CITY IN SEASON: DECEMBER 2023 (HEWERTON MOREIRA)
Go behind the scenes with Utica City FC as a part of our City In Season interview series!
Off to a hot start, Utica City FC (4-0-0) is tied for second place in the Eastern Conference, notching two wins apiece against Eastern Conference foes in Harrisburg and Baltimore. UCFC is averaging 10 goals per game with a goal differential of +15— Head Coach Hewerton Moreira talks about how and why this team is clicking early.
The start of the 2023-24 season has seen a noted improvement compared to the 2022-23 campaign, kicking off the season with four straight Ws. What do you think contributed to this change?
Some of our young players are starting to get a little bit more comfortable with the game— not that they became veterans overnight, but they're starting to understand the game at a deeper level.
The way how we play our system and philosophy that we implemented last year started from the zero of in terms of them getting to know me, getting to know how to play, getting to know each other. This season, we didn't start from zero. We already started from where we left off last year and that's a big help as well.
Players also did not like or enjoy the way how the season ended. They have some fire in them to succeed-- that's been helping a lot. A couple of additions as well that we had in the team helped the team to become stronger.
Talk about the impact of our offseason acquisitions (Franck Tayou, Moh Ndiaye, Cole Stephens, and Nelson Santana).
Adding a player like Franck Tayou in your roster helps you to become an even more dangerous team. Last year, we were working a lot as a team. We had some guys that could score. Gordy [Gurson] scored a lot of goals, but adding someone like Franck that was a 4X MVP— even when he's not scoring, he ends up drawing attention, making other players free on the field. That frees us up to score more goals. He is a threat, a natural threat. He's been playing really well, defending really well. Not scoring necessarily a lot of goals just yet. He will soon, but you know, the way how he is making players better on the field is amazing.
Moh has been helping us with ball distribution, leadership in the back as well. Cole, he's a young player with a lot of speed, potential left footer that we need. He knows how to finish and did a great job this past weekend. And Santana has been adding the calmness in the back, the experience that you need. You know, the presence of a veteran. Very good on the ball and his intensity is amazing. So adding those players definitely made the team more dangerous.
UCFC is second in the league in Goals For (40). What’s been the philosophy on offense this year?
Scoring goals is going to be natural for a team that has threats and a lot of weapons. You know, Franck [Tayou], Gordy [Gurson], Taylor [Walter Bond], Keaton [Woods], Cole [Stephens], Ronnie [Diniz], Rafa [Godoi], Nilton [de Andrade], Moh [Ndiaye]— we have a lot of players that can put the ball in the back of the net. I think our transition has been very effective. Our counterattacks has been effective. That helps.
I think last year we had those opportunities, but unfortunately, we were unable to capitalize on the opportunities that we create. This season, we've been effective. The philosophy has been finish the offense with quality. However, with speed. Players that we have, especially the second, the speed that we have in the second floors and midfielders and even targets is helping us to create those goal opportunities and finish.
Through four games, who’s made the biggest impression on you?
The team as a whole has stepped up. I don't think it's one player in particular that's had the biggest impression on me.
Obviously, I never worked with Franck before. You know, for a guy that has accomplished things that he has individually, his work ethic is amazing. The way how he works and how much he wants to win is contagious— that helps the players. But I think it's been more like a team effort. [Keaton] Woods has stepped up like tremendously. Ronnie [Diniz] had a fantastic weekend and that's good for the team.
The way how the team has been playing together in general and how players stepped up for the season, preparing themselves. I think it's been a team effort.
You can't forget Gordy. Missing this weekend against Harrisburg because he was hurt, he took it upon himself to help the other players that haven't played to have an opportunity and they actually did really well.
New this year for UCFC fans is United Elite Krajisnik FC, our MASL 2 team. Talk about the impact that’s had for player development and someone that’s caught your eye early.
I think it's important for an organization to have an M2 team. I think if every team in the league would be able to have an M2 team, that would help to create your own talents, to shape up some of the of the young talent that we have for soccer and help them to adapt to the indoor soccer game.
Our M2 team did a fantastic job in Baltimore. They played extremely well, it was a good game for them. The more that they are starting to adapt to the philosophy that we have, they'll be helping us in the long run because, you know, you never know what can happen during the season. It's not the longest season, but it's a long season. Some players get hurt and you would be able to pull players from the M2 team that's starting to play under the same system and philosophy that you have.
So it's good to generate, create, and shape up your own talents from local players that sometimes like to play outdoor, but come back on the side in the winter to their hometown. Sometimes like a giving an opportunity to those players in indoor soccer, you might be able to discover a lot of talents around.
Utica City FC returns to the Adirondack Bank Center on Friday, December 22nd to take on the Baltimore Blast. Tickets are still available at ucfctickets.com.