New England Soccer Today

Soccer Returns to R.I.

The Reds hosted preseason tryouts in Seekonk, Mass. with the hope of finding players hungry to contribute during the team's inaugural season. (Photo: Rhode Island Reds FC)

After a three-year hiatus, semi-pro soccer officially returns to the Ocean State on Saturday when the expansion Rhode Island Reds FC kick off their inaugural season against the Brooklyn Italians at Cranston Stadium.

The emergence of the NPSL newcomer is the fruit of owner/head coach Kabba Joof’s labors. Joof, a native of Gambia who moved to R.I. in the 1990s, envisioned the return of a locally-based side shortly after the Rhode Island Stingrays (PDL) ceased operations in 2009.

And from that vision, came the Reds. While Joof remained fully invested in the game as a coach, referee and organizer, it was his belief that, despite the documented pitfalls of his squad’s predecessors, semi-pro soccer could thrive in the union’s smallest state.

But it would take more than one man’s efforts to turn that dream into a reality. Joof recruited Jasa Charris, Sheldon Townsend and Alex Rozkov to assist him in finding, then molding, the talent necessary to build a team that would deliver a winnerto R.I.

So far, the team has succeeded in its objective to field a squad rich with local talent. Among the 22 players under Joof’s tutelage this season is former Stingray Jefferson Rojas, Joaquim dePina (of LUSA side East Providence Sports), Sacred Heart University midfielder Andrew Borts (Barrington, R.I.) and Bryant defender Ryan Stone.

Of course, organizing a full roster is one thing. Logistics is another. While previous R.I.-based sides called Providence, Pawtucket and North Tiverton their homes, the Reds will play in centrally-located Cranston, which sits between two of the state’s largest cities (Providence and Warwick).

The Reds will play a 14-game schedule inside the NPSL Northeast – Atlantic Conference that runs through July 15. With established opponents such as the Italians, New York Red Bulls, and Mass United on the fixture list, one thing the Reds won’t have any shortage of is a number of challenges to overcome during the summer.

Time will tell whether the Rhode Island’s newest franchise will make an indelible mark in the state’s rich soccer history. But, you can bank on it that Joof, along with his assistants and players, are anxious to make Year One a success.

(Editor’s note: Special thanks to David Borts, who provided valuable insight on the Reds for this article.)

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