New England Soccer Today

Top 5 New England Soccer Stories of 2015

Photo credit: David Henry/

Photo credit: David Henry/

We didn’t get to drive to Gillette Stadium in flying cars or chase players for autographs on hoverboards in 2015, but even though “Back II the Future” didn’t quite nail the technology available to us today, that didn’t make the past year a drag. Far from it.

With the credits about to roll on 2015, we look back the most memorable local stories that sprang from the New England soccer scene over the past year.

1. Western Mass Pro wins inaugural ASL regular season title. There was no question that the Gremio Lusitano Club, who also run the Western Mass Pioneers, would field a strong side when they formed Western Mass Pro Soccer in 2014. But few predicted the kind of success they’d attain during Year 1 in the newly-created ASL. Behind not one, but two, scoring threats in Will Daniels and Chris Roswess, Western Mass collected a league-best 38 points during the ASL’s inaugural campaign. After losing only one of their 18 league matches, they met Icon FC in the final, where they fell in controversial fashion when a decisive Jay Willis penalty that appeared to cross the line was waved off by the referee.

2. Amherst Wins Division III men’s soccer championship. While the Lusitanos were undoubtedly the pride of the local lower division ranks, the throne of the New England college soccer game belonged to Amherst College in 2015. After a dominating 14-1-1 regular season record, the Commonwealth side survived a few nail-biting contests against Trinity and SUNY-Oneonta to reach the final. At first, it appeared that fate was not on Justin Serpone’s side after Loras College took the lead inside of nine minutes. But the Lord Jeffs came back before long, as Jackson Lenhart equalized in the 14th minute, and Bryce Ciambella scored the game-winner in the 54th minute to give Amherst its first national championship in men’s soccer.

3. The New England International Futsal Challenge brings the indoor game to the forefront. Futsal is no stranger to New England, as evidenced by the number of youth and amateur leagues that pepper the landscape. But for years, the sport lacked a true, wide-scale showcase to promote the game within the region. Enter the New England International Futsal Challenge, a weekend-long tournament that brought in two foreign clubs (FC Os Belenenses of Portugal and Rio Stars of Brazil), one of the best clubs in the U.S. (Massachusetts-based Safira FC), and a USA Select team comprised of the region’s best college-age players. The tournament made stops in Providence, Fall River and Boston, and not surprisingly, boasted full houses at each venue. Given the success of the late-autumn showcase, the future appears to be bright for additional large-scale local futsal tournaments in 2016 and beyond.

4. Boston College makes its deepest NCAA run in over a decade. Five New England colleges earned bids to this year’s Division I men’s soccer tournament, but it was unseeded Boston College who made the most waves along the way. After beating Vermont in the first round, the Eagles then pulled off an impressive 2-0 win against 16th seed South Florida down in Tampa. That result set the stage for another stunner, this time sinking third seed Georgetown on penalties in the sweet 16. Boston College then set their sights on six seed Syracuse, whom they’d beaten in ACC play only weeks before. But the Eagles remarkable run came to an end in western New York, where they were felled by a late strike from the Orange. Despite the heartbreaking loss, the magical run marked the deepest tournament run for the Eagles since 2002.

5. Shaun Bailey battles back from cancer to coach AC Connecticut. The phrase “Bailey Strong” is a familiar one to the Connecticut soccer community, and for good reason. After learning he had stage 4 brain cancer in Apr. 2014, Western Connecticut women’s soccer assistant Shaun Bailey was determined to fight it, even though the prognosis was far from promising. With the support of family, friends and colleagues, the affable Bailey battled through the rounds of radiation and chemotherapy all with the thought of returning to his coaching duties. By Dec. 2014, he declared himself healthy enough to accept the post at AC Connecticut, where he’d oversee a collection of the area’s top collegians. Although he admitted he wasn’t thrilled with the record (2-7-5, 11 points) at the end of the season, it was clear that Bailey was back in his element whenever he strode along the touchline on a warm, midsummer’s evening.

Honorable mention: Alyssa Naeher gets a taste of World Cup spoils. There’s no denying that 2015 was tough year for the Boston Breakers, who finished at the bottom of the NWSL standings when the 20-game schedule concluded. But even that detail couldn’t detract from the remarkable accomplishments of their star goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher. Despite boasting only three caps on her resume, the 2014 NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year was called up for the Women’s World Cup in June. While Naeher didn’t get any minutes behind starter Hope Solo, she was nevertheless part of the first U.S. Women’s National Team squad to raise the World Cup trophy since the memorable 1999 team that won it all at the Rose Bowl nearly a generation ago.

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