Professional soccer arrives in Manchester

MANCHESTER - Professional soccer has arrived and it's presence in the community could potentially be beneficial for younger players.

As of press time, the Vermont Voltage (5-5-2) were scheduled to play their first game at Applejack Field - the last Premier Development League match of the season - against the Western Mass Pioneers (5-2-4). Their second game at Applejack against the Southern Vermont All Stars is slated for next Wednesday, July 24, beginning at 6 p.m.

The match - like the next two that are scheduled to occur against the Albany Black Watch on Aug. 10 and the East Coast United Serbs on Aug. 24 - is a non-league game, but according to coach of the Vermont Voltage, Bo Vuckovic, that will not change how his team approaches the game.

"Everything factors into my personal record, my book," said Vuckovic. "Every game counts for us and even those kind of non-league games we call it friendly, they're not that friendly."

The game against the Southern Vermont All Stars will be only their second at Applejack Field.

In the past the Voltage have played exhibition games against the All Stars.

Based on previous years, Vuckovic indicated that there was a quasi home field advantage feel when they played against the All Stars at Applejack - something he hopes will change in the near future.

"When we played that one game a year here usually people would come and support us, but they would also come and support the local Southern Vermont All Star team because of family and friends, so it didn't feel like home field," said Vuckovic. "But now we're hoping that all these people that support southern Vermont [will] come and support the Voltage because we are representing our state and we are the Vermont team."

If the attendance is good, Vuckovic said he hopes to play more games at Applejack next season - somewhere between and one to two a month if possible.

The presence of professional soccer in southern Vermont is something Vuckovic and Manchester Town Manager John O'Keefe feel will benefit younger players.

"I think it is inspiring. This is good high level soccer," said O'Keefe. "I think it goes a long way for kids to watch soccer and it's a totally different game when you watch it live versus on TV because in soccer there's a lot of play off the camera. So, for example there might be one guy dribbling down the field, but there's another guy on the other side of the field who's making a run in the space, but you're not always necessarily going to see him in the camera. So, when you're watching the game you get a better appreciation of what's happening all over the field. I think it's a totally different experience to watch the game live."

With the creation of the Bennington Sports Center facility earlier this year, Vuckovic said they are now trying to become more involved in local soccer and youth leagues, camps and groups as the mission of the Premier Development League is to increase the interest in, and quality of, soccer.

"If you can boost their self esteem and boost their desire to train and play, overall that will grow soccer and [the] level of soccer in elementary schools, high schools and overall in the US I believe," said Vuckovic. "So, that's the mission of all the teams in the PDL league it's to get involved in the community and coach the kids and hopefully [make] the soccer better here in this country."

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