Utica City FC set for MASL home opener Sunday
UTICA — The Utica City Football Club has a new head coach, speed and a hunger.
Though the team dropped an 8-7 contest on the road against the Baltimore Blast to open the season, UCFC can turn it around right away with a road game today against the Harrisburg Heat and the home opener at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Adirondack Bank Center.
Veteran midfielder Nate Bourdeau, a Baldwinsville graduate, has been with the team for 11 years since it was the Syracuse Silver Knights. The team moved to Utica and rolled out the new name for the 2018-19 season. Bourdeau played five games for the Florida Tropics in the 2020-21 season when Utica used the COVID-19 opt-out for the Major Arena Soccer League season.
“Great camp, our intensity has been great,” said Bourdeau after practice earlier this week. Despite the opening day loss, he said, it was “Extremely positive to see the battle and the fight we had in the group.” He continued, “I’m very pleased and very impressed with a lot of the new young players and the older players coming out and coming together. The chemistry’s been very good so far … The vibes are great. Energy is high. We’re ready to go.”
Some of the new players have helped provide a spark, he said. “The competitiveness is there for sure.” He continued, “We’ve gotten a lot younger, so the style of play is probably faster. More transition. We have hungry, aggressive players so it’s definitely going to be maybe even more of a high paced, intense side from us this year.”
Utica is coming off a season with a 10-14 overall record while missing out on a playoff appearance.
Hewerton Moreira has taken over as the team’s head coach. The 42-year-old Brazilian and MASL veteran played five games last season with Utica. Moreira coached the St. Louis Ambush from 2017 to 2021 and had a stint with Cedar Rapids. In four seasons with St. Louis, he had a 30-47-5 record.
Moreira had a 15-season career as a player, appearing in 301 games and posting 198 goals and 174 assists. Prior to Utica City, he played with the Milwaukee Wave, San Diego Sockers and the St. Louis Ambush. He won three league championships during his seven years with the Wave. Bourdeau praised his championship experience and “wealth of knowledge.”
The first game, the coach said early this week, “was a great test for us. I think there’s a lot of positives in the game. A few negatives as well, that we are going to be able to work on this week in practice. Offensively we are happy. Players are scoring goals.” Defensively, the team has to learn to be organized, he said. “We are very fortunate for the veterans” helping the young and new players to acclimate, he added.
“In my head we’re never going to be good enough,” he said, as the goal is to be perfect. “In three weeks, the progress has been tremendous.” He added, “We’re only going to get better.”
As for Sunday, he said, “I’m psyched.” He added of the Utica Aud: “The atmosphere is amazing.”
The coach said the team has impressed him with “the speed of players,” remarking that this is “The fastest team I’ve every coached.”
Midfielder/forward Gordy Gurson is in his first year with Utica but the former MASL Rookie of the Year made an immediate impact against the Blast when he recorded a hat trick in his Utica debut.
“We’re truly building something here. We have a good core group. I’m excited to see where we’re going to end up,” Gurson said. “With this coach and everyone behind him I think we can go somewhere.”
The team is part of a seven-team Eastern Division with Baltimore, Harrisburg, Kansas City, St. Louis, Florida and Milwaukee.
Utica will play 24 games this season. Most homes games are on Sunday afternoons at 2 or 3 p.m. The exceptions are 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 28; 7 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 7; 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 11; and 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 1.
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