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Pittsburgh Hotspurs visit Erie Commodores FC to kickoff NPSL season

Last weekend provided the debut of two Pittsburgh-area clubs in the Women’s Premier Soccer League, as Century United and Pittsburgh Hotspurs teams kicked off their inaugural seasons against the Cleveland Ambassadors.

On Saturday, it will be the men’s turn, as the Pittsburgh Hotspurs men’s team, entering its second full season competing in the National Premier Soccer League, will be facing a familiar foe, the Erie Commodores at Gannon University.  (7 p.m. kickoff).

In the United States Soccer pyramid, NPSL is currently a fourth division entity, while the WPSL currently is the next level behind the first division NWSL.

The last time the Hotspurs’ men’s team took the field, was in 2020, even as they were not able to compete for a regular season due to the COVID-19 cancellation of the NPSL season, they participated in the NPSL Members Cup tournament.

By the narrowest of margins, the Hotspurs took home the trophy in the two-game, round-robin weekend tournament last July.

Pittsburgh Hotspurs capture NPSL’s Members Cup

Much like the women’s sides in the WPSL, the Pittsburgh Hotspurs bring together a collection of mostly current, but also numerous former local college standout players.  And, like the Hotspurs women’s side, players from the club’s academy have also been training with the first team and some will be included on the gameday rosters this season.

In fact, they’ve deepened their pool of youth players, after coming together with Arsenal FC of Pittsburgh over the Winter months as the clubs formally announced, beginning in the 2020-21 season, players from both the Arsenal Academy Program and the Hotspurs College Prep Phase (U16-U19) will have the opportunity to earn a spot with the Hotspurs’ NPSL or WPSL First Team squads.

Hotspurs, Arsenal collaboration to provide direct pathway for youth to NPSL, WPSL clubs

The men’s team will be captained (once again) by a grizzled veteran of the group — 29 year-old former West Allegheny and St. Francis (PA) standout — Nick Kolarac.  An experienced player with a resume that includes stops with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds and indoor soccer’s St. Louis Ambush, Kolarac will be one of the leaders of a squad coached by Tom Campbell.

“I’m more ready this year than ever. Absolutely buzzing to get back on the pitch with the boys,” Kolarac said after it was announced he would be returning to the fold.

In its debut season in NPSL’s Rustbelt Division, the Hotspurs struggled to a 1-7-2 overall record, but found their stride as a group.

With vets guiding youth, Pittsburgh Hotspurs building toward strong finish in its first NPSL season

“It was a little frustrating,”Kolarac said during that season. “We’ve had to keep our heads up, and eventually we’ll come out of it a better group, and better players.”

“There’s a high skill level that it takes to play in NPSL,” Kolarac, who played with the Fort Pitt Regiment the past two seasons before they folded, said. “The difference is when core group of players come back two or three years in a row. That’s what separates the top teams. That’s where we’d like this club to be in a few years. I can see that happening.”

A big building block came in 2020, when the Hotspurs went to participate in the Members Cup tournament and walked away with a Trophy.

This tournament presented an opportunity for the team’s players and staff to momentarily forget the pandemic related stresses as they got back to playing the game they love — and provide another experience to grow as a team.

With the 2021 season kicking off this weekend, the Hotspurs will take another step in their growth forward as a NPSL mainstay and club that intends to be around for a while.

“The opportunities that these younger players have now, to play with a club like this, and to play at this level. They’re so fortunate,” Kolarac added.

“I didn’t have this opportunity when I was that age. I didn’t play PDL or NPSL level until I was in my later college years. They’re way ahead of where I was when I was there age. Many of these young players are better than I was.”

Pittsburgh Hotspurs 2020 Members Cup

Coaches Tom Campbell (L) and Dan Yates (R) after the Hotspurs captured the tournament trophy (Photo courtesy Pittsburgh Hotspurs)



Here’s a look at the Hotspurs roster.

# Name Position
21 Bryan Akongo Midfielder
12 Lucas Alese Midfielder
5 Marc Alexander Defender
17 Rami Bensasi Midfielder
31 Thomas Bradfield Goalkeeper
13 Jackson Brandwene Goalkeeper
Matthew Cillo Defender
25 Giuseppe Croce Defender
39 Cole DeVaul Midfielder
24 Anthony DiFalco Attacker
37 Thierno Doucoure Defender
15 Lucas Drumond Midfielder
8 Joshua Gaspari Midfielder
10 LUCAS GODINHO Midfielder
20 Nicholas Graeca Midfielder
6 Ethan Hackenberg Midfielder
19 Owain Hawkins Defender
3 Nolan Hutter Defender
1 Keaton Jennings Goalkeeper
7 Nicky Kolarac Midfielder
22 Landon Mohney Attacker
9 Tate Mohney Attacker
23 Devin Murray Midfielder
14 Gabriel Norris Midfielder
38 Darek Panucci Midfielder
11 Daniel Reid Attacker
16 Austin Rocke Midfielder
26 Nathan Schlessinger Attacker
18 Michael Sullivan Midfielder
4 Mikel Ubeda Defender
41 Caleb Yuricha Attacker
32 Michael Zolnierczyk Goalkeeper


Pittsburgh Hotspurs NPSL 2021 Schedule 

SAT MAY 29  7:00PM Pittsburgh Hotspurs Gannon University Erie,NY
Erie Commodores FC
FRI JUN 4 7:00PM Pittsburgh Hotspurs Baldwin Wallace University Berea,OH
Cleveland SC ()
SUN JUN 6  2:00PM Pittsburgh Hotspurs Founders Field  Pittsburgh,PA
Syracuse FC
FRI JUN 11 7:00PM Pittsburgh Hotspurs Founders Field Pittsburgh,PA
FC Buffalo (FCB)
SUN JUN 13 5:00PM Pittsburgh Hotspurs Aquinas Institute Rochester,NY
Rochester Lancers (RLA)
SAT JUN 19 7:00PM Pittsburgh Hotspurs Robert E. Rich All-High Stadium Buffalo,NY
FC Buffalo (FCB)
FRI JUN 257:00PM Pittsburgh Hotspurs Founders Field Pittsburgh,PA
Cleveland SC ()
SAT JUL 3 6:00PM Pittsburgh Hotspurs Accelerate Sports Whitesboro,NY
Syracuse FC
THU JUL 8 7:00PM Pittsburgh Hotspurs Founders Field Pittsburgh,PA
Erie Commodores FC
SUN JUL 112:00PM Pittsburgh Hotspurs Founders Field Pittsburgh,PA

John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

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