It’s been over a thousand days since Asheville City Soccer Club played a game at Memorial Stadium. The club is absolutely thrilled to bring the Blues back to their dedicated supporters and bring a fan experience that can only be found in Asheville.
“We are just really excited for the season,” Lydia Jackson, technical director of ACSC said. “ We spent a lot of time this off season making a lot of changes and finding ways to improve in many areas. We couldn't be more thrilled with the direction we are heading. I can't wait to be back on the pitch with the sunset in the backdrop watching our players and coaches compete for our incredible fans. This community drives us and we deserve to give nothing but our best.”
The last time the Blues played at Memorial Stadium the club played in the NPSL and WPSL. The men’s squad finished third in their conference and the women finished second, right behind rival Charlotte Eagles. Flash forward to 2022, the boys in blue play in USL2 and the women’s squad will play in the USLW League inaugural season.
The off season brought many changes for the club, notably new coaching staffs on the men’s and women’s sides.
The women’s side brought Jimena Rojas to the staff as the new head coach. She is an accomplished coach in the soccer world and equipped with numerous accolades and professional experience. She was Assistant Coach & Fitness Coach for a Men's D1 Pro Team and Universidad de Costa Rica, worked for FIFA & the Costa Rican Soccer Federation to develop Legacy programs for Costa Rica and she has been aSports Performance Analyst for the Costa Rican Olympic Committee.
Rojas brings in assistant coaches Kate Hammes, Matt Barry and goalkeeping coach Kristen Eggert. Hammes will be an assistant for the women’s first team and head coach for the girls academy team. Hammes currently serves as the girls director for Highland Football Club. Barry brings 19 years of experience coaching women’s soccer. Eggert is the women’s soccer coach at Montreat College and previously worked as an assistant coach at Liberty.
The men’s side welcomes head coach Scott Wells. Wells, most recently the Men’s first Assistant Coach/Head Recruiting Coordinator at the UNC Greensboro, is known as a highly successful recruiting coordinator in collegiate athletics. While an assistant, Wells has helped lead two teams to a national championship.
“I am beyond fired up to see the crowd get behind our guys this season. It is one thing to be part of this club, it will be another to witness it,” Wells said.
Both the Men’s and Women’s teams see some notable returners. Forward Laura Greb and Defender Chloe McCleary-Small. Greb, who has been with Asheville City’s Women's team since day one, will yet again return for her fourth season in blue. Greb, a Western Carolina University alumnae and McCleary-Small, a UNC Asheville Alumnae are both key players not only on the pitch, but also provide leadership and stability to the team.
“I’m looking forward to seeing our players mesh,” Jimmy Wheeler, general manager of ACSC said. “We think this group of players is the strongest we’ve had on both teams. Coach Mena and Coach Scott have really done a great job in recruiting for the club.”
On the Men’s side we note returning goalkeeper William Watson and previous academy player and forward, Declan Mettee. Watson, just finishing up his freshman season at Princeton University will be returning for his third season with Asheville City, playing for the academy program in 2019 and being pulled up to the first team for the 2021 and now 2022 season. Last season, Watson played 11 games totaling 872 minutes and finished the season with a .788% save percentage.
Mettee, who played for the Academy team last year will return to the Blues as a first team player for the 2022 season. Mettee, a University of Central Arkansas commit and Asheville School alumni, is currently playing with FC Malaga Academy in Spain. Mettee was pulled up for a late season game against Charlotte Independence where he scored the game winning and only goal of the game.
Earlier this year ACSC announced a multi-year partnership with the Western North Carolina Nature Center. The WNC Nature Center is a 42-acre zoological park operated by the City of Asheville. Working together, ACSC and the WNC Nature Center will raise money to support the endangered Hellbender amphibian species. ACSC brings their support by selling a special edition T-shirt where profits will go towards the care of Hellbenders.
Another exciting off-season development is ACSC’s partnership with Green Man Brewery. Conveniently located near Memorial Stadium, Dirty Jack’s, the original Green Man location, has been a soccer fan’s go-to for years. Most notably, the Blues will wear the Green Man logo on their backs. For beer fans, the south slope pilsner will be available for purchase at both Green Man locations.
Fans will be looking forward to all games this season, but the club hopes fans will turn out in mass for our annual pride game. This year's pride game will be Saturday June 11 and will feature a double header. First the women will take on Wake FC then immediately following the men will face East Atlanta FC. Pride night is a proud tradition of ACSC and the club is proud to bring it back to Memorial Stadium.
Not only will the Pride game make its return, but coming back to Memorial will allow for double headers this season.
“We think our 4 doubleheaders are going to be a great atmosphere at Memorial stadium and a great way for fans to see both our men's and women’s team on the same day,” Wheeler said.
The club is excited to welcome fans back to Memorial Stadium for the home opener, a friendly against the NC Fusion men’s club on May 6th.