some of the Louisville City supporters might take a liking to us and become Rovers supporters as well. Even the prospect of this game has already generated significant interest around the city so we’re hopeful that we can bring it to fruition.
What do you know about your opponents in the upcoming game, Tartan Devils FC?
We’ve done our best to gather what information we could find about them, but as is the nature of this kind of team, there’s very little out there. We know that they’ve built their team over the last couple years around players who played at the local Pittsburgh college teams—Pitt, Duquesne, Robert Morris—and they are lead by striker Travis MacKenzie who formerly played with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of the USL. They are a self-professed “hard-nosed” team with a “no frills approach.” We expect what they may lack in due to the age and part-time status of many of their players, they will more than make up for with their experience and savvy, and we’re certain the magnitude of the opportunity will inspire them to compete with a fierce intensity. While we know we have assembled a very talented squad for this season, our challenge will be pulling it all together into a cohesive unit in such a short time frame. We were only able to hold our first training session on Wednesday and with many of our college players finishing finals this week, much of the team won’t even arrive until Sunday. So we’ve definitely got our work cut out for us to get the team as prepared as possible and we know we’re going to face a team that’s been together for a while and thus understands how to play together. It figures to be a very exciting and fascinating match-up between two teams that couldn’t be more different, both in terms of style of play, as well as in where they are in their progression as a team going into this game.
In five years, where do you hope to see the Rovers?
As I mentioned we hope to have a PDL side that consists largely of products of our own Youth Academy and we hope to be established as a proven player development pathway with several of our players having progressed to the highest levels of the game.
Short questions to wrap up the interview: Favorite league and or team to watch for fun?
Arsenal and Barcelona would have to be my two personal favorites with La Liga and EPL my favorite leagues.
Favorite players, one past, one present.
Messi and Riquelme.
Do you have any books or podcasts, soccer related or otherwise, that you would recommend to readers?
Big fan of Inverting the Pyramid by Jonathan Wilson.
If you could meet one person from soccer history, past or present, who would it be and why?
Socrates. His view of the game, as a joyful spectacle rather than a battle between combatants, as well as his rebellious personality, make him a fascinating figure.
Where can people find more about Derby City online?
Our website is Roverssoccer.com and we are on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as roverssoccer.
What would you say to the person asking you why they should get out and support their local team, like Derby City Rovers, in league and US Open Cup play?
The Open Cup highlights some of the more fascinating stories of the community clubs with both a history and culture behind them. To me these stories are so much more interesting than the franchises which tend to dominate mainstream soccer media in the US.
Thank you again for your time Nick, I really appreciate it. Remember, if you are enjoying the weekly content coming out on AP you can Follow AP on Twitter, or Like AP on Facebook. And if you want make sure you never miss an interview, and want to read articles before everyone else, click here and sign up for the Newsletter. You'll be the first to know when articles are released and learn about other exciting content down the road.
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