When retired professional soccer player Sergio Taborda moved to Massachusetts with his wife, Meaghan Hohl Taborda, they knew something was missing.
Despite the wide variety of sports that locals could play, the opportunities to play upper-level soccer were quite limited. So it was with anxious feet and an eye to the future that the couple chose a logo and a color scheme based on Sergio’s old Lisbon team and started looking at opportunities.
“We did a lot of research in terms of business development as to what was out there, what was missing, what’s the level of play, and who would be involved,” Meaghan said.
The pair eventually stumbled upon the United Soccer League, which offers several different league options, including a professional league and a player development division a step below.
At the time, the only Massachusetts team in that league was the Western Mass. Pioneers, she said.
‘At the end of the day, we want to win. But this league is meant to develop players at the professional level. And if he’s developing players, he’s a step ahead.’
There also was a team forming in Worcester, but the Tabordas were unaware of it, and so began their mission to create the Boston Victory Soccer Club.
Wanting to start slowly, the duo decided to begin with the Player Development League, with the hopes of eventually joining in at a pro level.
“Soccer is a bit different here in the US than in Europe,” said Sergio Taborda, who has played professional soccer in Lisbon and in Germany and now coaches the Victory. “So I wanted to know how it works and the rules and regulations of the league and the response from the fans . . . so we decided to go with PDL in the first year and maybe the second year, until we find more investors and sponsors.”
As the name suggests, Sergio initially hoped to bring the league to a field in Boston, yet scheduling conflicts with other teams for college campuses proved cumbersome, so the team started looking elsewhere.
Quincy was a natural next choice, Meaghan said.
“The city of Quincy has been great,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of folks that have been very supportive and have a lot of local folks that want to come on board and participate in what we’re doing in Quincy. We have a couple of friends that want to be business partners at our games. The city of Quincy has been great to work with, and supportive to use Veterans Memorial Stadium. . . . We have [also] had great community support.”
Building that community support was one of the more difficult parts of creating a team, her husband said.
“To find fields and support has been very hard. People don’t know us, they don’t care about soccer that much like in Europe. So for them, lacrosse, baseball is first. To get the fields we have to compete with teams from other sports, so it was hard to find fields to play and practice. But we got it,” Sergio said.
Now, an average of 150 to 300 people show up per game, with over 500 people showing up on opening night at Veterans Memorial in late April. After their 2-0 loss to the Western Mass. Pioneers last Saturday dropped the Victory’s record to 2-9-1, the team will play its last home game of the season next Wednesday against the Worcester Hydra.
“We did have some difficulty shortly thereafter in conflict with the Celtics playing, as well as the Red Sox and the Revolution. But despite all that, we’ve managed to have a pretty good turnout,” Meaghan said.
Another big challenge has been finding a stable roster.
Though there is a wide range of skilled players on the South Shore, many have other commitments that take then away from the Victory’s demanding practice and game schedule, Sergio said.
According to midfielder Ruben Resendes, a 21-year-old from Fall River who plays soccer at Southern New Hampshire University, the older players on the team are what makes the Victory different from other teams in the league.
Elsewhere, most player development divisions consist solely of college students, who treat the league as a steppingstone to a professional level.
“We do have kids who are looking to play professionally who are here looking to stay in shape . . . but every other team, their team is made up of those college kids, whereas us we only have five or six,” Resendes said.
Still, for those on the PDL looking to grow, Sergio has been a great teacher, Resendes said.
“At the end of the day, we want to win. But this league is meant to develop players at the professional level. And if he’s developing players, he’s a step ahead,” Resendes said. “The league isn’t meant to win first place; it’s there to develop players for the next level. That’s what he’s looking to do.”
Sergio has carried that idea of developing players into other venues of the blossoming franchise, as the couple has started building a soccer academy to help generate future talent.
Teams train and practice weekly for most of the year. Players also participate in tournaments.
“The arrival of our Youth Academy is one more step in the right direction,” he said on the team’s website. “It shows we are committed to bringing high-level soccer to the Boston region.”
Although there is still room to grow, Sergio said he’s happy with the progress the team and the new franchise have made.
“The level is better than I expected. I see players with a lot of talent and with a potential future in professional soccer. . . . So I’m excited. And people are starting to know us, come to the stadium. I feel that slowly, people are getting behind the team, which is rewarding.”