Coach Murphy recaps the season that was

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Brendan Murphy concluded his third season as FC Buffalo head coach just one win shy of 20 for his NPSL career, though he surpassed that number with his work in non-league matches.

After some time to reflect, and before returning to helm D’Youville College for the Fall, the reigning AMCC Coach of the Year reflects on the season that was, the fans that are, and the future.

“It was aweome when we got back into All-High. Being back in that atmosphere, having the covered stadium, knowing the stadium and then, of course, TSR with the drums and the echoes it really adds a ton to the atmopshere. Not to mention what that does for the players. At the same time, the turnout at Hamburg to open the season was amazing, and hopefully some of those people came and watched us back in Buffalo.

CFK48amUsAMnQLu“It’s tough. You gotta look at each of those early games individually. The first win was a good team effort with Julian Ekeze (right) scoring the two goals early. Detroit, that game was a gritty effort but we kinda escaped with that one. That I guess you would call a good draw.

“The Indiana trip was where we kinda screwed it up. It was two games where we had a lot of great possession and chances. Against FC Indiana, we put five in the back of the net that were called back for offside. But we came back from two goals down twice in a row and showed a lot of character. That built the chemistry of the team. Against the Fire, we got a red card on a questionable play on Fox. We’d love to have that one back too.

“Then to come home and play Erie, and it’s the perfect storm scenario for them. They scored early on a PK and were able to literally sit down on the field, kill time, change their shoes on the field. They played a great and a tactical game to make sure we didn’t create enough chances to win. Some disappointments in there.

“Our fortunes changed after Erie. We realized how flat we came out. We made a big point to address that with the guys. That was a new group playing Erie for the first time and people don’t recognize what it means to the fans and club. The reaction to that might’ve been the catalyst. And we had a pair of tough midweek non-league matches with the Upstate NY Derby and the Rochester Rhinos friendly. Some great things came out of those friendlies, one of those being Ngwese.

“We went six games in a row without a loss. Michigan Stars was the first win. The chemistry on that road trip was great. Those two midweek games were tough however a lot of guys got time and even the guys that weren’t playing a lot felt connected to the team and that helps. It’s hard to spread the minutes around. There were a lot of really good players who didn’t get the minutes at that point. Those two really helped.

“Fort Pitt at home was a must-win, it felt like, and we came together and answered the bell. And we treated each of those games going forward as a must win. The race was thick and we had a lot of work to do. We had some good leadership. BK Brian Knapp and Kendell McFayden (right), both on and off the field. Andrew Ferguson started to play well. And people found their roles.

Max Avery
McFayden (Credit: Max Avery)

“Brett Larocque, early we don’t know where to play him. But he found his role and accepted it. He was a true team player and a consummate pro who easily could;ve had a different attitude but he made the most of his time. He’s an example of what we want to see from players going forward. And that became the attitude of a lot of guys if they lost their time or didn’t have as much as they’d like; They were willing to do whatever they needed to do to make the team win.

“It was absolutely a culmination of the fire and passion that these guys were putting into it, and that they felt each home game. It started to build; Especially late with the wins, the fans kept getting more rowdy and more into it. They brought that heat, that fire and that passion into the way they play. At some points, it boiled over. We can control what we can control. There were some things we could’ve controlled in a better way to get a win. And some things we could not control.

“We appreciate the fans giving everything: their heart, their soul. And we tried to give that right back and we fought right to the end. The effort was there. We tried to match the fire and desire. I need to remark on Coach Bob Roach: How he helped in every aspect from recruiting to on the field game management. I appreciate it.

“We have to look at this season as another positive step forward in a long-term building process. You always strive for it, but you never expect it to be a perfect team, group or staff on your first try. We’ve made another positive step. The players we had, the way we managed games, the fans, it’s all a positive step forward in a major building process.

“We wanted to be in the playoffs cause anything can happen once we get there. We see teams from our conference do it every year. We know we’re in the mix and so close. So we need to put in the work to make another run. We’ve learned, we’ve grown, and we’ve gotta take the lessons out of this year and put it into next year.

“I’d like to thank Nick Mendola, Scott Frauenhofer and all the owners for the efforts to make this possible. And I appreciate the opportunity to coach this team.”

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