There’s a long history of soccer in Western New York that extends well past the Blizzard and Stallions, beyond the Rhinos and Flash. It goes back to first-and-second generation soccer families growing to love their new home during Sunday park games, watching their neighbors play under banners like Polonia and Germania. Over the years, the game spread to kids and parents playing in clubs across the counties and cities, earning scholarships and pro contracts while making a lifetime of team memories.
FC Buffalo is here to bring all of those generations together under one banner.
Operating as members of the National Premier Soccer League, FC Buffalo formed in 2009 and began play in the 2010 season under the guidance of head coach Jim Hesch, a former Buffalo Blizzard player and head coach at Canisius College.
The team earned some national dap before its first season, when its supporters got behind the nickname “Blitzers” during the club’s nickname the team contest. Before the team even kicked a ball in training, two of our owners were on CNN talking with noted Buffalo-raised broadcaster Wolf Blitzer.
The team fared well in Year One, boasting two NPSL All-Stars in goalkeeper Dan Panaro (Kenmore) and Daniel Stevens (Syracuse). Buoyed by his play with the club, Stevens signed a professional contract in Finland with the Palloseura Kemi Kings.
In 2011, the club hired long-time Medaille boss Dan Krzyzanowicz, who coached the club for two seasons. While the team struggled to find its footing in the league table, the Blitzers turned out three professionals from its ranks: Krystian Witkowski was drafted in the 2012 MLS Supplemental Draft by the Philadelphia Union, Kendell McFayden signed a multi-year deal with the Rochester Rhinos and Mike Reidy was selected in the 2013 MLS Supplemental Draft by Sporting KC.
The first team’s most notable win is the 2011 Lord Bedlington Cup, set up by Rich Products in Buffalo. The Bedlington Terriers of England’s Northern League flew across the pond to face the Blitzers in front of a crowd of more than 3,700 at Robert E. Rich All-High Stadium. In a regionally-televised event, FC Buffalo trumped the Terriers, 5-1. The BBC eventually released a documentary on the team’s visit. The team also has a notable loss on its record, losing on the road to the Brooklyn Italians in a qualifying match for the 2011 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup by a score of 1-0.
After a disappointing 2012, the team emerged with vigor under first year head coach Brendan Murphy in 2013. They set club bests for wins (8) and clean sheets (5) while earning FC Buffalo’s first ever playoff berth and beating longtime rivals Erie for the first time. The second place regular season finish had the team ranked in the 8th in the 57-team league. FC Buffalo was also ranked in the Top 20 in the NPSL/PDL media poll, which ranks 121 teams across the country.
Season Two of the Murphy era was the highest-scoring in club history, though the club finished below .500 thanks to a shocking run of injuries on the back line. First-year forward Russell Cicerone was named First Team All-NPSL, a first for the club, and several FCB goals were nominated for “NPSL/Mitre Goal of the Year” as the club played its home matches at the Demske Sports Complex at Canisius College.
And after the season, Wolf Blitzer himself stopped by official supporters’ bar Mes Que to meet with the owners and pick up some gear, as featured on his “CNN Roots” series.
2015 again saw Murphy place a player on the NPSL Best XI, as Kendell McFayden won the honor as well as a Player of the Week nod. The Wolves missed the playoffs by a single point.
The following year saw Murphy and his staff post another solid record of five wins, two draws, and three losses, missing the playoffs by just two points. In the offseason, Murphy was hired by the Rochester Rhinos of the USL to be their new goalkeeping coach. Murphy and assistant coach Bob Roach left the club with a club-best record of 23 wins, 18 losses, seven draws and the lone playoff appearance in club history.
The offseason also saw two FCB alums drafted in the MLS SuperDraft. The Colorado Rapids took Liam Callahan (Syracuse / Sweet Home High School) in the second round, while the Portland Timbers selected Russell Cicerone (University at Buffalo) two rounds later.
Murphy left the club to take the goalkeeping coach job with the Rochester Rhinos of the USL, and FCB turned to Frank Butcher. The North Tonawanda native hired FCB alums Casey Derkacz and John Grabowski to assist him, and the ensuing two seasons saw the club produce numerous club-best performances.
While we could bore you with stories about how our ownership group’s genesis comes from high school teammates in the Northtowns of Buffalo, bar buddies who talked soccer from West Seneca East to St. Joe’s and new grooms kicking the ball around in the backyards of the Southtowns. But it doesn’t matter where we come from as much as where we’re going. We’ve received help from a great supporters group, The Situation Room, a terrific bunch of WNY soccer fans and terrific business partners like Rich Products, Mes Que, Batavia Downs Gaming and Hotel, Big Ditch Brewing Company, Sullivan’s Brewing Company, Hofbrauhaus Buffalo, and many more…
Soccer is the world’s beautiful game and it shines in Buffalo. We’ve seen the fervor and we’re building it here. Grab your proverbial hammer and head to the stadium.
For our city