I spoke with FC Motown coach Sacir Hot to understand how an amateur side from New Jersey got this far and how they are preparing to face the Rochester Rhinos. Several players on FC Motown have experience playing together and have developed a strong chemistry that spurs on Hot’s squad.
“The familiarity is very important and was a huge factor in the win over Copa. In that game we could have gotten frustrated by the lack of end product, but the guys fought for each other and found a way to win,” Hot said.
“Sure, knowing each other's tendencies is useful,” he continued, “Machado, Castellanos, Santiago, Ferrer and Gehman are players that grew up 5 minutes from our home field in Morris Plains. They have had crazy soccer journeys playing all across the world but are now with us and are energized by playing together again.”
As much as Motown’s journey to this point is a feel-good story, the club is under no illusion about the task ahead of them but won’t just roll over in Rochester.
“We consider Rochester a giant in the US soccer world and they have always done very well in this Cup (winning it all in 1999). Listen we know this isn't a coin flip game or anything, but we won't be scared against Rochester. It isn't in our guys DNA to back down from challenges or adversity.”
“We scrimmaged Ecuador U20, Red Bulls II and NYCFC in the past year and know that we will have the ball for stretches. This isn't a ‘9 men behind the ball and launch a speculative ball’-type team,” Hot said.
“We have been prone to team defensive mistakes and have been in a brutal finishing slump (which you saw against NJ Copa),” Motown’s coach admitted. But when players are hungry for success and eager to grow, last week’s mistake can easily become this week’s lesson.
In terms of that hunger and eagerness from Motown’s players, Hot told me that getting attention from professional clubs is one of the benefits of a good run in the Open Cup. “As far as our guys getting eyes on them, yes it is a component,” Hot said. The coach told me that 8 players from his side have received contract offers since FC Motown’s inception. “I am sure that Rochester will look at some of our guys due to Christiano's blazing start for them.”
Christiano Francois is a Haitian winger who had two assists and earned a penalty for the Rhinos against the Charlotte Independence back on April 29. Francois also has a history with Rochester’s Open Cup opponent. When Christiano moved from his native country to the United States as a teenager, he enrolled at Saint Benedict’s Preparatory School in Newark, NJ, not too far from Morristown.
“He did well at [the University of] Maryland and then bounced around professionally the past few years before arriving at our team last year. Imagine his pace against Garden State Soccer League defenders... just unfair. He trained with us all winter (our owner Scott [Kindzierski] drove him to practice each night) and was fit and sharp when he had his Rochester trial. His success makes it very easy for Motown to attract aspiring pro players.”
“The underrated part of Christiano's game is his work rate. We don't know if Rochester fans have seen that yet, but he works both ways. He is a wonderful teammate, soccer junkie and with health he should be a fixture in the Rochester starting 11. If he keeps making USL Team of the Week, forget Motown - Rochester may have hard time keeping him. I told Chris though that this taste of success should make him work harder. He gets it.”
If the 14 players who see the field on Wednesday also ‘get it’ the hosts may be in for a surprise. This mentality to not rest of the laurels of past achievements means that FC Motown will use its 2-1 extra time victory over New Jersey Copa FC as kindling to get motivated for this week’s match.
FC Motown is a well-drilled side full of players with professional experience that operates a cohesive style of soccer. The Rochester Rhinos would be prudent to take Motown seriously as a threat on Wednesday as the visitors will hope they aren’t re-acquainted with Francois too early.
The match kicks off 7:00PM on Wednesday, May 17.