Confidence rewarded: McFayden’s quick transition earns early accolades
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • July 13, 2012 @ 12:04pm
Kendell McFayden is supremely confident, so it’s telling that his USL Player of the Week honors caught even the Rochester striker off-guard.
“I was at work [Tuesday] hanging out, and I felt my phone going nuts in my pocket,” McFayden explained. “‘Why am I getting all these notifications, texts and phone calls?’ and when I checked my phone finally, I learned I was USL Player of the Week. I thought, ‘Wow, that’s kind of crazy.’”
Less than a month ago, McFayden donned FC Buffalo’s blue and yellow, infuriating NPSL opponents with speed, quickness and tenacity. His purpose in the Blitzers lineup wasn’t for technical development or acclimating to a particular position; considering his in-week training with the Rochester Rhinos, McFayden simply needed to see meaningful match minutes.
Still, when McFayden inked a two-way contract with the USL’s Rochester Rhinos on June 20, with a provision that allowed him to retain amateur status, no one expected him to take the professional league by storm. His inclusion in Jesse Myers’ lineup was to spark an impotent Rhinos attack that had produced seven goals in eight matches.
As a second half sub in his first two contests—a 3-2 win over Richmond and a 2-1 loss to Harrisburg City—McFayden played total 81 minutes, took four shots but couldn’t find the back of the net. On Independence Day, however, the Medaille College graduate earned a start against league cellar-dweller Antigua, and he buried his chances in the 4-1 Rochester victory.
McFayden’s toolbox as a striker is conducive to midfielders willing to deliver early, long passes behind opposing defenses. From the videos above, there’s little doubt that Myers’ game-plan was to play directly, giving McFayden opportunities to latch onto through-balls over the top and force defenders to turn and chase.
Fellow forward Tam McManus and midfielder J.C. Banks adhered to the plan, springing the Williamsville North High School product in alone on goal. A low shot to the far post is the sign of a clinical finisher, and the former Blitzer beat Antigua keeper Molvin James there each time, adding a deft look-away on his second tally.
“If I work for [the midfielders], they’re going to work for me,” McFayden, who wears #22, said. “They’ve gotten accustomed to my work off the ball and they want to reward me for that. That’s really what the game-plan is for my style of play. I have to get in behind, stretch the defense and make it difficult for defenders to defend me.”
While he admits he’s not yet technically refined—he’s only 23-years-old, after all—McFayden has enough faith in himself and a strong support system that suggests his recent exploits won’t be the last.
“I think [my confidence stems from] my belief in myself. I’ve had a lot of support from my family. My dad and my mom are always at every game, and also my sister, brother, Coach K [Dan Krzyzanowicz]—they’re all behind me 100%. It helps my confidence in that aspect, and I know what I can do on the field. Being with the team since preseason kind of helped out too. It’s an easier transition than coming into a brand-new team without knowing any of the guys.”
The striker laughed when I asked if his confidence was ever perceived as brash or cocky. “There’s always a fine line between confidence and cocky, and I think I tip-toe that line pretty well,” he chuckled.
Despite the prestige that accompanies individual accolades, a single USL Player of the Week honor isn’t enough to satisfy McFayden, who’s working hard to cement his spot in Myers’ starting XI. He’s started Rochester’s next two matches but hasn’t scored since that July 4 outing. Leading the Rhinos with four shots against Wilmington—including a smash off the crossbar in the first half—McFayden’s presence has been felt, but the production must follow. It will be interesting to see if Thursday’s scoreless draw against Wilmington will force Myers into lineup changes.
“I’m trying to work on more technical stuff, learning the game, because my athletic ability really isn’t going anywhere. Right now I’m in a starting position, so I’m trying to do everything I can do to keep that spot.”
Follow McFayden’s progress at Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester. Upcoming home matches are as follows (tickets here):
Saturday, July 21 vs. Pittsburgh. 7:05 p.m.
Friday, July 27 vs. Los Angeles. 7:35 p.m.
Friday, August 3 vs. first-place Orlando. 7:35 p.m.
Saturday, August 11 vs. Charleston. 7:05 p.m.
Saturday, August 18 vs. Pittsburgh. 7:05 p.m.
(All photos courtesy of Nate Benson, staff photographer for FC Buffalo and Buffalo.com freelancer).