Rochester Thunder Fold PDL Team after Two Short But Good Years
After only two short years, the Rochester Thunder Premier Development Team have made a decision to not renew their contract with the United Soccer Leagues.
“Due to unfortunate circumstances, the Rochester Thunder will no longer be able to continue. With the economy the way it is and only a handful of sponsors –we could not make it work financially. This is a hard decision, but one that needed to be made. We appreciate the support of the Rochester fans, Rochester Youth Soccer Association [RYSA], Neil Cassidy [head coach] and also the soccer community that rallied around this team,” said Penz.
Penz told IMS today that the team lost a significant amount of money this past year. They were still planning on bringing the Thunder back in 2011 and were working hard to secure sponsors. They had found what they thought was a major sponsorship but that person/organization backed out even after giving a verbal commitment. The team searched but were unable to find another sponsor to help underwrite the team. With the losses incurred over the last two years, the Penz family decided to fold the team.
Penz said he left the door open for the Rochester Youth Soccer Association to take over but there just wasn’t enough time to get the deal done.
Neil Cassidy has been the coach of the Rochester Thunder for its first two seasons. He gave a few more details of the offer saying they were willing to gift the franchise to RYSA but just couldn’t get it done with the limited time. Cassidy stated that Penz contacted the RYSA just 7 hours before the USL deadline which didn’t leave the non-profit volunteer board nearly enough time to gather the information and fill out all the forms needed to register with the USL. PDL franchises are believed to be worth $75 thousand dollars.
Last year, after the Minnesota Thunder folded, the Rochester Thunder PDL team struck a deal with a benevolent United Soccer Leagues after the Rochester Thunder had been left high and dry. USL president Tim Holt made a statement to IMS last year saying that both the senior team and the PDL team had lost their franchise after Johnson failed to make payment to the USL. At the time, Todd Penz reported his father Dan had met the contractual obligations to Johnson but the St. Paul native never came though with his payment to the league.
Johnson, who owed the senior Thunder team, disappeared and never made an announcement of the team folding and never filed bankruptcy, leaving tens of thousands owned to many small businesses and former employees who charged up thousands of dollars on their own accounts after Johnson promised to pay them back.
The USL was believed to have cut a deal for the Rochester Thunder PDL team to allow them to play in the 2010 season.
Despite Rochester’s on-field success in 2010, the Thunder only averaged 322 fans per game.
Cassidy said he was very saddened by the news and had hopped the team could survive. He believes that the team was beneficial to the Rochester soccer community, allowing coaches who helped him with the team move to a higher level and giving players a chance to improve and showcase themselves. He explained that it was great for the RYSA players to see high level soccer being playing in their own city.
Cassidy said he was very proud of some of the Rochester Thunder PDL team’s alumni after only two years.
Teal Bunbury is one of those former Rochester Thunder PDL players. Bunbury went on to win the Hermann Trophy after finishing 2nd in the nation with his college team the Akron Zips. Bunbury was drafted 4th overall by Major League Soccer’s Kansas City Wizards and had 7 goals on the year. Bunbury was recently called up to the US Men’s National Team and is currently in South Africa training with the Nats.
Kentaro Takada is another Thunder PDL team alumni. The Japanese midfielder who played an important defensive midfield role for the first year NSC Minnesota Stars, played for the Thunder PDL in 2009 and was called up to the senior Stars team that same summer when the team played Guatemalan team Comunicaciones. Takada showed well and earned himself a contract after attending the NSC Stars combine this spring. Takada featured in 20 games this past season and helped his team become the only expansion team to make the USSF D2 Pro League playoffs.
Ben Sippola is another former PDL player who is currently playing for Butler University. The Butler Bulldogs are nationally ranked, with Sippola being the team’s top scorer. He was recently voted Most Valuable Player in the Horizon Conference and Best Offensive Player. Sippola recently expressed to IMS the desire to play professionally.
The Rochester Thunder under Cassidy’s direction finished 10-3-3 in league play this past summer and finished 2nd in the Heartland Division. The team made it to the playoffs in their second season but were eliminated by the Thunder Bay Chill.