One thousand six hundred nine days.
Or if you prefer other measurements of time, 230 weeks, 53 months, or four years and five months.
That is how long it has been since the time Rochester last played a professional soccer (or futbol if you are following around the world) game.
On Friday, though, that number resets, much to the joy of so many supporters in Northern New York.
RNY FC will take on STL CITY2 in the inaugural
MLS NEXT PRO League game at 8 p.m. EDT (7 p.m. local time and 12 a.m. in England), which will be the first Rochester match since October 28, 2017. The occasion is also a big one for St. Louis, as its new team prepares for life in the MLS starting in 2023.
For Rochester supporters–including the Oak Street Brigade, the North Star Ultras, and any and all other fans who have enjoyed games over the last couple decades–this is a momentous occasion: the return of the beautiful game to their beloved city.
But it is not only a huge day for the fans: the players and staff around the club have a mix of nervous excitement that you get in the days leading up to a season opener.
Midfielder Pedro Dolabella is one of the new RNY FC players that has found his way to Rochester to help this team rebuild. Dolabella has been a winner wherever he has been since his arrival in America from Brazil. The 6-4 center mid helped the
Pennington School end St. Benedict’s 27-year New Jersey title reign in 2016, and then led Marshall University to the 2020 NCAA national championship, which is the only team title the school has ever won at the top level of Division 1 sports (football won two 1AA titles).
Dolabella comes into season hungry to help RNY FC, and keep building his silverware collection to his resume.
“I did not want to stop playing after such a great 2021 for me personally at Marshall to conquer the whole college tournament,” Dolabella said. “I was able to start my path in the United States really well back in high school at Pennington winning a state championship, and winning a national championship at Marshall. I just want to do this now over here with Rochester. It would be a great way to start my professional career. Hopefully I have some great games and will be able to contribute to the team. Hopefully we can lift the title.”
Dolabella has already come to love his new home, and wants to do his best to make the people and fans of Rochester proud.
“This club has a huge history in the game,” Dolabella said. “The club has won titles, and achieved so much in its history. I know they have been away from the league since 2017, when they played the last USL season. But Rochester is a big soccer city, for sure, with all this history, and the fans are buzzing to have soccer back in the city. They are having a watch party in one of the pubs here, and that is so awesome.
“Hopefully, we can back up that excitement with results as well.”
There is cautious optimism about the RNY FC team heading into the season, after a very competitive preseason victory over Toronto II. There are former international players at the youth level, players who have played in Europe and the first division in Brazil, as well as Dolabella, a NCAA champion.
RNY FC Sporting Director Dr. Lee Tucker has assembled a squad that is very competitive, and may end up surprising a lot of teams in the league. It is filled with a good mix of players with experience and youth, and there are a fair few people that follow the game that think this team could compete right away in the Eastern Conference’s Northeast Division: RNY FC will compete with New England II, New York City II, Philadelphia II, and Toronto II for the division title.
“Despite the disruption to our pre-season, we are so pleased with the attitude of the players,” Tucker said. “They have worked extremely hard and we know that will stand us in good stead for the season. Whilst we may be behind schedule in our preparation, I know that Bruno, his coaching team, and the players will not be using that as an excuse. We have high standards and expect to perform at a good level against St. Louis, and hopefully come back home with three points.”
Dolabella spoke as well about the team, and is excited to see what they can do in 2022.
“For sure, we have a very strong team,” Dolabella said. “We have some older players as well as college players, players that have played abroad. We played Toronto FC II, a team that will be in our conference, and we played really well. We beat them 1-0.
“We have have Caíque (GK
Caíque Luiz Santos da Purificação), who played first division in Brazil, which is obviously unreal. He also played for the Brazil U-20 national team. I think the whole team is pretty solid. We have a player that won the USL with Orange County last year, but also have some players coming from college that are really hungry, and ready to prove people wrong.
“We have that buzz right now, with the season right around the corner. I feel like everybody is really looking forward to it.”
Opening Day Fixture:
RNY FC will take on another new club, and the lone other team in MLS NEXT PRO right now that does not have a MLS parent club (yet):
The St. Louis team will join MLS in 2023, but for now, fans in the Lou will get behind this side. The atmosphere is expected to be wild on Friday night, as the
two teams kick off the 2022 season and the new league.
“We have been working so hard in the preseason, even in the low temperatures, and snow, and I can’t even imagine what the buzz is like in St. Louis for this game,” Dolabella said.
For Dolabella, the game is not only his first in what he hopes to be a long professional career, but also a reunion from his Marshall days: former teammates Max Schneider and Vitro Dias play for STL CITY2.
“I have two of my teammates from Marshall on St. Louis, so I am looking forward just to being on the field Friday,” Dolabella said. “It can’t come soon enough. I am pretty confident in our team. Just being able to start off the league with a win and three points will be ideal.”
STL CITY2 vs. RNY FC
Friday, March 25
8 p.m. EDT, 7 p.m. CDT, 12 a.m. GMT
Where to watch: