Dennis Crowley is used to creating things from scratch, having been behind the launch of both Dodgeball and Foursquare. He has now turned his creativity and entrepreneurial spirit to a project in the beautiful game. Along with a dedicated staff, Crowley has created a new club, Kingston Stockade FC, that has brought top-flight soccer to the Hudson Valley.
Crowley hopes to translate his past successes in the business world into success both on and off the pitch. He has set qualifying for the U.S. Open Cup, one of the world’s oldest soccer events, as a major goal for his club. It’s a great competition that has a lot to offer and he hopes to be part of it by 2020.
“Personally it motivated us. It’s an opportunity for the underdog to compete with clubs from a higher tier. There is nothing like this in the Hudson Valley, which has been overlooked by some as a soccer community. We hope to be really competitive on a national level.”
Open Cup qualification is just one part of the puzzle. There is a lot to do when starting a club from scratch, keeping in mind that Stockade FC didn’t exist even a year ago. Crowley hopes to build and grow the club, creating a large fan base and a great gameday experience in the process. Brand awareness is also important as the club seeks to be recognized by the soccer community.
Crowley is able to attack these goals in a meaningful way thanks to an incredible staff and a talented roster. Stockade FC has big names in the front office and on the coaching staff.
General Manager Randy Kim, a former D-III college soccer player, has managed digital content at the NBA, FOX Sports, AOL Sports, NBC Sports, and Bleacher Report. Dan Hoffay, lead scout and team manager, is a Hudson Valley native and the co-founder/President of American Outlaws Hudson Valley. Head coach George Vizvary is a national figurehead and winner of the Walt Chyzowych Lifetime Achievement Award. He’s been a part of the game for five decades. That’s experience.
Bringing people together, building a sense of community, and recognizing talent are all part of the creative process, whether it be around a soccer team or a tech company.
“There’s more overlap than you would think,” Crowley continued. “Both involves managing a team of people. Every day has its ups and downs. Sometimes everything goes right; sometimes it doesn’t. It’s all about pushing through every challenge.”
Crowley did look to successful NPSL teams for guidance along the way, knowing that they had been through the same process and experienced the same highs and lows. He spoke to Chattanooga FC, Detroit City FC, and Nashville FC to learn more. He was surprised to find that these clubs were started by “regular guys.” So he began to ask the question: “Why can’t that be us?” And the race to build a club was on.
It was decided early on that the club would be built on local talent and connections. Ninety percent of Stockade FC players have connections to the Hudson Valley. That step was essential, according to Kim.
“Having local talent really fostered a connection between the fans and the club that we felt was vital to the whole Stockade experience. We certainly aren’t opposed to using outside players, but at the same time, any successes we experience will be that much sweeter due to our reliance on so many local products.”
Being in such a soccer-rich environment made the local option an easy one. The Hudson Valley is, after all, home to some great soccer. Stockade FC gives the area something bigger, bringing another level of play to the region. Fans and supporters will get to see their local players take on well-known programs like New York Cosmos B, the defending national champions, and the Brooklyn Italians, a team that has won the Open Cup twice.
“Soccer has always been a strength in the community,” Hoffay added. “The Hudson Valley deserves to showcase that talent. There are many players from the Hudson Valley who have made a name for themselves. Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls), Taylor Washington (Philadelphia Union), Jake Keegan (FC Edmonton) and Kyle Murphy (Rio Grande Valley FC) are just a few names that have made their impact on the sport. There are many, many more who deserve that chance. Stockade FC will bring community-based, high-level soccer to the Hudson Valley and help to push U.S. Soccer in the right direction.”
The journey has had some challenges, but all the time and effort has clearly been worth it.
“The biggest challenges have been just not having done this before and figuring everything out on the fly,” Kim concluded. “But the best moment so far was either the first tryout, where we realized we had some talented players in the mix, or that first goal on the road at Greater Lowell United in our first match. The ball slowly rolled over the line off of a beautiful chip by Michael Creswick. It felt like it took an hour for it to get there, but when it did, pure ecstasy.”
Stockade FC already has two games, a 1-1 draw with Greater Lowell United FC and a 3-0 defeat to Brooklyn, under its belt. Yet everyone knows this season is just the beginning and that this project is a long-term one. Hoffay puts it best, saying that he expects the club to “be the face and brand of change and progress in U.S. Soccer.”
Considering everything they have done already, this is a very likely statement. It’s also likely that Crowley and his staff will inspire many others. Crowley’s “manifesto” made the rounds on social media and the feedback was incredible. NPSL Chairman Joe Barone was one of many that took notice of the Stockade FC story.
“Personally this story inspires me and gives me more energy to work. These are the stories that U.S. Soccer needs to put their arms around: startups led by people who are believers and care deeply about their communities. It’s great when we have owners like that.”
Owners like Dennis Crowley are helping to shape the future of the NPSL and American soccer as a whole. He’s excited to be involved.
“I was really inspired by the AGM and the league sponsors and partners. The league is in an amazing malleable position and there are so many things to be done.”