The AC Crusaders go into the Spring Season going from being the expected doormat of the American Soccer League to being considered by some to be the favorites for the title. The team that started at the bottom of the standings returns with a mostly veteran squad, but is energized with new player additions to join them.
But while the players are an important piece of the puzzle, much of the team's identity comes from its head coach Kyle Hall. The Englishman moved into the position midway into the fall season after the team parted ways with Nenad Gorgiev after a slow start. Soon thereafter they turned it around and finished strong. They now begin the spring season with very much optimism.
"We never really had much depth, but now we do," said Hall. "Come game day we are as good as anyone we played last year. We're going to make a mark for ourselves and show we're contenders."
The roster is made up of mostly veterans, some of whom have been on the Crusaders when the team was playing in the National Professional Soccer League. For Hall, he believes his vets will be the glue that will hold the team together.
"Rich Stone, Nico Tramontana, and Kyle Martyn have been loyal to me as an assistant all the way to head coach. Adam Sternberger is one of the oldest players in the league and still one of the most talented," stated Hall
For the players, it's about bringing experience to the team. "The tempo is a lot of more serious compared to last season. Everyone is eager to get back out there and things are pretty good right now," said Stone. "We have made a lot of improvements. I think with the right mentality the skill's there, we have to put the work in."
"We held our own in the first half of the season. With some of these additions, I think we can definitely hang with some of the teams at the top of the table," said Sternberger.
Forward Ryan Morris is part of the crop of new signees joining the team, and he hopes to contribute instantly. "I was looking for an opportunity to get started and get my foot in the door," he said. "After speaking to Kyle, it was everything I can hope for."
The season for the Crusaders opens on August 19th at home against Icon FC, who won the Mid Atlantic division in the fall and won their open last weekend against the Evergreen Diplomats. Its home games will played at Egg Harbor Township High School.