FCB players, coaches anticipate Rust Belt Derby

by Alex Beilman, contributor
photo by  Erica Morano/Special to The Buffalo News


Even with one less participant this season, the opportunity to win the Rust Belt Derby is still looming large over FC Buffalo. The club has an opportunity to capture the Rust Belt Derby Trophy for the first time in its history this weekend.

“It’ll be an interesting weekend. It’s always good to have a chance at a trophy,” said assistant coach and former FC Buffalo player Brian Knapp. “It’d be great to bring a trophy home for the city.”

FCB faces DCFC as Keyworth Stadium in Michigan on Friday night before hosting Le Rouge at 2 p.m. Sunday at Robert E. Rich All-High Stadium.

“Hopefully we can build on the underdog mentality we had going into the Erie game. We didn’t feel like we were owed anything,” added head coach Brendan Murphy. “Detroit City is going to be a very good opponent. We’re going to have to put on another inspired performance.”

Rust Belt Derby TrophyAFC Cleveland did not participate this season due to being placed in a different division than Detroit City. The competition, organized by supporters’ groups from the three teams, is pressing on.

The team’s focus is on the present and the matches this weekend, but they are not losing sight of the goal set out at the start of the season, keeping in mind that this weekend does not count towards the NPSL standings. Despite the lack of impact on the standings, the Blitzers hope to use this weekend to continue to build on their performances.

“The big message would be that we’re still 1-2. Starting the season 0-2 was not where we wanted to be,” said midfielder Chris Walter. “We need another win, regardless of them being in our conference or not. It’d be a good step going forward.”

Murphy sees the trophy chance as an opportunity to keep growing in form and chemistry.

“There’s the potential and opportunity to get momentum going into a massive game against FC Indiana,” Murphy said. “We really want to have a good performance, and I believe we’ll be able to win with a good performance.”

Cleveland won the inaugural derby, with Detroit City picking up the last three trophies from 2013 to 2015. FC Buffalo has just missed out in those three seasons, coming in as runners-up in that same time.

Although there are a host of new faces on the squad, the Blizers’ small group of veterans and coaching staff are looking forward to try to capture the side’s first trophy in the Derby.

“A chance to make history is something that always motivates the guys and it keeps the fans interested and involved,” Murphy said.

For Knapp, his experience as a Blitzer player turned coach has helped him to prepare the current squad of players.

“It’s been a weird transition,” Knapp admitted. “I just want to be involved. I want to do whatever I can to be a part of the club I love and try to use what I got out of playing and show the guys what it takes to play for Buffalo.”

The schedule will be a challenge. The Blitzers will travel to Detroit for a Friday night match, and then both teams will head to Robert E. Rich All High stadium in Buffalo for the second leg of the derby on Sunday afternoon.

11063581_10153946952313222_2804459009590204787_n“Preparation is a big part of it: hydration and making sure we stop a few times on the trip to stretch the legs out. Recovery after the game Friday night is important,” Walter said. “We’re still young. We’ve got 180 minutes in three days. It shouldn’t be too hard for us.”

And the non-division contest gives the team a chance to try out its first two-match weekend.

“We’re training three times still this week. This will be our first double, two games in one weekend. I’m curious more than anything else to see how the guys can handle it. It’ll be a great test,” Murphy said.“We’ll rotate a few guys; there were a couples guys that had some knocks against Erie. We’ll have a chance to get them some rest.”

Overall, the coaching staff has been stressing to continue to work hard and emulate the blue collar attitude of the cities that participate in the Rust Belt Derby.

“It’d be good to get a trophy for the club, for the fans and for the city,” Knapp said. “It’s something we try to instill in the guys. Buffalo is a blue-collar city. We’re hard working all the time. The bare minimum is your maximum effort.”

Especially versus Le Rouge.

“It’s never easy playing against Detroit. We need to embody the image of our city. That’s always been my goal,’ said Murphy. “Anyone that’s lived in Buffalo understands the working class mentality. It’s really important to the people around here. To be able to come home and lift that trophy, that would be huge.”