You can’t see them now. In fact, you won’t until just before the shots start to fire. But the Cavalry is coming, and this Cavalry kicks.
Professional soccer is soon to be a reality in Northern Virginia. Who’s our advance scout, recruiting the young men who have the right stuff to be the right fit for Virginia Cavalry FC? Why, it’s Mark Simpson, of course — the right man for the job right now and right into the future.
As is the wont of VIP Sports & Entertainment, we went out and availed ourselves of the best available, and Mark is that. You already know his accomplished history — MLS champion goalkeeper for DC United, professional player for about a dozen years both indoor and outdoor, a coach with United and other pro clubs. Now he works for us, the titular Director of Soccer Operations.
And he’s already workin’ it. Cavalry FC will be ready for the NASL’s 2014 Spring Championship season, because Mark is getting us ready. He drop-kicked some knowledge for the Fan’s Corner about where Virginia Cavalry FC is coming from.
Fan’s Corner: What is Virginia Cavalry FC in the world of professional soccer?
Mark Simpson: In other parts of the world, Europe, South America, Africa, people live and breathe soccer. In America, it’s always been a large participation sport but really I think it’s seeing some continued growth and people are starting now to understand it. There are parents who played the sport who are now having kids who played the sport, and you really didn’t have that when I was growing up.
We’re going to be a part of the North American Soccer League, which has a proud history as the first major professional soccer league in the United States. It is currently the second-tier for men’s professional soccer in America.
FC: Where will you get Cavalry FC players from?
MS: There’s a ton of different outlets in which we recruit players. We’ll start with scouting our own academy program and its 10-month season, all the college programs with their spring and fall seasons, all the Premier Developmental League clubs and all the professional leagues in the U.S. and around the world. I’ll scout the United Soccer League, the North American Soccer League, the MLS Reserve system, plus I’ll always have my contingent of foreign-based agents in Europe, South America, Mexico.
FC: What level of professional experience will Cavalry FC players have?
MS: I think you have to have quite a mix of guys with experience and guys needing to develop. These guys will get to play in meaningful games in front of great atmospheres, and you hope that they will go on to the next level. We want to keep good players, but we don’t want anybody satisfied with the level they’re at. In that sense, it has some correlation with how the Loudoun Hounds are set up in baseball.
FC: When will the first Cavalry FC players be signed?
MS: Once the NASL and USL seasons end around October and November, we’ll have a list of free agents compiled and we’ll identify who might be a good fit for our NASL team and the atmosphere we want to create.
FC: How about open tryouts?
MS: There will be open tryouts in the fall. We’ll always keep an open mind and never shut the door on anyone. We’ll just need to see if a player fits with what we’re doing and maybe move them into a training camp scenario to see how he does with better players around him.
FC: What particular style of soccer are you looking to have?
MS: We want to have an attacking style. I think that’s most attractive. But yet you want to be able to build from the back, not just knock it forward and have everyone for themselves. We want to be methodical and organized, a lot of movement off the ball, a lot of communication, a lot of pressing defensively. But a lot of that is going to come from the philosophies of our coaches and staff.
FC: When do you expect to name a head coach?
MS: Ideally within the next three to six months.
FC: What will be the role of Virginia Cavalry FC’s head coach?
MS: He’ll have a lot of hats to wear with our club, not just with the senior team but also with the youth academy. I want our first team to be very connected with the Cavalry FC Academy and our youth alliance. Our coach will have to be aware not just of the professional level of player but also when you might have a U-14 or U-16 player who shows enough promise. You never know when you might want to bring a player up and try him out in a big-time atmosphere.
I remember with DC United, even before we signed Freddy Adu at age 14, he trained with us when he was 11 years old — and he fit in. So that’s what you’d like to see, to test a player mentally and physically to see if he can hang at the next level.
FC: What is the role of the academy to Virginia Cavalry FC?
MS: You want to provide the opportunity for the elite player to keep progressing up the levels. All it takes is one player to move from the academy to the first team to earn a reputation for seriously developing players on the youth side. That then helps to attract new talent from around Northern Virginia and make the academy a true staircase to professional soccer for Cavalry FC.
FC: How important will our supporter group be to us?
MS: Well, you hear it all over the world, about the “12th man.” With the configuration of our ballpark, tight to the field, if you pack the fans in there around our team, it really has an effect. You feel the energy from the crowd and it’s a neat feeling. I know when I played, there was a lot of times that it gave me goose bumps.