CHELMSFORD - The Greater Lowell United Football Club is a soccer team born of a mutual passion for the game.
Tim Melican, a self-professed soccer fanatic, set up a meeting with Manny Andrade, a former Lowell High and UMass Lowell soccer player, last July in the hope of convincing Andrade to become a co-founder of a National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) team in Lowell. At the time, all Melican had to sell Andrade on was a logo and an idea.
Whatever sales pitch Melican used it worked, as these two kindred entrepreneurial spirits have taken this "idea" and worked together to make it a reality. The Greater Lowell United FC will take the pitch for its inaugural NPSL regular season game against the Brooklyn Italians at Cawley Stadium in Lowell on Saturday, May 10, at 8:05 p.m.
"My last job as a press operator was outsourced to Mexico and I was laid off," said Melican, 33, who grew up in the Newburyport area. "I told myself, I was never going to do something I wasn't passionate about again. The thing I'm most passionate about is soccer. So I reached out to all the local clubs in the area to see if I could get a job. But since I had no experience in soccer the only way I could do that was to start my own club.
"I did some research and I began to reach out to people with a business background because I knew I couldn't do it by myself. I met with Manny and showed him the team logo and told him about my idea. From that meeting things snowballed and here we are. It's so surreal. This is what I've wanted. I wouldn't let up until I somehow made this happen."
Andrade, 38, a real estate agent at Ready Realty in North Chelmsford, moved to the U.S. from Portugal when he was 12. Although he is a fan of all sports, soccer is and always will be Andrade's first love.
After college Andrade played soccer in Portugal for Santa Clara in Sao Miguel, Azores. Andrade brings considerable business-development experience to Greater Lowell United FC and has many valuable contacts in the local area.
"We didn't know each other before that first meeting at Starbucks in Drum Hill," said Andrade. "But I was willing to listen to what he had to say. Really, all he had was a logo and an idea. But together we cemented what I believe is a good business plan to be successful. It will take a couple years but I think this team will take off.
"We're an expansion franchise and no one has heard of us.
Greater Lowell United FC's roster consists primarily of current college players, former local high school/college players in their early to mid-20s and veteran players, some of whom played overseas. None of the players on Greater Lowell United FC are paid so the college players can maintain their amateur status. There are clubs in the NPSL, which is broken up into geographic regions that include the Northeast, South, Midwest and West, that pay players.
Greater Lowell United FC will also field developmental clubs in the Massachusetts State Soccer League and Bay State Soccer League.
"This is the Lowell Spinners of soccer," said Andrade. "This is where you will possibly see the future (Kevin) Youkilis of (Major League Soccer). We sell guys on this being their opportunity to play in a national league where they can get looked at by other divisional opponents who pay their players and upper echelon leagues who are looking to grab talent from our league."
Greater Lowell United FC has hired, Jason Moore, a former first overall pick in the MLS draft out of the University of Virginia by D.C. United, as its head coach. Moore won an MLS title with D.C. United and played for five MLS teams, including the New England Revolution, before retiring as a player.
"Where could we have found a better name guy to have as coach than, Jason Moore, a former No. 1 draft pick of the MLS, who won a championship with D.C. United?" said Andrade. "He gave us instant credibility."
Moore, who also runs the Moore Soccer Academy for players ranging in ages from grade school to college, is looking forward to the challenge of helping Greater Lowell United FC shed its expansion tag as quickly as possible. Greater Lowell United FC topped Mass United, 3-1, in its first preseason game.
An open players tryout was held last November. Once a roster was put together the team began practicing indoors in January and just recently began practicing outdoors. Right now the Greater Lowell United FC either holds a practice, works out or scrimmages almost every day of the week. Greater Lowell United FC will be playing its home games at Cawley Stadium and Lawrence Veterans Memorial Stadium.
"What was so appealing to me about this job was not only the owners, but their vision and the chance to create something from scratch," said Moore, 36, prior to Thursday's practice at the McCarthy Middle School in Chelmsford. "If you look at the demographics in this area, I think this team is a natural fit. I feel I'll be able to bring something to the table that will help make this franchise a success.
"Right now, it's progress not perfection. We're making the transition from training indoors to outdoors. We have a good core group of players with a good mix age wise. We got our first win the other day in a scrimmage. From a coach's perspective that was good. It was a good confidence builder and we have to keep moving forward."
There are several locals in Greater Lowell United FC's program, including Theo Booras (Lowell), Matt Sequeira (Lowell), Johany Gallego (Lowell) and Zach Rowell (Haverhill).
"Soccer is my one true love," said Booras, 21, a former Lowell High player who now serves as the Red Raiders' JV soccer coach. "This is living out a dream.
"It's definitely a high level of play. We have some very talented players. We can definitely have a good year and be competitive right away. A team like this is something soccer fans around here have been waiting for."
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