In 2006, Google took a big step towards internet dominance with its purchase of YouTube, Daniel Powter's "Bad Day" was made a little bit better as he finished the year atop the Billboard charts, a young hometown hero named LeBron James led the Cleveland Cavaliers to their first-ever NBA Finals appearance and Captain Jack Sparrow helped the second instalment of Pirates of the Caribbean unearth box office gold.
Meanwhile in Charleston, a hidden gem of sorts was introduced to the USL as Luke Vercollone, a former Pirate at Seton Hall University and future captain, joined the Battery.
Ever since, Vercollone has patrolled USL midfields with precision - establishing himself as one of the most accomplished players in league history.
A 13-year stint in the USL has seen the Massachusetts native achieve success during stops in Charleston and Richmond, as well as his current home in Colorado Springs where he continues to ply his trade for the Switchbacks.
With admitted difficulty, the veteran stopped by From the Pitch to give us a rundown of his top five moments to this point in his career.
I was so eager to get back on the pitch after being released at the end of a long 2005 MLS season with the New England Revolution (’05 MLS Finals). I didn’t get many minutes that season with the Revs and I struggled with some minor injuries as well.
I still loved the sport, but needed a new challenge and new environment.
I had good conversations with my agent, David Williamson, that season and we both agreed that I need to be on the pitch playing with whatever team I ended up with next. Although I could have pursued trials with MLS teams, we made the decision that the USL would be best for me as a young pro.
I spoke with Coach Mike Anhaeuser, of the Charleston Battery, that offseason and he said they were going to sign me. I started driving down right away even before the contract was signed. When I arrived in Charleston they were having open tryouts and I asked if I could join in. Mike said, "ya know, the contract isn't signed yet and isn't official until it is, so there are risks in playing ..." I told him “no worries” and I went out there and tore it up :) (fortunately). I feel in love with that city since it was so beautiful, and the stadium was so nice!
Getting those high-level game minutes as a young pro really helped me develop as a player. The level at USL was better than expected and certainly had its challenges. It was a great decision to pursue pro soccer in the USL and I’ve really enjoyed competing in this league for the past 13 years.
Vercollone landed in Charleston for the 2006 campaign, embarking on what has been a decorated stint in the USL
Winning is the absolute best!
It was such a join to win the 2009 USL Championship in Richmond Va, in front of our home crowd and have my wife (who was pregnant with our first child) at my side celebrating. Whenever you end the season on a high note like that, it makes the off season so much better!
That was just my second season with Richmond and I wasn’t fully appreciative of all the tradition and history that the club has.
We just expected to always win, and we usually did.
This mindset and attitude permeated throughout the club from the top down. It was similar to winning two national titles in the PDL with the Cape Cod Crusaders (2002 and 2003) – we believed and we got it done!
While this attitude made the victories a bit less climactic, it helped us perform with confidence and get results. We never felt like we were out of a game.
In the 2009 USL finals with the Kickers, we were down 1-0 and came back to win 3-1. Now, looking back, I can appreciate it more since wins and Championships don’t always come easily or regularly.
Vercollone spent seven seasons in Richmond, helping guide one of the most successful periods in the club's rich history
Our club earned and enjoyed this attitude for my entire seven years with the Richmond organization (many thanks to Leigh Cowlishaw, the players and the staff). In 2013 and 2014, we had 20+ game unbeaten streaks and a regular season championship. We finished with 24 consecutive games without a loss and as Regular Season Champions in 2013.
There are so many highlights during those seasons, including captaining our team at home to a home victory over Orlando City in 2013 that secured the regular season title and helped us finish the season with just one loss!
In November of 2014, I became the first player signed by the Switchbacks FC as they prepared for their first season.
Signing with the Switchbacks was my goal ever since the team was announced. My wife and I had always planned on living in Colorado and signing with the Switchbacks allowed me to continue playing pro soccer and raise our kiddos here. My wife, Andrea, grew up in Fort Collins and we have a lot of family in the state. Our family loves coming to the games and our kids are blessed to grow up with their aunts, uncles and cousins.
The Switchbacks had an exhibition game in November of 2014 where they announced my signing. This was an extremely special night for me and my family! While there was responsibility and pressure to be an ambassador for the club, I felt more thankful and excited about the opportunity. Even though the expectations were high, they have been surpassed with my overall experience with the club and city of Colorado Springs!
After a cold and snowy preseason there was a lot of questions surrounding our team (especially after losing our first two games).
Despite the many variables, we had a close-knit group and continued to work hard amidst the challenges. We showed amazing character and were able to turn the season around and finish 3rd in the Western Conference. The main challenge for an expansion club is to find the team’s identity and tactical system of play. We decided to be a “blue-collar,” hard-working team from the start. We embraced this identity and stuck with it throughout the season which paid dividends.
I had my best season as a pro (recording 15 goals and nine assists) and captained the team to the Western Conference Semifinals. That whole season was a highlight for me because of the heart we showed as a team and the success I was able to have on the field.
Already an accomplished veteran, Verocollone embraced the challenge of leading a new era of professional soccer in Colorado Springs
Everyday I have the opportunity to step on the pitch and kick the ball around with awesome dudes is such a privilege that I don't take for granted. Like anything else, pro soccer has its ups and downs, but it is definitely the best job in the world! With my age and experience in the league I am constantly seeing new changes and challenges. This shapes my perspective and gives me plenty to strive for and compete for.
My enthusiasm for the game hasn’t dropped, but it has taken different shape over the years. I enjoy celebrating the victories with my family and they help with the hardships in defeat as well. My family gives me tons of motivation and it has been such a joy to build this career with their support and encouragement along the way!
I am currently recovering from an injury, but remain grateful. I am so blessed and thankful to be able to continue to play this awesome game in the USL!
Vercollone celebrates a game-winning goal against Las Vegas Lights FC earlier this season, his 13th in the league