By NICHOLAS MURRAY – email@example.com
Monday, March 14, 2016
In an ideal world, Harrisburg City Islanders defender Dante Leverock would have had more chances to learn in his first professional season in the USL.
As it stands, though, the experience of making 22 appearances in 2015 could serve both him and the club well as it looks to return to the playoffs this year.
The City Islanders saw arguably the biggest swings in performance from game to game of any team in the USL last season. When on their game, the City Islanders were capable of defeating playoff teams like the New York Red Bulls II, Pittsburgh Riverhounds and Richmond Kickers. When they weren’t, some heavy defeats occurred.
“I feel like our lack of experience hurt some games, and that’s why we fell, and when we fell, we fell hard,” Leverock said. “It was a good experience, and I’m just excited to have that first season under my belt, and just to get experience for the young guys that are coming in now.”
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The 6-foot-4 Bermudan has seen his share of hard knocks coming through the ranks in a country where soccer doesn’t have the highest prominence. While players such as Reggie Lambe, formerly of Toronto FC, and others have managed to reach the professional ranks, the standard of competition made it difficult for players to raise their level consistently to follow suit.
One person who tried to help change that is Paul Scope, who was the owner of the Bermuda Hogges in the PDL for a number of seasons. Leverock competed for the Hogges before their dissolution in 2013, and it helped provide a road map and tougher competition than he had seen previously.
“We got to travel, we got to experience what it’s like to travel long distances and play,” Leverock said. “Having a consistent group of games at a higher level, the Bermuda Hogges really helped the national team. We don’t have that much funding, and it’s hard to get teams to come to Bermuda to play friendlies, so during that time in the summer you have 18 games where the best players in Bermuda can play together, get that experience, get that match fitness and get used to play together at a higher level. I think that’s really helped us now with the Bermuda National Team.”
It also connected Leverock with former Hogges Head Coach David Bascombe, himself a former player for the City Islanders who linked the center back up with the club last year. The 23-year-old is enjoying his time in Harrisburg, in particular its family-oriented lifestyle, and getting to play for City Islanders Head Coach Bill Becher.
“Coach Becher is a humble guy and he wants the best out of his players,” Leverock said. “He wants you to work hard for him, and that’s all he really asks, to perform and work hard. I like being here because it’s a small club, and I can develop here, and hopefully one day move up to the same level as Ken [Tribbett], who played here last year and is a great player and is starting games with the [Philadelphia] Union.”
Harrisburg has developed a reputation for sending players on to the next level, with Leverock’s center back partner for much of last season Tribbett the most recent to make the move this offseason. Leverock is hopeful he can continue to raise his game, and follow his cousin Khano Smith, formerly of the New England Revolution, into Major League Soccer.
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Leverock understands, too, that helping the City Islanders to success as a team will play a role in moving up to the next level.
“If we’re getting clean sheets, then I’ll get noticed,” Leverock said. “The main thing is the team. I just want to be successful. I want to go to the playoffs, I want to experience that, what’s that like, and being in that intense environment, and playing those tough games, important games. I want to experience that as a player.“I’m going to work hard and learn more about my craft playing center back, and hopefully things arise after the season from playing well.”