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FC Buffalo lands UB’s stalwart center mid, starting keeper

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

Daniel Stevens, Richie Wilson, Matt Stuczynski, Mike Unwin, Andy Tiedt.

Back when former University at Buffalo men’s soccer assistant coach Jim Hesch was FC Buffalo’s manager, the UB-to-FC Buffalo pipeline was at its peak. These former Bulls set the foundation for a natural connection between Western New York’s biggest university and the city’s highest-level soccer club.

Obviously, much has changed for the Blitzers over the course of three years, as none of the aforementioned five ex-Bulls still ply their trade with FC Buffalo. UB has a new coach in Stu Riddle and is plugging away at establishing an identity. Regardless of the changes, the pipeline hasn’t stopped.

2013 brought head coach Brendan Murphy, a former UB assistant, as well as Brian Knapp, the Blitzers’ bulldog of a central midfielder who collected NPSL Midwest Region Great Lakes Conference second-team honors.

This year, perhaps, FC Buffalo has done itself one better. Added to the fold are Bulls freshman sensation Russell Cicerone, a dynamic attacking center midfielder who possesses the finishing ability that the local NPSL club has craved since its inception.

Named 2013 Mid-American Conference Newcomer of the Year and earning a spot on the all-conference first team, Cicerone demonstrated two qualities rare in a freshman: leadership and production in the clutch.

Even before he stepped foot on the field of a non-conference game, Cicerone was named one of the Bulls’ team captains, helping to guide a historically-young UB team to a 3-11-4 record—including a valiant double-overtime loss against national powerhouse Akron.

Sure, a trio of wins, scoring the fewest goals in the MAC and narrowly avoiding the conference’s cellar isn’t program-altering success for the Bulls, but in the team’s three victories, Cicerone notched the winner in each of them en route to team-leading six goals. He converted both his penalty kicks. He supplied offense to a team without a true striker, and definitely lacking one with a nose for goal.

While Cicerone’s limitless potential deserves to grab the headlines, the Blitzers’ addition of UB goalie Waleed Cassis provides Murphy with a starting-caliber keeper—a position that hasn’t been FC Buffalo’s strongest in recent years.

A transfer junior from California, Cassis may have finished sixth in the MAC in goals against average (1.42), but he paced the conference in saves (77) and wound up a respectable third in save percentage (.755).

Summer reps against high-quality competition—especially with Murphy, who set keeping records galore at St. Lawrence University, as his teacher—should be exceptional training for the soon-to-be senior.

The two UB additions come on the heels of the announcement that Knapp would return for his second season, as well as the decision of a trio of California newcomers from Point Loma Nazarene to join FC Buffalo’s 2014 squad.

**Nico Tagaloa
**Tyler Allen
**Val Doppenberg

Finally, FC Buffalo’s full schedule was released by the National Premier Soccer League, and you can find the home dates—and away dates vs. rival Erie—below.

Friday, May 16 – FC Buffalo at Erie Admirals SC, 7 p.m.
Sunday, May 18 – AFC Cleveland at FC Buffalo, TBA

Sunday, June 1 – Erie Admirals SC at FC Buffalo, TBA
Sunday, June 8 – Detroit City FC at FC Buffalo, TBA
Friday, June 13 – AFC Cleveland at FC Buffalo, 7 p.m.
Sunday, June 22 – Fort Pitt Regiment at FC Buffalo, 2 p.m.

Thursday, July 3 – FC Buffalo at Erie Admirals SC, 7 p.m.
Sunday, July 6 – Fort Pitt Regiment at FC Buffalo, TBA
Sunday, July 13 – Michigan Stars at FC Buffalo, 7 p.m.

TAGGED: fc buffalo, npsl, russell cicerone, soccer, ub bulls, waleed cassis

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