New England Soccer Today

An Underdog’s Tale

Photo credit: Southie FC

Photo credit: Southie FC

Like many great success stories in American soccer, the creation of Southie FC started with an idea among a couple of soccer-playing friends. In this instance, it was a pair of college teammates who weren’t quite ready to give up playing the beautiful game after graduation.

Following the completion of their studies – as well as their NCAA soccer careers – at Providence College in 2010, Sean Bakhtiari and Roy Sandeman soon hit a fork in the road.

While Bakhtiari and Sandeman both intended to extend their playing days at the PDL level – Bakhtiari had played for Seacoast United while Sandeman suited up for Western Mass – the reality of starting a career in the real world conflicted with that idea.

So they compromised. Initially, both were content with linking up with one of many local amateur sides in Boston. But before long, they both realized they didn’t just want to show up and play every weekend.

“After one year with this local team, we thought it would be fun to start our own team, run it in a semi-professional manner, recruit our own friends/players, and try to surpass the success of local clubs like GPS Omens, Battery Park Gunners, and Boston Olympiakos,” Bakhtiari said. “So in the fall of 2012, Southie FC was launched with the vision of playing our first outdoor season in the spring of 2013.”

The duo immediately went to work on their new idea. During the winter of 2012-13, the Providence alums gathered together some of their former Friar teammates and friends and put together a roster.

“We didn’t really ‘recruit’ players,” Bakhtiari said. “We’re basically a group of friends and friends of friends who love the game, played competitively growing up, and demonstrate a ‘team-first’ focus.”

In a sign that the soccer gods were clearly smiling upon the efforts of Bakhtiari and Sandeman, the Boston-based outfit was afforded the opportunity to take over the spot formerly inhabited by Suchi FC and enter the first division Massachusetts State Soccer League (MSSL) instead of starting from scratch in the league’s second tier.

It didn’t take long for the newly-formed outfit to thrive. In their first season in MSSL, the so-called Boys in Neon (for their neon green kits) finished in second place, a mere one point behind league champion Mass United FC.

Southie’s initial success was no flash in the pan, either. Not long after, the club expanded its reach, fielding three separate teams in different leagues in Massachusetts, all of whom have garnered success.

But to say that the original squad has set the bar would be an understatement.

Since their debut three years ago, Southie has gone on to win the Massachusetts Amateur Cup (2015), the Massachusetts State U.S. Open Cup (2015), the MSSL Division 1 North, (2015), the MSSL Cup (2014), and claimed runner-up finishes in the MSSL league (2014) and Massachusetts U.S. Amateur Cup (2014).

Their most recent – and perhaps greatest – success came last week when the boys from Boston pulled off a 2-0 upset of Seacoast United Phantoms during the first-round of the U.S. Open Cup tournament.

“(It) was something special for all the guys involved in our club,” Bakhtiari said. “We have about seven guys, including myself, who played for Seacoast United growing up. Very few teams and players ever get the chance to compete in the most prestigious soccer tournament in the country and we’re very proud to have qualified and represent Massachusetts well.”

While Bakhtiari and his Southie teammates already have plenty to be proud of, they’re certainly not resting on their laurels.

“Right now, we’re focused on May 18th’s US Open Cup match in Rochester (vs. the Rhinos),” Bakhtiari said. “On paper, we are heavy underdogs, but we’re confident in our ability to pull off an upset on the road midweek.”

Whether Southie can pull off another stunner against the defending USL champions remains to be seen. But no matter the outcome of Wednesday’s second-round clash, Bakhtiari is clearly savoring the spoils of the dream birthed by two college buddies who simply wanted to keep playing competitive soccer after commencement.

“Our team-first focus has always been our no. 1 motive and, in my opinion, has been the biggest contributor to our club’s success,” Bakhtiari said. “This means, committing to the team’s goals, understanding certain player selection decisions, having each other’s back on and off the field, and focusing on team play vs. individual play.

“I’m probably most proud of our team-first attitude more than anything with Southie FC. It’s something special.”

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