Photo: RJZPhotography

Dear FC Buffalo supporters and the Buffalo soccer community,

What’s truly wonderful about Thanksgiving is the holiday’s ability to inspire reflection by virtue of its name alone, let alone the trappings of the any Thursday celebration.

I recently had the opportunity to attend the latest 2018 All-WNY High School Awards dinner, and it was a particularly poignant affair to me given our impending 10th anniversary season.

[ SUPPORT: FCB’s trip to represent Buffalo in Hamburg, Dortmund ]

           Our match days and offseason events make it very easy to be constantly grateful for our supporters, players, coaches, and staff, but there inherent competition and politics can make the bigger picture a tougher one to appreciate on a weekly basis.

Events like Tuesday’s dinner frame what our area is producing, and the vastness of its potential.

— In the group of nominees for Boys’ Coach of the Year were two former FC Buffalo players: Nichols’ Bobby Ross and Maryvale’s Josh Hall.

— Two All-WNY players who we knew when they were grade school kids of our friends way back when we started FCB: Jonah Kozak of Frontier, whose dad Rich is a huge Buffalo soccer booster, and Max Kwitchoff, whose father Artie partners with FCB co-founder Donny Kutzbach at The Town Ballroom.

— Also in attendance were higher-ups for three big club competitors in the region: longtime WNY Flash Academy coach Regan Steele (a former FCB scorer in his own right), guest speaker and Empire coach Nick Giammusso (whose company VIP TIX has helped FCB), and certainly a number of players from GPS Buffalo.

— Scanning the list of Boys’ Players of the Year from previous seasons, five have played in a match for FCB, and couple more trained with the club. One coach of the year, Mike Thoin of St. Joe’s, had a son play for us, and another is our head coach (Frank Butcher of Grand Island).

On top of this, I need more fingers and toes to count the players I met when they were kids and I was fortunate to be the general manager at event sponsor Sahlen’s Sports Park in Elma. I’d need even more hands to add in the kids who played at halftime of FCB matches, and yes, I’m even grateful for my friends at the referees’ table. Referee of the Year nominee Ashley Cedro handled the head duties for the Lord Bedlington Cup in 2010, which remains an incredible memory for our club.

Heck, I played (sparingly) against event organizer Todd Marquardt, coach of my high school rivals Kenmore West, and even guest speaker Aaron Mentkowski is a sports connection (We’ve played on the same line in media hockey games!).

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        I’m an unusual character who has been blessed to be a small part of this soccer community, but I know each of you has a similar story and can play Two Degrees of WNY Soccer with dozens of surnames given the list of honorees for Tuesday’s dinner.

So join me in being thankful not just today but all days for the many lives who’ve touched ours as we continue to play soccer in our chosen city.

Happy Thanksgiving from FCB to you,

Nick Mendola, co-owner, FC Buffalo

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