Junior Lone Star FC on Monday announced that Neewilli Saie and Kara Smith have been appointed as co-head coaches of the club's NPSL team for the 2017 season.
Coach Neewilli Saie has always loved soccer. He graduated from Overbrook High School where he was a four-year varsity athlete in soccer and track.
He then attended Neumann University where he graduated in 2012 with a major in Biology and double minor in Chemistry and Natural Science. While at Neumann University, Saie played on the soccer squad for two seasons.
Saie started his coaching career as a player-coach with Intare FC in 2012 and he was then elevated to the head coach position in 2013.
Saie then joined Junior Lone Star FC in 2014 as the U20 team head coach. He was later promoted as the U23 team head coach in late 2015. During the 2016 season, he led the U23s to the Semi-Finals of both the Diaspora World Cup League as well as USASA Region I U23 Tournament.
Due to his exploit at the U23 level, he was later promoted to serve as Assistant Coach of the First Team during the latter part of the 2016 season and he assisted the First Team in finishing third in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL)'s Keystone Conference and also winning the double championships in the East PA Open Cup and Amateur Cup as well as qualifying for the third qualifying round of the 2017 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup qualifiers.
Kara Smith has been on the coaching staff at the club since 2012. He served as Assistant Coach of the U20s (2012) and U23s (201 & 2013). In 2012 and 2013, he helped the U23s finished as Finalists in successive USASA Region I U23 Tournament.
He was later promoted as Assistant Coach of the First Team at the beginning of the 2014 season and had to serve as Acting Head Coach during the 2014 East PA State Cup competitions where he led the team to its first ever East PA Open Cup Final.
Coach Kara also contributed to the First Team finishing third in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL)'s Keystone Conference and also winning the double championships in the East PA Open Cup and Amateur Cup as well as qualifying for the third qualifying round of the 2017 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup qualifiers.
Both coaches, who have previously worked together as assistant coaches under Coach AB last season, will now be working together again to guide the First Team both strategically and in player recruitment and development as the team prepares to compete in five competitions this season: the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup (USOC), the Philadelphia Premier Soccer League (PPSL), the USASA Amateur Cup and the USASA Open Cup.
"This is a very unique situation to have these two dedicated individuals serving as co-head coaches for our team, " said Junior Lone Star FC Executive Director Paul Konneh. "Both Will and Kara have worked together previously and they were successful last season when we won the double so we just couldn't pass the chance of having them head the First Team after Coach AB stepped down."
Both Coach Will and Coach Kara will direct the team strategically and tactically during games and practices. Coach Kara will work in scouting opponents before scheduled matches while Coach Will's emphasis will be on recruiting new players. He will also serve as the media's source for interviews.
“I am just excited for the direction the club is going,” Saie said. “I believe that it’s a new dawn at JLSFC and with the infusion of new talents from the Uner-23s and the tireless work of the veterans, I believe we will go far this season! From our Fall campaigns in the Open and Amateur Cups double we learned that it's the blend of vets and younger guys that will give us success as an organization. I have a really good working relationship with Coach Kara and I’ll be looking forward to learning and adopting to his style of leadership while bringing my own style to the table.”
For his part, Smith said, “It is an honor to work again with my good friend Coach Will who has done an excellent job, both on and off the field since joining the club. We both share the same coaching philosophy, style of play and also work ethic. It was great working alongside him as assistant coach under Coach AB during the 2016 season. I would like to thank all those who I have contributed to where I am today: Notel Jolo, George K Beyan, and most especially Coach AB for giving me the opportunity to be a member of the best soccer organization in our community. I had a stint at the helm of the First Team in 2014 and it was a great experience. I look forward to building on that and working together with Coach Will to accomplish the team’s goals for the 2017 season.”
Coach Will and Coach Kara replace Coach Bobby Ali, who was the First Team coach for the last 15 years. In the past six seasons, Coach AB led the First Team to a record of 22 wins, 18 losses, and 7 draws in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) where they have finished third in the Keystone Conference for two consecutive seasons. In all competitions, Coach AB can boast of an impressive overall record of 49 wins, 27 losses, and 11 draws in all competitive league and cup matches from 2011 to 2016, a winning percentage of 56%. During that period, he led the First Team to its first ever dual titles in the East PA State Amateur Cup and Open Cup in 2016.
Commenting on Coach AB stepping aside, JLSFC Executive Director Konneh added, "Coach AB has done a phenomenal job with the First Team over the years. His main emphasis now will be on player development and establishing reserves (U23s) and youth programs and structures for Junior Lone Star FC. On behalf of the Club Board of Directors, I would like to thank him for all that he has done for this club and being a mentor to these coaches who are now taking over from him."
In the coming days, support staff will be added onto the First Team Technical Staff as the team continue their preseason training with a friendly match already scheduled against the United Soccer League's Bethlehem Steel on Wednesday, February 22nd at 2pm at the YSC Soccer Stadium in Wayne, PA.
Meanwhile, a date for tryouts will be announced tomorrow.