Early on it seemed like the weather might make for an inauspicious start for Sarasota Metropolis FC’s inaugural match. A hard rain had just soaked the AstroTurf of the Bud Athletic Field at the Robert L. Taylor Community Complex moments before kickoff, and a heavy, low sky in the east promised more. Still, nearly 200 people attended Sarasota’s first-ever minor league soccer match against visiting Florida team Weston FC.
The whistle blew, and the match began. Sarasota Metropolis wore blue and Weston wore black. The crowd was young and global, and you could hear English and Irish accents, along with Brazilian and Spanish. A few love bugs settled and were brushed off by onlookers. Someone rang a cowbell intermittently.
Throughout the game, Victor Young, the owner and founder of Sarasota Metropolis FC (and yes, the co-owner of Lamborghini Sarasota), passed out free merchandise—stickers, miniature soccer balls, small towels—all marked with Sarasota Metropolis FC’s logo of a blue dragon. Young became a fan of the game two years ago after reading about the high value of soccer franchises in a business magazine. Using his own money, he got a team together and convinced the United Soccer League to franchise Sarasota in League 2, which is basically the equivalent to a Single A league in baseball.
“I’m not in it to make money,” Young says. “I’ll be happy if I break even. I just wanted to give something to the community.”
The game stopped abruptly after 18 minutes of play. Lightning was spotted out east and officials delayed the match. Both teams walked off the field, but the fans stayed put on the metal bleachers. The 30-minute hiatus reenergized the players, because when they got back on the pitch and the match resumed, they played with fire in their bellies.
There are a handful of local boys on Metropolis, but many of the players are college students from around the world who play at D1 university programs. Nearly all of them have professional ambitions.
The match was nearly over, and it looked like neither team was going to pull out a win. At the 89-minute mark, Sarasota Metropolis forward Rolando Garcia Perez received the ball on the right wing and made a diagonal run toward the goal. The ball seemed to materialize in front of Garcia no matter what the defense put in front of him. Then he shot. The ball was tipped and arced in air and over the goalkeeper and nestled softly in the back of the net. Garcia took off his shirt and ran down the pitch toward the crowd. Sarasota Metropolis FC won the game at the absolute last minute. An auspicious end for the beginning of Sarasota’s first professional soccer team.
Sarasota Metropolis FC’s next home game is May 20 at IMG against Daytona SC.