ROCHESTER – A new women’s soccer team featuring international players and several local women landed in Rochester this summer, the first team of its kind in southeastern Minnesota.
The Rochester United FC celebrated its first victory of the season last week, with more games to come before the national playoffs of the Women’s Premier Soccer League, which is considered the largest women’s amateur soccer league in the world.
“We have great players,” said the team’s assistant coach Duncan Ross. “We’ve certainly showed a lot of promise in the first part of the season.”
The team was founded this year by owner Matthew Fatehi, a retired Mayo Clinic engineer and local soccer booster. Fatehi said he originally considered starting a men’s amateur team, but Rochester already has two: Med City FC and Rochester FC.
The Women’s Premier Soccer League has more than 110 teams nationwide, including teams in St. Paul, Maple Grove and Mankato. The league’s arrival in Rochester this spring comes just as women’s soccer enjoys its quadrennial party, the World Cup. So far, the U.S. women’s team has dominated World Cup competition in host country France.
Some of the players wearing the stars and stripes once played in the WPSL, including stars Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach, Julie Foudy and Brandi Chastain.
In the team’s first home game, the Rochester United FC “Lionesses” drew about 200 fans, many more than they expected, said Ross.
The players know that some of those spectators might be scouts looking for talent to move up to the women’s professional league, the nine-team National Women’s Soccer League.
Rochester United FC player Madison Tuma said she’s enjoying the ride this summer before she heads off to her first year of college playing for Valparaiso University. She graduated from Shattuck-St. Mary’s this year.
“It’s so cool,” said Tuma, who said she’s never played on a team with so many international players, including teammates from Brazil, Colombia, the Caribbean, Botswana, England and Spain. “You can just tell people are from different places by the way they play. I think that helps everyone get better.”
Tuma said she’s learning some foreign phrases, even the “bad words,” she said, laughing.
“It’s always fun at the beginning of a season when you start with a mishmash of people and it turns into a team and a cohesive group. I feel like that’s starting to happen with us now,” she said.
She also gave credit to the U.S. women’s national team for the explosive growth of women’s soccer nationally.
“That definitely has an impact. It gives you good examples of what you can accomplish,” she said.
Team captain Aline Dalmedico said she’s chasing her dream of going pro, and feels lucky to have the support of the Rochester fans and the United FC club. “I’m doing the best I can do right now,” she said.
A lifelong player who first kicked around a ball as a 5-year-old growing up in her native Brazil, Dalmedico is now a graduate student at Union College in Kentucky, where she’s been a star player for the school team.
“It’s pretty nice that we have the support. And kids can see us,” she said. Of women’s soccer, she added, “It’s growing now.”
The team’s schedule has four away games starting Sunday before a final home game at 7 p.m. on July 7 at Mayo High School Stadium.