Biloxi City FC formed in April 2016. Their creation was the result of a lack of competitive soccer on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. ‘The Blackjacks’ were created to play in the GCPL and to offer local soccer players a chance to play at an elite-amateur level. After having a promising off-season, the GCPL’s only team outside of Louisiana are feeling somewhat optimistic for their inaugural season.
Team Overview: Being newcomers to the league and with much of the squad lacking GCPL experience, the Blackjacks joined the league with the objective of being competitive and building for the future with youth. However, given the success both on and off the field over the summer, there is a feeling that they could be the surprise package in this upcoming 2016-17 season.
Although they are new to the league, Biloxi City’s players are certainly not new to soccer. Their attacking options include Michael Cooper, a former Hinds Community College and Mississippi College player who has received accolades throughout his playing career, including the ASC Offensive Player of the Year in 2009, whilst also earning First Team All-ASC honors. It’s certainly not a one-man strike team though, other options for the Blackjacks include Romar Smith, who recently graduated from Pearl River Community College and was awarded a place at the 2016 MACJC All-Star Game, along with James Beatie, a forward that is originally from Scotland and currently playing for Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.
Moving down the field, disrupting the midfield partnership of Corey Hutcheon and Patrick Harrison is sure to be a tough task for opposing teams. Corey, born in Trinidad & Tobago, previously played for the New Orleans Jesters Reserves before moving across to Biloxi City FC. Patrick, Biloxi City’s ‘player to watch’, will be captaining the side through their first season. However, the Blackjacks Director of Soccer, Sinisa Vukadin, will have a few headaches this season trying to select his starting XI. Patrick Grafton, a Delta State Graduate, and Samuel Mang, originally from Burma, will be expecting to have important roles to play in the center of midfield.
In defense, Biloxi City possess several no-nonsense defenders. They don’t come any tougher than Olaide Yusuf. Olaide, a Nigerian native that came over to the USA to play soccer at MGCCC and ultimately, University of Alabama, has numerous recognition’s during his college career including All-American, All-Region, All-State and MVP. Olaide is somewhat of a utility player for the Blackjacks; he played as a striker during his college career and has also featured in the midfield. Other notable players at the back include Ronnie Smith, a hardworking full back that is known for his and relentless energy and surging runs up the wing, and recent addition, Nate Hodges, who played for East Tennessee State University and is known for his commanding nature and physicality.
Between the sticks, Sinisa Vukadin has two keepers that any team in the division would be glad to have. Kyle Gifford is the younger of the two keepers. Kyle was named All-District during his time at Ocean Springs High School which enabled him to go on to Huntingdon College before transferring to Pearl River Community College where he went on to win state and regional titles. Todd, also an Ocean Springs High School Alumni, went on to earn a scholarship at William Carey University where he played as starting goalkeeper. Todd helped his team advance to the NAIA National Playoffs during his Junior season.
Through a good mix of experience and youth, Biloxi City FC will be hoping they can slip under the radar as an underestimated team this season and who can blame them; coming through their first off-season with an undefeated record, the only blemish on that record being a 2-2 draw against the Louisiana Fire in their first friendly match back in May 2016. However, the team will do well to remember that they are the new kids on the block and may be in for a rough ride from some of the more established teams, such as CD Motagua of New Orleans who recently ended Biloxi City’s undefeated streak with a 4-3 win on their home turf, the Pan American Stadium.
One to watch: Patrick Harrison, Midfield
The Californian native joined up with the Blackjacks from their creation in April 2016. Patrick played at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College between 2008-2010. In his freshman year, the team went on to win the Region Championship with a 17-1-2 record. After graduating from MGCCC, he played in the NPSL with the Mississippi Storm for two years.
In Biloxi City’s short history, Patrick has been awarded the captains armband and has been orchestrating most of the Blackjacks attacking movements. Somewhat of a box-to-box midfielder, Patrick not only offers a playmaker type ability going forward but also is known around the team for recovering the ball in the midfield and sparking quick counters.