English expedition

As defender heads abroad, Kingston FC cuts deal at home

Flanked by Kingston FC head coach Colm Muldoon (left) and assistant coach Mike Akai (right), club chairman Lorne Abugov announced the team’s new facility deal with Queen’s at Tuesday’s press conference.
Flanked by Kingston FC head coach Colm Muldoon (left) and assistant coach Mike Akai (right), club chairman Lorne Abugov announced the team’s new facility deal with Queen’s at Tuesday’s press conference.
Photo: 
Nathan Klemencic (right) played four years with the Gaels before joining Kingston FC in 2013.
Nathan Klemencic (right) played four years with the Gaels before joining Kingston FC in 2013.
Photo: 

Joe Zupo’s professional chance has arrived.

Before he graduates from Queen’s this summer, the fourth-year men’s soccer captain has a shot to boost his burgeoning pro career. He’s flying to England next week, bound for a three-week trial with Exeter City FC, a club in the English fourth division.

Zupo revealed the news at the ARC on Tuesday, in a season-opening press conference held by Kingston FC — the local pro franchise he suited up for this past season.

“To go over there, I’m not expecting it to be rainbows and butterflies,” Zupo said. “I’m expecting to go over there and do my best. If I come back and nothing comes out of it, at least I don’t regret going over there and not putting my best foot forward.”

Named an OUA East All-Star in each of his four collegiate seasons, Zupo thrived alongside seasoned pros during a 13-game stint with Kingston FC, which competes in the third rung of North American soccer.

Learning from his veteran teammates, the defender said, inspired him to commit to the tryout and test himself against England’s elite.

“This is their livelihood. These players are playing in order to progress and to be professional football players,” Zupo said. “That’s my hope: mentally and physically, that I can compete at the level they play at.

“I’m confident in my abilities. If nothing else, I’m going to enjoy the experience.”

Tuesday’s press conference cast Zupo as the face of Kingston FC’s relationship with Queen’s — a connection that’s set to highlight the club’s third CSL season.

The team plays its home games at West Campus Field and has extensive access to Richardson Stadium and the ARC. Club chairman Lorne Abugov announced Tuesday that the franchise has signed a new agreement with Queen’s, cementing their use of these facilities for the next three years.

The new deal will also see Queen’s Athletics promote Kingston FC tickets and merchandise, both online and at the ARC’s Q-Shop.

“There’s a huge soccer fan base of Queen’s students,” Zupo said. “When kids are starting to come back to school [in September], hopefully they can make their way out to games and be the fan base that Kingston FC rightfully deserves to have.”

Queen’s hefty on-field representation was a key part of Kingston FC’s meteoric rise up the CSL standings in 2013.

Zupo was one of four Gaels products to suit up for Kingston in a campaign that saw the squad win the First Division regular season title. They earned 37 more points than in 2012, the club’s tumultuous expansion season.

Ex-Gaels midfielders Jordan Brooks and Nathan Klemencic should be back with Kingston FC when the new season kicks off in May, according to Abugov. Asutin White, last year’s and a current Queen’s law student, will rejoin the club in September, after he returns from summer employment with a firm in Toronto.

Abugov said he plans to meet with Gaels men’s soccer coach Chris Gencarelli in the coming weeks to evaluate other potential prospects.

In the meantime, he’s hopeful Zupo won’t return to West Campus Field anytime soon.

“If he does well [in England], we won’t have him,” Abugov said, “and if he doesn’t do as well as he hopes or if it doesn’t work out, then he would be welcome to play with us in a heartbeat.

“It’s part of our commitment to push our players into the next level of soccer and help them progress their own career,” he added. “The CSL is a stepping stone league, and we’re quite content to play the role.”

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