2023 to bring changes for Coyotes FC
DAVID STONE | OUR TOWN TEMPLE
The Temple Coyotes FC will begin the process of setting its roster this month as the 2023 National Premier Soccer League season fast approaches. The new year will bring several changes and additions to the club, including a new Under-19 team and possibly a new name.
“Our first game isn’t until the second weekend in May, but we have a lot going on between now and then,” Coyotes FC owner Manuel Velasquez said today. “We start tryouts this month, and we will be bringing in some college players to see if they can help us out.”
“By the end of March, we should have a roster set and we will start playing preseason games in April,” he said. “We’re working on the schedule and that will be released early next month.”
Velasquez said the team can add new players until the NPSL final signing deadline in June.
“We’re also bringing in an international coach from Brazil,” Velasquez said. “He will be arriving in Temple in about two weeks, and I think he will make a big difference.”
2023 will mark the first year of a Coyotes Under-19 team, a group consisting of high school and college players. Velasquez and the staff will be keeping a close eye on the young team and hope to find emerging talent.
“The Under-19 Coyotes will play in four tournaments starting with San Antonio on March 28,” he said. “We host a tournament on April 8 and 9, and there should be about 80 to 100 players here, plus families, friends and fans. The last two tournaments will be in Houston and Austin.”
Velasquez said he has been in conversations with consultants to rebrand the organization.
“When I came up with Coyotes FC I wasn’t really sure where the team would land,” he said. “I wanted something that would work anywhere in Texas. “We might change the name to reflect something more Temple specific like the Temple Train or the Locomotives. I’m not sure if that will happen for this season.”
Velasquez said NPSL players are not paid to play.
“Most of our players are playing on college teams,” he said. “The league doesn’t want to do anything that will jeopardize their college careers and scholarships.”
The Temple-based Coyotes have developed a following for their Woodson Field games. Velasquez who also owns food trucks, a food delivery service and Hat Trick Sports Bar, which will open in Temple over Super Bowl weekend. He has expressed interest in moving his team to a Downtown location such as the soon-to-open MLK Fairgrounds.
“I started the Coyotes FC in 2018 as part of the United Premier Soccer League,” he said. “We were just testing the waters back then, and we had a great reception from businesses, players and coaches. We wanted to compete at a higher level, so we moved to the National Premier Soccer League in 2020. Just in time for COVID.”
“We weren’t able to have any games or clinics back then because of the pandemic, and honestly we were close to going out of business. We played in 2021 but for the most part people stayed away. It was a tough couple years, but we stuck with it.”
Then came 2022, and the fans.
“There’s a lot of potential for soccer in Bell County,” he said. “There are great players and great coaches right here.”
Velasquez, a native of Bogota, Colombia, came to the United States in 2010 and settled in New York. As a 20 year old, he joined the Army, was assigned to Fort Hood, and fell in love with Texas.
“I saw a lot of opportunities in this area,” he said. “When I got out of the Army, I decided to start selling traditional Colombian foods here. I opened a food truck, then another, and now I have a delivery service as well.”
For now, the Coyotes play their home games at Woodson, which also is home to Temple High’s soccer programs. Velasquez sees Woodson as a starting point for Coyote FC. He envisions a future that puts the club smack-dab in the middle of a bustling Downtown Temple scene. And, in his opinion, the city has built a perfect future home.
“The MLK Fair Grounds would be a perfect place for a small soccer stadium,” he said. “It really wouldn’t affect the city’s plans. We just need a big grassy area with seating.”
“Think of the impact a Downtown soccer field could have on the restaurants, shops and bars,” he said. “People could come Downtown and have dinner, enjoy a couple of beverages, shop, then walk a couple blocks to the game.”
“Soccer games would bring a new crowd Downtown on a regular basis,” he said. “It would be a win-win for the city, for businesses and for Coyotes FC.”
“We want to be a community-based soccer club that provides a great value in family entertainment,” he said. “We want to represent Temple in a positive manner and help support our Downtown businesses.”
The Coyotes compete in perhaps the toughest conference in the 100-team NPSL. The Lone Star Conference is home to the powerful Denton Diablos, the league’s national champion in 2021, as well as high-caliber teams such as the Lubbock Matadors and the Laredo Heat.
The Coyotes FC consists mainly of college players looking to elevate their game in a competitive summer league. Players come from all over the world.
“Last year, we had team members from Venezuela, Mexico, Jamaica and all over the US,” Velasquez said. “We’ve had a couple guys from England and a player from Spain as well.”
But not all Coyote players hail from far away lands.
“Two of our best players last year were from right here,” he said. “Edgar Soto is from Belton and he plays Division 1 college soccer at Grand Canyon University. He’s a dangerous playmaker.”
“We also had Juan Lumbreras, a young man who grew up in Kansas before moving to Temple. He also plays at a high level.”
“We have players from several solid college programs including Southwestern in Georgetown, UMHB and Grand Canyon.”