Q&A WITH HEAD COACH RYAN HALL
In his first season at the helm with Utica City FC, Ryan Hall exceeded all expectations. Not only did he lead UCFC to a division title, but he was also named a finalist for MASL Coach of the Year for the 2018-19 season. With another season with The City right around the corner, we sat down to ask him a few questions about the team, the newcomers and the MASL landscape.
What are your expectations coming into your second season with UCFC?
“Obviously, we have very high expectations, especially with how we played last year. Anything short of a playoff berth and a championship would be a disappointment.”
How are you approaching the start of the 2019-20 season?
“It’s definitely going to be challenging playing Baltimore in the first two games, but you have to. The indoor game is a game of mistakes and it’s unforgiving. So, if we’re rusty and not all together heading into the first two games, we’ll wind up being 0-2. So, we have to make sure in the preseason that we’re focused, crisp and clean so that when these guys are under pressure in a hostile environment like Baltimore’s arena and even at the Adirondack Bank Center for our home opener. We can’t afford to make mistakes in front of Andrew (Coughlin) and we’ll capitalize on Baltimore’s mistakes if they happen to be a little bit rusty.”
What can we expect to see from the new free agent signings?
“Obviously, we have a bunch of new players this year. We lost a lot of veterans whether it was to free agency or retirement, so we reloaded with a lost of high-powered, fast-paced players. We’re bringing a couple futsal national team players, players that can take defenders on one-on-one. (James) Togbah is a big, strong defender out of the back. (Diego) Zuñiga is a free kick and ball wizard where he can take players on. Moises Gonzalez has an absolute cannon for a right foot and (Ricardo De Queiroz) Diegues is the same as Bo (Jelovac), just a big, strong target. Hopefully, we can get everybody on the same page. We want to pick up where we left off last year.”
Which returning player do you expect to see the most improvement from?
“For me, it’s Liam Callahan. Liam has grown exponentially over the last two years, dating back to our time with the Silver Knights. He did get hit with the injury bug heading into the playoff race last year, but with his tenacity and his footwork, he can really take over a game. So, as long as he stays healthy, he can have an absolutely explosive year.”
How do you plan on beating Baltimore this year?
“We have to limit our mistakes. Throughout the season last year, we were neck and neck with them. We were one of the few teams that could go down to Maryland and beat them and what killed us in the playoffs were mistakes, either missed assignments defensively or turnovers in the back. So, in order to beat teams such as Baltimore or Milwaukee, we have to be able to be very clean with the ball, limit our mistakes and capitalize on their mistakes.”
Is there a new team that can pose a threat because of their offseason transactions?
“The talk of the league right now is Florida. They opened up their budget and signed a lot of veteran players. That’s the team to watch, but it’s yet to be seen if they’ll all be able to play on the same page and under the same system. You always have to keep an eye out for Milwaukee. Milwaukee and Baltimore have been the top two teams in the league for almost 15 years now and it’s for a reason. They have great coaching and depth in in their programs.”
Do you have a message for the fans as the season approaches?
“We’re gonna pick up where we left off. We have a very talented group of guys coming back and we’ve added some really keen players who I think can fill the gaps in what we were missing last year. It’s going to be a fun ride. There’s a lot of exciting players and a lot of hard-nose players. It should be a good year. We have high expectations, as we should. We won the division last year and there’s no reason we shouldn’t win the division this year. Anything less than a championship run would be a disappointment. I’m excited to get back to the AUD in front of the fans and getting this show on the road.”
Fans can get their first glimpse of the 2019-20 team on Sunday, November 17 as they take on Canada in an exhibition match. Just seven days later Utica City opens at home against their rivals the Baltimore Blast in an early season rematch of last year’s playoff series on Sunday, November 24. Individual game tickets are on sale now by visiting empirestatetix.com or by calling the Box Office at 315-790-9070.
For the latest Utica City FC news visit www.uticacityfc.com or follow the team on Facebook (www.facebook.com/uticacityfc), Twitter (@UticaCityFC), Instagram (@UticaCityFC), and the Utica City FC YouTube Channel.