"We call him Satchi," says Clarkstown Eagles owner and head coach Oliver Papraniku.
Once A Metro has been following former New York Red Bulls Homegrown player Sacir Hot's progress as head coach of Morristown amateurs FC Motown for several months, but somehow neglected to figure out how to pronounce his name. Papraniku gently puts a stumbling start to a Friday-afternoon phone conversation back on track, allowing us to return to the purpose of the chat: the news that his club has added Hot to its coaching staff.
Clarkstown Eagles play in NPSL, generally regarded as part of US soccer's fourth division (a status shared with PDL, a different league with similar characteristics) and, as such, the highest amateur or semi-pro tier of the sport in America. In NPSL 2016, Clarkstown won the Keystone Conference and made it to the final four of the national playoffs, losing to AFC Cleveland - the team that went on to win the NPSL national championship.
Along the way, the Eagles saw quite a lot of NJ Copa FC - a rival in the Keystone Conference and the team they beat in the regional final of the playoffs to make the national semifinals. The 2016 Copa squad featured a number of players from FC Motown, the team now coached by Sacir Hot: is that the connection that inspired the Eagles to sign the young coach to its staff? Not quite.
"I've known Satchi a long time," says Papraniku, "He played for us between Red Bulls and other stuff he was doing." Also, and perhaps more importantly, "Motown and Clarkstown have a loose association, and we're hoping to make a big announcement in about a week," says the Eagles head coach.
News Papraniku is able to share right away is that Clarkstown will be absorbing Motown's squad into its roster for the NPSL 2017 campaign: "One super team, as we call it."
"We're adding quality and it gives us the ability to rest players and be stronger," explains Papraniku. "Last year, we were one game away from the NPSL final; the year before, two games away. Both times, we were beat by the team that won it," he says.
Clearly, Clarkstown wants to build on its success and keep pushing for that national championship. Players are one part of the equation; coaching is another. Papraniku says adding Hot to the technical staff is no favor to an old friend: "He is being transitioned to being the head coach. This is his first step in taking over."
Papraniku hopes that transition will be completed sooner rather than later: by the end of the year, if not before. He sees a young coach with the tools "to go all the way to the highest level".
"The way he prepares a team, his training methods and commitment: he's taking it very seriously and he's going in the right direction," says Papraniku. "He's a committed team player."
Hot was an elite-level youth player: New York Red Bulls Academy; USA U-18 and U-20 Men's National Team looks including a place on the U-20 USMNT roster for the 2011 CONCACAF U-20 Championship; NCAA D1 soccer with Boston College before pro opportunities became too much to ignore; trials with Bundesliga clubs, Borussia Monchengladbach and Borussia Dortmund; turning pro with RBNY in 2011 on a Homegrown deal.
But the necessary luck to sustain a pro playing career eluded Hot, and he has since opted to get an early start on coaching. As head coach of FC Motown, Hot was joining a club already dominant in the Garden State Soccer League. That GSSL success has continued under Coach Hot, but the team also attracted wider attention this season with a run to the second round of the main draw of US Open Cup.
NPSL is a summer league, which is the off-season for FC Motown. Many coaches in NPSL and PDL combine managing a summer team with other commitments; there is no great conflict in coaching Clarkstown and Motown - which is what Hot intends to do.
"It's going to be a fun summer," Coach Hot told Once A Metro when news of his Clarkstown role was made public. He described the potential of a merged Motown/Eagles squad as "lethal".
No need to take his word for it: Clarkstown opened its 2017 NPSL season on the road against Greater Binghamton FC Thunder on May 20. The Eagles won, 5-0, with Coach Hot on the sidelines.