In what has been an incredibly busy month with professional signings for home grown players, the club is proud to announce another professional alumni signing as our very own Leo Folla has signed for USL League One's Chattanooga Red Wolves SC after spending three seasons with FA Euro New York.
According to Chattanooga Red Wolves SC Head Coach and Technical Director Tim Hankinson, the young defender shows a lot of promise as a member of the Red Wolves back line. “Leo is a calm and technical center-back,” said Hankinson. “He is poised on the ball and excels at building out of the defense, delivering passes and finding his midfielders.”
The Red Wolves will make their debut in USL League One play on March 30, 2019 as the club travels to Dallas, Texas to face North Texas SC, a League One club operated by MLS side FC Dallas. The Red Wolves will face Forward Madison FC for the club’s inaugural opening night the following week on April 6. Kickoff is 7 p.m. local time.
Shaping the future of the game in the United States and Canada, the United Soccer League (USL) – one of the most successful professional soccer organizations in the world – announced in 2017 it would launch a new third division - USL League One in Spring 2019, uniting passionate fans in new markets with the thrill of a proven professional soccer experience.
The USL has targeted U.S. communities ranging in population from 150,000 to one million – markets that represent more than 75 million people without access to a local professional soccer club. League One has focused on launching new clubs in markets that possess strong local ownership groups, populations with broad-based diversity, a vibrant millennial and strong family base, established corporate support, and stadiums to properly showcase the sport for fans, partners and the public.
League One will immediately benefit from several new USL initiatives, including USL Productions, the organization’s $10 million broadcast and content arm that was established in 2015 which features a cutting-edge broadcast and production facility in South Florida. League One will be operated with the same high level of sophistication and operational expertise that has built the USL Championship into a widely successful and respected league.
FAEuro.com: You had a tremendous USL League Two season with the club and picked up a lot of attention in Italy, where you’ve showcased yourself during the Sicily Tour over the summer. How was that experience for you and has that helped prepare for this move to Chattanooga?
Leo Folla: "I think going to Europe, particularly on the developmental tour, was extremely beneficial for me personally. I was able to play against multiple teams across different levels in Italy. I was able to test my skills against Palermo's Primavera side, who compete in the Serie A's U-23 League in addition to some Serie D teams, Equipe Sicilia, and Messina. It was great to see the different levels of competition that are out there in Europe, and was also interesting to notice the different styles of play across tiers. It was a very eye-opening experience, indeed.
FAEuro.com: What do you hope to achieve with the Red Wolves and what can you expect in the debut year for USL League One?
Leo Folla: "Seeing how it's going to be a new franchise in a newly formed professional league, that will debut later this year, it's hard to gauge what to expect. But seeing the quality players that teams in USL League One are signing, particularly Red Wolves, I expect the league to be very competitive and similar to the USL Championship. Teams are signing talents from MLS, USL Championship sides, and players with European league experience, so I can safely bet that the quality will be high. As for the Red Wolves and our inaugural season, the club and community have high ambitions and expect us to challenge for the title."
FAEuro.com: You have naturally progressed through the USL’s #path2pro model, starting with the USL League Two and now moving on towards USL League One. How has FA Euro & USL League Two helped as you make this next step forward in your professional career?
Leo Folla: "I've spent the past three years with FA Euro New York and have seen firsthand at how far the club and league have progressed. Each season, the league raises the bar and becomes more professional, as does FA Euro. The USL league Two has some of the best upcoming talents around. FA Euro's conference, alone is probably the most competitive in the nation. League Two's level of competition has definitely benefitted me, and the sheer amount of ninety minute games you accumulate under your belt certainly helps to quickly raise your game IQ. The club's and league's #path2pro model works, and the club is now getting to see the fruits of their hard work."
FAEuro.com: The last few months have been quite busy in the transfer window for FA Euro. Three club players (Nicolò Canalicchio, Leo Štulac and Davide Lorenzo) have signed professional contracts. With you being the fourth on that ever growing list, how do you see the growth of FA Euro in terms of giving players opportunities to play at the next level?
Leo Folla: "I think to see the success that FA Euro players are achieving in their careers only speaks volume of the way that the club is progressing. To see my former teammate, Davide, given a chance at a side like Leicester City is truly a Cinderella Story and I wish him the absolute best. Ultimately, you judge an academy by the results and the players it produces. It's evident that FA Euro is progressing greatly in both departments and there aren't many clubs around that can say the same."
FAEuro.com: Speaking of signings, your former teammate, Davide Lorenzo just signed for Leicester City. It’s an amazing story considering two years ago, a former teammate whom shared the field with you and is now playing with the likes of Vardy and Okazaki in the Premier League. With your connections and past history with Europe, is European play something you also aspire for?
Leo Folla: "Again, seeing Davide given an opportunity at that level really gives all footballers out there hope. Sometimes, hope is all you need. I believe every footballer in the world dreams of playing in Europe at a high level and that is definitely something I strive for in the long term. Whether it's playing in the States, or in Europe, you always want to play at the highest level possible. Also, playing in different countries with different styles of play certainly gives players a different perspective and those experiences are always beneficial for both personal and professional development."
FAEuro.com: How have your ties with FA Euro and senior management evolved over the years?
Leo Folla: FA Euro is a family. Joe and Marco have really made me feel like part of that. From on the field to off it, it has been great working with them and taking their advice as I've progressed in my career. I'm truly grateful for everything they've helped me with and I'm sure they'll continue helping other players within the club.
FAEuro.com: What do you expect from FA Euro this upcoming season in USL League Two?
Leo Folla: "I expect FA euro to make a push for playoffs. I feel like we should've been there last year. Our record hasn't been so good, but it doesn't reflect the quality of our teams in the past seasons. It's a bit frustrating because we deserved a lot better, but good work brings good results sooner than later. I think this is our year and the club should definitely challenge for a playoff spot."
FAEuro.com: What advice would you give the club’s youth players as they seek to follow a similar path that you’ve taken?
Leo Folla: " Not to sound cliché, but just work as hard as possible. Especially when no one is watching, that's when it's the hardest. Always persevere, no matter what setback or failure you endure. Also, try and keep as many doors open as possible, don't let ego get the best of you. Finally, have faith in yourself, if you don't believe in yourself then no one will.
FA Euro wishes Leo Folla the best of luck for the upcoming season. Forza Leo!