FC Motown pose for a team photo before a match against Lansdowne Bhoys on Oct. 17, 2016. Photo: FC Motown
In four short years, New Jersey’s FC Motown went from co-ed team to a Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. The New Jersey club’s meteoric rise began in 2012 and its success has been a surprise. Even to themselves.
Even FC Motown co-founders Scott Kindzierski and Dan Karosen didn’t imagine this when they started the team in Morristown, N.J., the town where they both went to high school.
“The two of us are real competitive guys, having played collegiately, and we wanted to put a team together and have control over and just see what we could do,” said Kindzierski. “The vision at the time was just to get guys who played in college and give them an avenue to play soccer after their college careers had ended.”
The team proved to be successful, making a deep run in the 2016 USASA Cup, but they followed a somewhat unorthodox path. Forget the images of players training long, lonely hours together long after dark.
“At the time we weren’t having trainings, we just showed up on game day,” said Kindzierski.
Things changed during that run and after the season.
“We took the approach that training was gonna be an integral part not only of the success of our team but the success of the players so they can be ready when their numbers are called,” said Kindzierski. “It’s really payed dividends this year and we’ve taken it to another level, and we’ve allowed guys to be ready and get signed to USL contracts. Now we’re playing 3-4 nights a week.”
The team has higher ambitions now.
“We are in negotiations to take over a smaller youth club of about 10 teams,” said Kindzierski. “We want to try to team up with a MLS team to be a feeder system for them and be in the USL or affiliated with a USL club. We have some good connections with New York City FC. [A second team] is something that they don’t have right now, so we brought that to the table, but it’s something that we envision.”
That ambition and effort has paid off in their USOC qualifying run, which was not without wrinkles, like a rare no-show by the four-time US Open Cup champion Greek American SC from New York City’s Cosmopolitan League.
“[The Greeks] had 3-4 players show up the day of the game and I got a call 15 minutes before game time saying they weren’t gonna have enough guys show up for the game,” said Kindzierski. “I think they were having problems with their roster but it’s such a great tradition with that team. They’ve won it before.”
That forfeit did little to prepare FC Motown for their next challenge, against the Landsdowne Bhoys, also in the Cosmopolitan League.
“It’s a New York – New Jersey rivalry first of all. And the Cosmopolitan league is a very physical league,” said Kindzierski. “We’re more of a finesse type of team with a lot of Latin and South American players.”
A quick start put FC Motown ahead 2-0, but that didn’t last as the Bhoys broke the shutout before the end of the first half. With about two minutes to go, the Bhoys converted a penalty kick to tie the score.
“It was pretty deflating for our guys, and if it had gone into overtime I don’t think we would have won it. But we had a set piece with about a minute into extra time, and we scored. Literally right after they kicked off again, the whistle blew. They didn’t expect that, especially after their big run last year.”
Kindzierski attributes a big part of their success to their coach, Sacir Hot, a former New York Red Bulls and US youth international who joined FC Motown as a player-coach.
“That was the hardest thing at first,” said Kindzierski. “He didn’t want to go the pro route anymore. He was the third homegrown player for the Red Bulls, played on the first team, trained on Borussia Dortmund, so he has a really high pedigree. So he started coaching for us as a player manager and he said it was just too hard to coach and play at the same time, so he decided to give up his playing career and coach full time.”
Hot brought with him not only a professional mindset, but an impressive Rolodex.
“He’s gotten us some very good players as well because he’s really hooked into the soccer world,” said Kindzierski. “It’s been a who’s who of players who’ve come to trainings – we’ve had Mehdi Bellouchy, Giuseppe Rossi came and trained with us when he was home, Matt Miazga, so it’s a who’s who.”
The team has already produced professional players from its ranks, like Cristiano Francois, who signed with D.C. United in 2014 and now plays with the Rochester Rhinos of the USL.
“Cristiano Francois has a great pedigree. He has one of the highest workrates I’ve ever seen. He played on the Haitian National team, he played in the CONCACAF Cup last year.”
The team still has talent without Francois.
“Marcus Hackett is probably our most dynamic player. He used to play football and could have gone to Division I if he was a little bit bigger,” said Kindzierski. “He’s probably our best athlete. He went to William Patterson and was the player of the year there, he was an All-American there for four years.
“We have another dynamic player, Andres Barriel, he’s a difference maker who can give a USL team trouble with his style of play. He’s a very unique player. He’s got a lot of speed and he’s a magician on the ball.”
The team enters US Open Cup play red hot in the Garden State Soccer League. The Celtics are currently 12-0 heading into Wednesday’s match against New Jersey Copa FC (NPSL).
What does Kindzierski expect from his club in its Open Cup debut?
“We’ve got a good chance. We started training in January. I think we’ll be training as much as USL teams. I think we’re as talented as any USL team out there, it’s just a matter of executing our game plan and scoring our goals. But we have a fighting chance against all of them and hopefully it’ll be our day.”