Competing at the highest level possible in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) means recruiting talented players from around the globe.
Last year, The Mighty Oak had players representing 11 different countries including Cuba, Brazil and England to name a few.
As important as it is for the club to recruit globally, it’s just as important to find players of equal caliber in the local market. With the competitive nature of clubs continuing to rise, it can be challenging to balance the mix of local and international talent.
For AFC Ann Arbor, Head Coach and Sporting Director uses his extensive local soccer connections to identify local players competing at the collegiate level and beyond. Through those connections, Chase Pagani found himself a spot on the 2016 Mighty Oak roster.
Due to injuries that plagued him most of the summer, his minutes on the pitch were limited, which makes his 2017 return that much more meaningful for the Ann Arbor native.
Not only will Pagani lace up his boots for The Mighty Oak again in 2017, but he’ll be doing so at his former high school, Pioneer, in front of family and friends who revel at each chance to see him play. The 2014 graduate played at Hollway Field his freshman and sophomore seasons (2010 and 2011) making him quite familiar with The Mighty Oak’s home facility.
Pagani added, “Seeing the support we have at each match made me realize how much this city cares about our team, and knowing that I can be a part of something that brings Ann Arbor together and for the Ann Arbor youth to look up to is truly special.”
Come see Chase and team this summer at Hollway Field at Pioneer High school beginning May 14th (2017 home opener).
Read the full interview with Chase below:
AFC: You've played 3 years in the NPSL now. What do you make of the competition at this level and what keep you coming back each summer?
Chase: I find the competition level, especially within our own club and the Great Lakes region, to be very high. It is this great competition as well as high quality training sessions that draws me back each season. I know that playing within this league and training with Coach Rudland will give me the chance to improve for my college season, but more importantly be a part of a great team that makes an impact in the Ann Arbor community.
AFC: Due to injuries in 2016, you didn't see the pitch as much as you'd like to I'm sure. What do you hope to accomplish with the club this summer other than staying healthy?
Chase: The first goal is to win ourselves a championship, but I would love to contribute in anyway I can, whether that be as a starter, coming off the bench, or even pushing my teammates to be better in practice. Besides match play, I would love use my time to improve on the pitch, increase my fitness and, like you mentioned, stay healthy for my senior collegiate season.
AFC: You have a unique perspective playing for The Mighty Oak. We play at your former high school, you're from the area, your family comes to the matches- how awesome is it playing for AFC Ann Arbor and what does it mean to you to make an impact on youth players in the community you grew up in?
Chase: It’s an incredible experience. Due to the academy season in high school, I didn’t have much of a chance to represent my high school nor city athletically. Playing with Ann Arbor gives me that chance, but on a much larger scale. Seeing the support we have at each match made me realize how much this city cares about our team, and knowing that I can be a part of something that brings Ann Arbor together and for the Ann Arbor youth to look up to is truly special.
AFC: Bringing in players from all over the world for a short period requires everyone to try and create chemistry as quick as possible. Being a local guy, what do you see your role as in that process? And what's the experience like to have so many new teammates each summer?
Chase: The team’s diversity last year was fantastic. Being able to play with great players from around the world is a unique experience that is incredibly beneficial. As a local player, my role is to be welcoming and to aid in adjusting to our team’s as well as Ann Arbor’s culture. Especially within our group last year, I could easily tell that all the guys are bought in to establishing a tight knit unit, which is why I love playing with Ann Arbor. It was very easy to make great friends while competing at such a high level and I look forward to similar experience this season.
AFC: Each guy on the team has a different career path that may or may not include playing football professionally. What are you goals over the next few years?
Chase: I have always strived to pursue a career in medicine and plan to continue that path after graduating, ideally with a year of research before entering medical school. Of course a career in soccer is a dream, and I have no way of seeing where soccer takes me, but for now my mind is set on a professional career in health care.
About AFC Ann Arbor
AFC Ann Arbor completed a very successful inaugural campaign in the Midwest Region of the National Premier Soccer League finishing 2nd in the conference while earning the club’s first playoff berth. The club’s third season kicks off in May as The Mighty Oak look to continue their winning ways under Head Coach Eric Rudland. Youth, General and Premium Memberships for Season Tree can be purchased here.