FC Buffalo signs Englishman, UB keeper to summer roster
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • March 07, 2013 @ 10:24am
With the overwhelming majority of his 2013 summer roster already set, FC Buffalo head coach Brendan Murphy can now focus on filling holes, ensuring competition at all positions and luring out-of-towners he’s had his eye on for a while.
Nazareth College midfielder James Wheeler—hailing from Macclesfield, England—has joined the Blitzers after posting 10 goals and seven assists in his junior season with the Golden Flyers (what the heck is a Golden Flyer?).
A poised finisher, Wheeler was perfect on both his penalties and now ranks 10th all-time in Nazareth scoring. Wheeler was named to the Empire 8 Conference’s first team, Nazareth’s lone representative.
After the Blitzers’ second tryout at Sahlen’s Sports Park, Murphy mentioned Wheeler as a player he had his eye on—even if the 5’11, 165-pound midfielder hadn’t been available for either training session.
“[Wheeler] has real good numbers, and I’ve been speaking to his coach [Danny Gilbertson],” Murphy explained. “I really respect his coach’s opinion, and he speaks very highly of him. He’d be another one I’d be very interested in seeing.”
Wheeler’s addition is a sign that FC Buffalo’s attack will have a much different flavor this summer than 2012, as Josh Faga, MLS supplemental draft selection Mike Reidy, Rochester Rhinos’ Kendell McFayden and former Irish professional Matt Stedman appear unlikely to return to the fold.
The FC Buffalo gaffer is quite familiar with Figler’s body of work, as Murphy spent three years as UB’s goalkeeper coach. While Rio Grande transfer Jonathan Viscosi was the Bulls’ first choice between the pipes, Murphy praised Figler’s work ethic and attitude as a sturdy backup. As a member of Buffalo’s division foe, Greater Binghamton FC, in 2012, Figler was beaten twice by McFayden in the Blitzers’ lone 2012 win.
The soon-to-be senior at UB will challenge former Canisius goalie Kareem Gray for the top spot on FC Buffalo’s depth chart, while Medaille’s sterling keeper Nick Kurtz is still linked to a possible signing with the Blitzers.
Though the bulk of FC Buffalo’s roster is in place, there are a few more names to keep an eye on in the coming months. St. Lawrence University junior midfielder—a two-time regional D-III All-American—Andrew Bednarsky is on Murphy’s radar as a midfielder that fits snugly in the Blitzers’ preferred style. As the team’s keeper, Murphy led St. Lawrence and coach Bob Durocher to an undefeated season and national championship in 1999.
“He loves possession of the ball—he keeps it no matter what,” Murphy explained. “He never gives it over—when he touches it, the next touch is either going to be a goal or by another player on his team. Regardless of where he is on the field, he’s going to keep the ball for you, and that’s the style we want to play.”
An FC Buffalo connection may even further strengthen the Blitzers’ attack and international flavor—former Blitzers and current Finland professional Dan Stevens, from his days with the Kalamazoo Outrage in the Professional Development League, recently encouraged two Brazilians to give FC Buffalo a chance. Murphy noted that he’d received a Skype from Brazil indicating their interest.
Marcelo Lima and Rafael Danta (pictured, right) are the two South Americans who are currently playing professional futsal in Brazil, but there’s no word on whether these two will make the jump back to America—they suited up for Hinds Community College four years ago—and obstacles like work visas, local employment and such could stand in the way.
(Header photo courtesy of Nate Benson—Figler is the keeper in that picture, while internal photo of Danta and Lima is courtesy of the Kalamazoo Gazette.)