Tommy Tanner and Jon Ramin have spent the last 20 months focusing all attention and energy on their new project. If the countless hours of incessant planning don’t produce something big for the area, then there was a glitch along the way, the pair agree.
Tanner is the president and head coach of the Syracuse Silver Knights, an indoor soccer club that is part of the Major Indoor Soccer League, while Ramin is the general manager. The team, which will play 12 home contests at the Onondaga County War Memorial, was nothing more than a promising thought almost two years ago. Based in Tampa, Fla., the MISL is a seventeam league that joined forces with the United Soccer League. Tanner and Ramin expect it to expand in the future.
It all came about during one of the most difficult economies in recent memory, but none of that stopped Ramin, a Le Moyne College graduate and Syracuse-bred soccer enthusiast who directs an adult league at his family-run CNY Family Sports Centre. It makes sense then that the Silver Knights train at the Lysander facility.
On the other hand, Tanner, 43, is a former player for the now-defunct Syracuse Salty Dogs, among other teams. His experience in the area, he said, gives him an advantage over others because he knows so much about the local scene.
“We’re going to be competing for the entertainment dollar,” Tanner said in a lengthy phone interview last week. “I love the indoor game—it’s a terrific sport to watch. It will bring jobs to the area and help support downtown businesses.”
Ticket price ranges from $13 for kids’ seats up to $17 for premier seating. Ramin said package and family deals are available.
Indoor soccer’s rules aren’t what you might expect. Games played on huge outdoor fields don’t usually feature much offense, but rather strategic operation in hopes of slowing the opponent while scooting in a goal. In the MISL, it won’t be uncommon to see teams score 20 or 30 points in a game, as any goal from inside 45 feet is worth two points, while long-range strikes are worth three.
Outdoor soccer fields measure about 120 yards long by 75 yards wide on average. Turf in the MISL? Well, at the War Memorial, the field is 194 by 84 feet.
Another draw, Tanner said, is that indoor soccer is much more physical than traditional games on the pitch.
“It’s kind of like hockey in a way,” Ramin said. “There are power plays. I think the American sports fan can really relate to this. It’s not just for die-hard soccer enthusiasts.”
That’s a big part of the reason the team brought in 38-year-old Diego Serna, a former Major League Soccer striker for the New York City MetroStars. During his MLS stint, Serna scored 57 goals in 124 games, and is tied for the all-time MLS lead with five hat tricks.
“Diego was such a great outdoor player,” Tanner said. “I can’t wait to see what he will do in the indoor game.”
Darren Toby is another big addition.
From Trinidad and Tobago, Toby came to the United States in 2003 to get an education, and his soccer career took off. The midfielder was named to the second team of the USL’s All-League squad in 2010.
Despite the star power, Ramin and Tanner both agreed that to fill seats, this team must bring a local feel. That’s where Daniel Stevens, from Liverpool, and Manlius’ Jon Greunewald come,into play. Stevens was a member of the Syracuse Blitz youth soccer club growing up, before going for a stint in Europe. He caught the attention of the Philadelphia Kixx of the MISL, which drafted him in 2008.
Greunewald, you might remember, was Central New York’s Player of the Year in 2004, his senior year at Fayetteville-Manlius High School. Since then, he has shown his ability in the USL Premier Developmental League, enough so the Silver Knights took notice and signed him.
Ramin is the guy who put the roster together—just one of his seemingly countless duties for the Silver Knights. Both he and Tanner estimated that upward of 27,000 children in the Syracuse area play in youth soccer leagues. In turn, the pair hope the area’s love for soccer comes out in a show of support for the Knights.
“We want these kids to come to the games and enjoy it, yeah,” Ramin said. “But we also want them to want to strive to play for us in the future. It would be great to have a bunch of players from the local community come and play for us one day.”
It hasn’t been all roses for Ramin, though. He has spent countless hours putting the team together while also finalizing the parent company, Syracuse Pro Sports LLC. Ramin said he has been picking the brains of the Syracuse Crunch brass, whose team also plays its home games at the War Memorial.
Tanner spoke about his experience with the Salty Dogs. While he wouldn’t specify exactly what he meant, he did say the Silver Knights are using the Dogs’ failures as a guide for things to avoid in the future. After two seasons, the Salty Dogs folded due to increasing financial stress. “To have the experience I have both playing and coaching is a tremendous advantage for this club,” Tanner said.
For now, the goal is to fill the more than 5,000 seats at the War Memorial, 515 Montgomery St. The Silver Knights host the Rochester Lancers Friday, Nov. 4, 7:30 p.m., to kick off a regular season that lasts until March 4. More information can be found at syracusesilver knights.com or by calling 303-7261.
If Tanner has his way, the Silver Knights will be around a while. “We are going to do whatever it takes to make this a success,” he concluded.
—Neil Benjamin Jr.