Two and a half years ago Newtown, Connecticut and the surrounding area was devastated by the school shooting at Sandy Hook.
The local amateur team took to the field to raise money and awareness for the local organizations in an effort to represent and stand for their community. Games against the NASL's New York Cosmos, a 6-0 loss in New Britain, CT as part of a doubleheader featuring the New England Revolution, as well as games against the Harrisburg City Islanders and the Boston Rams were played for charity.
Now the Pride are set to face the USL's New York Red Bulls II from The Ballpark At Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, CT tonight at 7:30pm. We spoke with Newtown's keeper, Drew Nucifora, a former all-NEC player at Fairleigh Dickinson and former professional with the then A-League's Puerto Rico Islander's back in 2004.
"Playing for the town, surrounded by the people of this community is an honor," said Nucifora. "We want to do our best to represent Newtown, everyone was affected either directly or indirectly and we're proud to do our part to better the community."
Newtown's 2014-15 season in the CSL was sensational, going 11-4-1 and winning the league by four points. In the playoffs, Newtown as the top seed were placed in the semi-finals, recording a 5-0 victory over Hartford FC and a 3-0 victory over Glastonbury Celtic in the final. Newtown also advanced to the final of the Region I USASA Werner Fricker Cup, losing in the final to Westchester Majors. Nucifora credits the dedication and talent on the roster to the teams success.
"There's a lot of talent on this roster, guys who can play at a high level and committed to it," explained Nucifora. Being able to play every week, travel for the open cup games, there's a real dedication to this team from everyone involved."
One of the biggest differences between Newtown and the Red Bulls is essentially training, the Pride usually train just once a week together, not an easy task when juggling family and work commitments. But leading scorer Mauricio Turizo played in the NPSL for the Brooklyn Italians a few years ago and current Rochester Rhino Ouna Obasi played with the team back in 2013 as well before signing with the USL side.
Certainly Newtown's squad is not without some talent. There's extra motivation as well when given a chance to play against a team associated with a professional, MLS club, many of whom featured in the Red Bulls win over English giants Chelsea 4-2 last week.
"From a playing perspective, many of our players are former pros and you're always looking for one last shot before you hang up your cleats," said Nucifora. "The Red Bulls players are playing for pro contracts, just had a great opportunity to play against Chelsea. It's motivation for both clubs games like this, to see if we can play at that level."
Whether or not Newtown can flip the Chelsea script on the Red Bulls, tonight's game in Bridgeport will be a wonderful event to benefit Newtown Youth and Family Services.