Soccer: Blackwatch returns after two-year hiatus

With more emphasis on local players, the Blackwatch Premier Highlanders return after a two-year hiat

With more emphasis on local players, the Blackwatch Premier Highlanders return after a two-year hiatus.

“We have a core of four or five players who have come up through the Blackwatch program,” said coach F.J. Zwicklbauer, whose club hosts the MPS Portland Phoenix in its Premier Development League soccer opener Friday at 7:30 at Union College’s Frank Bailey Stadium. “It’s more of a younger team than what we had before.

“The league goal is to limit the number of older players, and be truly a U-23 league for college players. That’s why the league was created.”

The PDL is a 68-team, four-conference league that provides college players a chance to play at a higher level, while maintaining their college eligibility. The Highlanders will play in the nine-team Northeast Division of the Eastern Conference, meeting each division club twice.

The Highlanders roster is heavy on players that competed on Section II teams during their high school careers. David Burke (Shenendehowa, UAlbany), Adam Costello (Saratoga Springs, Colgate), Josh Gregg (Schalmont, Saint Rose), Austin Hughes (Bethlehem, Binghamton), Trey Jasenski (Mohonasen, UNLV), Darko Knezevic (Bethlehem, UAlbany), Rob Millock (Shaker, Harvard), T.J. Popolizio (Shenendehowa, Brown) and Roberto Squeglia (Mohonasen) are all on the roster.

The Highlanders, and their later incarnation as the Albany Admirals, played in the league from 2003-2007. Steve Freeman, the Blackwatch Premier founder and president, serves as the team’s director of player personnel.

Zwicklbauer intends to take a developmental approach to his job.

“We’re going to stress the development of the players,” said the former high school All-American from Guilderland, who played with Freeman on previous incarnations of this team. “My intention is to make sure that when they go back to their college teams, that they are better players.”

Zwicklbauer can also draw from the program’s Super 20 team, which also competes under the United Soccer Leagues banner.

“Half of the PDL team are also eligible to play Super 20,” said Zwicklbauer. “We plan to train the teams together, so there is more familiarity.”

Local players on the Super 20 team include David Clemens of Shenendehowa, Taylor Esper of Albany Academy, Caz Rafalik and Pete Walsh of Saratoga and Sahr Nyuma of Guilderland.

A longer-range plan would be for the PDL team to be comprised of the best Capital Region players, regardless of club affiliation.

“I’m here to unite the best players, to showcase Capital Region talent,” Zwicklbauer said. “We’d like to try to get more players, from other clubs.

“The younger guys in the area need to be playing at a high level. We’d like to get them to come home in the summer and play and represent the area.”


(home games at Frank Bailey Stadium)

May 14 — vs. Portland, 7:30

May 15 — at Western Mass, 7

May 21 — at Vermont, 7:30

May 22 — vs. Brooklyn, 7:30

June 4 — vs. Vermont, 7:30

June 6 — vs. Ottawa, 4

June 12 — at Ottawa, 6

June 18 — vs. New Hampshire, 7:30

June 19 — vs. Western Mass, 7:30

June 26 — vs. Westchester, 7:30

June 27 —vs. Long Island, 4

July 2 — at New Hampshire, 7:30

July 11 — at Portland, 4

July 17 — at Westchester, 7:30

July 18 — at Long Island, 6:30

July 24 — at Brooklyn, 5.

Categories: Sports

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