By Scott Adamson
The inaugural season of the Asheville City Soccer Club was solid on and off the pitch.
Averaging nearly 2,000 fans at Memorial Stadium – led by the South Slope Blues supporters group – ACSC finished 3-6-3 and reached the National Premier Soccer League playoffs.
Not bad for a first-year club.
It was community soccer done well, and ultimately a NPSL success story.
Now under the guidance of Coach Mick Giordano, Asheville City looks for even better results as the 2018 campaign draws near.
“I think most people would say I’m a players’ coach,” said Giordano, a UNC Asheville alum who is also assistant men’s soccer coach at Wofford College. “I care about the guys on the team and want them to be successful. While I’m easy to talk to, I’m also intense during training and show my emotions. I hold our group to an extremely high standard and won’t settle for anything less. I want things done a certain way and I care about winning more than breathing. I know what the guys can achieve and want to be instrumental in helping them reach their goals as well as our standards.”
Back in the fold are last year’s leading goal scorer, Elma N’For, and assists leader Tom Deely. Once the full roster is set ahead of a May start, Giordano will decide what style best fits his team’s personality. He isn’t going into the season with a preconceived notion.
“In terms of a formation, I think it is completely based on personnel,” he said. “Too many people want to force a 4-3-3/3-5-2/4-4-2 down a team’s throat when they aren’t built for it. It’s mine and my staff’s job to make sure we put the boys in a formation they can find the most success. At the end of the day, it’s a players’ game and the players are the ones that count. It’s my responsibility to help them find ways to be successful. When we win games it will be because the players did the work and played for the badge.
“If we lose, it’s because I’ve made a mistake in our preparation and didn’t do what I needed to for the group to find success.”
ACSC learned Memorial Stadium provided a decided home field advantage a year ago, and Giordano says the bond between the city and its fans is a strong one.
“I’d say our supporters represent the city of Asheville,” he said. “The South Slopes Blues, our supporter group, is wonderful. They truly represent what we stand for as a club. That being said, we have numerous fans from out of town and watch our live stream every chance they can.”
And while Major League Soccer and the United Soccer League have established themselves as the darlings of the country’s soccer establishment, NPSL teams – like the one nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains – are carving out their own niche.
The mission statement of the league (which unofficially functions as a fourth division circuit) is, “to grow the sport of soccer in the United States of America by providing our members with a sustainable business model and professionally managed soccer platform, and by serving as an inspiration to players and soccer fans in our members’ communities.”
That philosophy is ideal for ACSC and keeps it a community-driven club.
“The NPSL is the perfect fit because it allows our club to grow, learn how to compete at a high level, build our brand, and bring in homegrown (youth players) from our local community along with some of the most talented players in the college game that come from all over the world,” Giordano explains. “The NPSL gives us a platform to understand how we need to operate, from ticket sales to recruiting and scouting without jumping straight into, say, a Division III or Division II level within U.S. Soccer and having to take our lumps.
“I think it’s a massive risk to jump straight to that level as a new club. You have no basis and no foundation. The NPSL allows us to build a foundation for our club in a regionalized league. I’d say our conference is one of the toughest in the entire league. So we’re battle tested every time we put on the City badge. We need to find success here and focus on the present before thinking of playing at a different level.”
On Friday, May 4, Asheville City hosts the Myrtle Beach Mutiny of the Premier Development League and begins NPSL regular season competition on May 8 when the Georgia Revolution comes to Memorial Stadium.
Both matches will give Giordano’s club a chance to build some early momentum in front of a partisan crowd. And it’ll establish even deeper ties between ACSC and its supporters.
“I think having a close bond with the team gives our community another opportunity to believe in something,” he said. “It gives them another reason to celebrate, hopefully. Or when we stumble, it ruins their day just as it does for the staff and players. I think it also brings the knowledge and love of the game to more people. Our country is behind the world in a lot of ways when thinking about football. Some of this has been seen with our failure to qualify for the World Cup. I think having a community club helps grow the game and will continue to inspire players to achieve more. It will raise the overall knowledge of the game.
“While there are more issues to fix in this country, improving the overall passion and interest in our game are two things that will help push us forward.”
For ticket information, go to ashevillecitysc.com.