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Back home, McFayden set to tear up NPSL

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

If there’s been one chink in FC Buffalo’s armor in the club’s two years of existence, it’s been an inability to finish scoring chances. Andy Tiedt has served as a dangerous target forward who can hold the ball up and win aerial challenges, but finding a sniper—one with strong scoring instincts—hasn’t been easy for the Blitzers.

Enter first year Blitzer Kendell McFayden, another player hungry for a second professional opportunity. 

While there’s no guarantee that the Williamsville North HS and Medaille College graduate will play exclusively up front for former and current head coach Dan Krzyzanowicz—he played center back in FC Buffalo’s 1-0 scrimmage loss to Rochester—McFayden’s career aspirations are unquestionably as a striker.

In the organization’s 26 matches, the Blitzers have only scored more than two goals eight times. Blessed with blinding speed and supreme confidence, McFayden will be an immediate challenge for defenders, especially as the opposition tires.

First career professional goal

If McFayden ever doubts his scoring ability, he can harken back to his first professional goal from his first appearance with the Austin Aztex of the USL PRO league two years ago. Entering late as a substitute with his team nursing a 2-1 advantage, McFayden used his pace to latch onto a long through-ball before beating the keeper to the back post. He earned a Gatorade shower after the game, his teammates’ celebration of McFayden’s first goal.

When he explained the accomplishment, however, McFayden was more focused on his diagonal run that freed him from his defender rather than the one-vs.-one finish against the keeper. The former Spartan and Maverick checked back to a free kick just beyond midfield, and when the ball didn’t come his way, he sprinted diagonally behind the center back, who’d followed McFayden’s initial check a little too zealously. Well aware that he had acres of space in behind the defense, McFayden’s blazing speed and a keen long ball from Yordany Alvarez sent the striker in alone.

Twists, turns and misfortune

While McFayden couldn’t parlay his late season excellence with Austin into a full-time gig in USL PRO, he continued his professional track in 2011 with the Kitsap Pumas—from the state of Washington—of the Professional Development League (PDL). One of a handful of PDL teams designated as “professional,” Kitsap secured the PDL National Championship last season.

McFayden, who played an integral role in the Pumas’ attack in the season, was saddled with pneumonia with only a few regular season games to go, sidelining him for three weeks and relegating him to substitute duty in the post-season.

Rhino status

Eager to come back east after his year with Kitsap, McFayden scheduled tryouts with the Rochester Rhinos, Pittsburgh Riverhounds and Charlotte Eagles, all of USL PRO. Encouraged because he was in the best shape—fitness and futbol—of his life, McFayden’s place on the Rhinos’ roster seemed assured when he tallied at the back post in a friendly against Colgate University.

More misfortune struck McFayden, however, when he fractured his fibula in a scrimmage shortly thereafter. McFayden slid in on a tackle, and an opponent swung his leg through, cracking the back bone of McFayden’s leg.

It was perhaps the most inopportune time to be forced out of action for six weeks, as McFayden lost fitness, missed the tryouts in Charlotte and Pittsburgh, and found himself on the outside-looking-in of Jesse Myers’ offensive plans. While he’s still training with the Rhinos—and chomping at the bit for another chance—McFayden’s been assigned to see consistent action with the FC Buffalo Blitzers.

“I’m expecting big things,” McFayden replied when asked about FC Buffalo’s outlook. “From what I can tell, the commitment level will be higher than last year.”

If McFayden can maintain his level of fitness and improve his finishing—he’s confident that he can get behind any defense several times per match—he won’t be a Blitzer for very long. In addition to the return of Gary Boughton, it’ll be a privilege for local soccer fans to see McFayden ply his trade again in Western New York.

TAGGED: buffalo blitzers, fc buffalo, kendell mcfayden, medaille men's soccer, npsl soccer

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