COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – One of the iconic figures in the USL’s history announced on Monday the conclusion to his remarkable career as Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC midfielder Luke Vercollone retired after 17 seasons in Major League Soccer and the USL.
One of the major bridges to the league’s former era prior to the advent of the USL in 2011, Vercollone made more than 300 league appearances for the Charleston Battery, Richmond Kickers and Switchbacks and left an indelible mark on the league throughout its growth this decade.
“It is with gratitude and sentiment that I am announcing my retirement from pro soccer. While I do still have fuel in the tank, and I am not walking away on the ending I had hoped for, I know that I am called in a different direction,” said Vercollone in a statement. “I am extremely grateful to my family, the Switchbacks, the fans, the USL, all the other teams I've played for, especially the Kickers, and my teammates over the years. God has blessed me more than I could have imagined and allowed me to play this beautiful game for so long. While it is sad to hang up the boots, I am looking forward to the next chapter for me and my family.”
Vercollone has been at the forefront of the league’s modern history. His first game for the Switchbacks made him the first to reach 100 regular-season appearances since the start of the 2011 season. His final bow last Wednesday night against Seattle Sounders FC 2 was his 200th, a mark only otherwise achieved by fellow USL stalwart George Davis IV of Louisville City FC.
He was the player that coaches could always rely on game-in and game out. In his time with the Richmond Kickers he claimed the USL Second Division championship in 2009 and playrd a key role in the club’s 2013 USL Regular Season Championship as he helped the Kickers outduel Orlando City SC down the final stretch. Only a playoff upset against the Charlotte Eagles denied him and fellow Kickers legends like Matt Delicate the chance to play for the USL Cup.
Vercollone then became the rock that Switchbacks Head Coach Steve Trittschuh brought in to build around as his first signing to Colorado Springs prior to the 2015 season. In turn, he produced the finest season of his career. Nominated for the USL Most Valuable Player award after recording 14 goals and nine assists, Vercollone led the Switchback to the USL Cup Playoffs in their inaugural season.
“Luke has done so much for this club, being my first player signed, the first captain of the team, and being a finalist for player of the year. He set the tone with his hard work and competitive nature and that continues to be part of our culture,” said Trittschuh. “We wish him the best and he will always be part of this organization.”
The only disappointment, if a career as rich as Vercollone’s can have that, was the absence of postseason success. The standout midfielder scored one of the most memorable goals in the 2015 USL Cup Playoffs against OKC Energy FC in the Western Conference Semifinals, but that season’s hopes of a title were dashed in a penalty shootout in one of the greatest playoff contests of the league’s modern era.
And yet, it’s a career that has seen plenty for Vercollone to look back on and smile at. Earlier this year as part of the USL’s From the Pitch series the veteran picked his All-Time XI, a group that included U.S. Men’s National Team veterans like Clint Dempsey, Pablo Mastroeni and Michael Parkhurst as well as contemporaries Josh Suggs and Jordan Burt of the Switchbacks. With his future set to remain in the game as he builds his Mighty Kicks program, Vercollone will now get the chance to help others reach the same heights he did as a player.
“Sometimes some of my younger teammates will ask me for advice as if I am some wise old sage with hidden wisdom,” Vercollone wrote earlier this year. “I smile and encourage them to lead their passions! Don’t let your passions and emotions control you; instead, use them to fuel you in the direction that you would like to go!
“My passion for my faith, family and football has given me the opportunity to make a lasting impact and serve the community. This is what I am blessed to do for a living right now and this is what I am excited to do when the stadium lights fade on my playing career!”