2012-13 MISL Season Preview
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
A little less than a year ago, Craig Rocastle had reached a fork in the road.
Out of contract with Sporting Kansas City, the defensive midfielder had began training with the Missouri Comets, staying in game condition and beginning to learn the intricacies of the indoor game.
“I just asked Leo Gibson, who used to train with Sporting KC during the offseason, if I could come down and train and see the boys and be involved in some kind of footballing activities,” Rocastle said. “Then they finally let me do it, and I turned around and said ‘I’ll play’, and they didn’t believe me at first, but then they realized I was a bit serious because I wanted to stay in Kansas City because my girlfriend and I were expecting our baby girl, so that’s how it all came about.”
Unfortunately for the Comets, as soon as Rocastle had put pen to paper, an offer for the now 31-year-old came in from Greek club Thrasyvoulos. A clause in his contract allowed him to depart, and the opportunity to continue his outdoor career proved too tempting. After helping the club avoid relegation, though, Rocastle returned to Kansas City, and the interest between he and the Comets resumed. While advances came again from Greece, with his new-born daughter having arrived, Rocastle decided to stay in the place he now calls home.
“It does feel nice,” he said. “I had a big decision to make, because I could have gone back to Europe, gone back to my Greek team, and then after about three weeks of headache and deciding what to do, the way the organization of the Comets treated me, I would have been a fool to say no. I wanted to stay here for a number of reasons, and I’m grateful they’ve given me that opportunity. They were very patient with me on making this decision.”
A man who has often been on the move, Rocastle’s career has seen him signed to clubs such as Chelsea in the English Premier League, Hibernian in the Scottish Premier League, and other historic clubs such as Sheffield Wednesday. Looking for a new challenge, and persuaded by friends, he joined the Kansas City Wizards, as they were then known, in 2010, as the club began its path towards its current success.
“The option was would you like to go to America and play out there,” Rocastle said. “Out of the options I had, KC were the front-runners in terms of how much the communicated with myself and my agent to get me out here. I’ve always felt you should go where you feel most wanted, and they definitely made me feel that way to come to Kansas City.”
Since arriving, Rocastle has seen the transformation the city and area has undergone in terms of soccer’s stature. Now with Sporting Kansas City’s new home, the club’s victory in the U.S. Open Cup and upcoming trip to the MLS Playoffs, the sport has reached a higher profile than ever before.
“When I first came the likes of Davy Arnaud and Jack Jewsbury were telling me how much it’s grown since they’ve first started, and in my eyes since 2010, it’s huge,” Rocastle said. “To see in the two years, and now this third year, it’s huge. There are so many more soccer clubs, there are people playing it everywhere, there’s what I call soccer addicts in terms of parents and children, and that’s huge for the city itself.”
The Comets are also playing a role, with the side attracting more than 4,000 fans a season ago and a remarkable 8,726 for their game at the Sprint Center. Now with a re-tooled lineup, Rocastle is hoping he can help the club build on its success since its return to the MISL.
“I’m expecting to get a lot of stick,” he said. “I know people are going to be on me, being a newcomer coming into the league, but the Comets have a great bunch of guys down there who are very experienced, who know how other teams play. Ever since I trained with them for the first time in December 2011, they’ve just shown and told me everything of what to expect and how it’s going to come, when it’s going to come, and it’s taught me a lot.”
Comets coach Kim Roentved is certainly pleased to have the Englishman on board. Bringing his outdoor experience, and acting as a bridge between the defense and midfield for many of his former teams, Rocastle’s vision and ability to organize will certainly be an asset for the Comets this season.
“He’s such a smart player,” Roentved said. “He knows when to go forward and take a chance, but he also knows we need to be organized at the back before he can do that, so being a defensive midfielder outdoor and as smart as he is, I don’t think it’s going to be a problem with him adjusting whatsoever.”
And with Rocastle having been out of competitive action since May, he’s ready to start the new season, and begin his walk down a new road.
“For me, it’s been the longest time I haven’t played,” he said. “It’s been a long offseason, so for me it’s huge. I met my new girlfriend here, I’m going to have more family around watching me, so it’s definitely a huge occasion for me. My daughter’s going to be there, not that she understands, but it’s huge for me personally. “