PUFC's Mike Juszczak talks about his team's rise up the table from D2, confidence, and how team chemistry played an important role
BDSL: Pendleton United has posted consecutive trophy winning seasons in the league and manager Mike Juszczak has helmed both those runs. First off Mike could you tell us more about the initial creation of your side, your role within the team, and anyone else who maybe helped get PUFC off the ground and running?
PUFC: The creation of Pendleton United FC started because I have missed playing with my best friends from Starpoint High School. Since I was part of the US Soccer Development Academy, I was not allowed to play high school soccer my last 2 years. So the winter of 2015, I decided to reach out to guys to play together again in the BDSL. Thankfully everyone was on board and since then we all love playing with each other and look forward to every Sunday during the summer. KJ Maldiner was very helpful in getting this all started too. He recruited some guys and runs our twitter till this day.
My role within the team is basically everything now. I collect all dues, order jerseys, get sponsors, and manage everything else than comes with being a BDSL manager. On the field, I feel like guys look up to me as a leader and I try to enforce everyone play together which seems to be working with our recent success.
BDSL: Do you find it hard to find a fair balance with running the day to day off field parts of the team vs making sure on game days your prepared as well. What sort of advice would you give to others on how to go about striking the right balance?
PUFC: I don't have a hard time balancing everything because I keep everything very organized. I highly recommend creating an excel sheet to keep track of all player payments and expenses for the year. This way you have everything tracked and aren't scrambling around during the season. Also, I would make sure everyone is paid off before the first game of the season so you aren't chasing any money and can truly focus on winning.
BDSL: Championship will be your third straight new division after back-to-back promotions. Does moving up the table like that make expectations high for this year as well? Or do you think it paints a target on your side? Some might compare your team’s raise to that of East Aurora FC. Do you feel that's a fair comparison?
PUFC: After winning a trophy the last 2 seasons and going to final four of Tehel Cup, we have high expectations going into this year to lift our third trophy is 3 years. Seeing the recent success, and being in Championship, I for sure think it puts a target on our side. Years past, Premier teams like SoHo saw a 1st division team in the Tehel Cup and thought it was going to be a cake walk. Championship division now puts us up there in terms of respect. Comparing us to East Aurora FC is a very fair comparison.
BDSL: So safe to assume you guys are thinking another playoff push this season? As you've risen from D2 to Championship what are your thoughts on the level of play as you've gone up? Has it been drastically different or is the skill gap closer then people think?
PUFC: It is very safe to assume that we will be making another playoff run this year. With new additions we expect nothing less. As we have gone up from D2 to Championship, you can for sure tell the difference in talent, but it is still competitive. Division 2 was a good place to start because it was our first ever year, but majority of the competition wasn't that great. Division 1 was more competitive and majority of the games we had were fairly close. I am looking forward to playing in Championship Division this year.
BDSL: Going up through the ranks you've also played a far number of different teams across all the BDSL divisions. Do any stick out to you as maybe rivals to your club? Maybe any that left a good impression on you or one that you'd want to model some changes to your side after?
PUFC: I wouldn't say we don't have any rivals yet. None of our games really got out of control, because we were able to control most of play throughout are 2 years in the BDSL so far. After losing in the Tehel Cup final four last year, I would for sure like to model Yemen's style of play with keeping the ball and having good movement. Being able to keep the ball will help us win games this upcoming year in championship division.
BDSL: There is definitely a confidence about your team that is readily apparent to those who play your side. Is due to the previous success of the team so far or is that more about the make up of the team? Either way that surely must make you feel you have a leg up on the competition before during and after the games. What role do you think that plays on your team and those you play against?
PUFC: I think our confidence comes all the way back to our high school soccer days that was initiated with our head coach, Todd Conklin. He believed in us which made us all work together and to this day we play like that. Having confidence and playing together will always give you a leg before you even kick off and win you championships in this league. Having this confidence, players tend to play for each other rather than for themselves. Defending and attacking as one unit let’s us play a dominant style of soccer that many haven’t been able to stop recently.
BDSL: What would you add change or adjust within the league? Is there anything you think we could do to improve the league?
PUFC: I can't think of anything else the league could do to make it better. We have cleaned up all the policies so everything is clear cut this year and no one can complain. This is one of the best men’s leagues in the United States, which makes the season so exciting and fun to be around. Hats off to you (Mike), and all the board members.
BDSL: Anything else you may want to add that we didn’t cover here?
PUFC: Nothing else from me. We expect a great season and looking forward to it.