Fox Soccer Academy head coach and program director, Michael Holzer (Credit: Fox Soccer Academy Images)
Michael Holzer led UPSL side, Fox Soccer Academy, to a division title in their season debut with a roster made up of some fellow CSLers. Holzer was granted a trip to the club’s affiliated team, Leicester City F.C., after his successful season.
It’s been three years since Premier League side, Leicester City F.C., pulled off one of the most compelling seasons in sports’ history, conquering England’s domestic league as major underdogs.
Millions of soccer players and fans around the world dazzled at the English side’s unreal accomplishment. The thought of experiencing what’s in the inside of this new power-club wouldn’t even pass the minds of most fans, including Michael Holzer, a German native who was then playing for New York Cosmos B and Cedar Stars Academy.
He was just another semi-pro player in the U.S. Holzer’s shot at the pro level was slowly fading away as he was then a 25-year-old player on Cosmos’ B team. That’s when he started thinking about coaching.
Fast-forward to now, Leicester is excitingly back in the talks of winning the PL, sitting in second place in the table. And Holzer is actually coaching his first men’s team as a 29-year-old, Fox Soccer Academy.
Coaching his first men’s team earned him an unthinkable wish. Holzer is going to visit Leicester on December 18 for nine days. He will shadow the club’s head coach, Brendan Rodgers, participate in training sessions and attend their matches against Liverpool F.C. and versus Manchester City F.C.—couldn’t pick a better time.
“If someone told me I would be visiting Leicester City one day, I would be like ‘What are you talking about?’ It’s actually somehow going to happen,” Holzer continued.
He raised his voice a bit: “And I’m going to be there. I’m so happy. To actually stand on the field with the gear and just watch the sessions, to see the intensity live, right in front of my eyes. That’s just something you dream about as a kid to be with all these players, especially now when they’re doing so well in the Premier League.” Holzer will also meet, Mark Smith, Fox Soccer Academy’s UK Program Director.
How did the unthinkable happen for the young coach?
Fox Soccer Academy was founded by LCFC’s left-back Christian Fuchs. Fuchs extended his organization to the U.S. this Fall in Warwick, N.Y. It started with a men’s team at the semi-pro level in the United Premier Soccer League.
Fuchs needed a coach to not only find players but also lead his side during their inaugural season in the UPSL. He went on CoachUp. One of the first names the defender came across was Holzer’s. Although he had been coaching for just over a year, Holzer was one of the best private and group youth soccer coaches in New York on CoachUp.
The German started his coaching career with RCD Espanyol Academy in New Jersey in January 2018, coaching their U-12 and U-18 squad for five months.
Pictured Right: Michael Holzer’s main goal as a coach is to have a strong relationship with his players, in this picture he’s standing next to CSLer and the team’s Player of the Season, Vieux ‘Papa’ Mane (Credit: Fox Soccer Academy Images)
Then he coached Lansdowne Yonkers F.C. U-15 team and led them to a regional final in June 2019. The European quickly became Lansdowne’s youth technical director.
Holzer had never coached a men’s team before but he was well known in the semi-pro soccer world in New York and very experienced. Before moving to the U.S., Holzer was playing for Stuttgart’s U-19 team in Germany.
He then played for a prominent Division I school in New Rochelle, Iona Gaels, before joining Cosmos B. While he was with the Cosmos, Holzer was also, and still is, in the CSL, where he established himself as one of the top defensive midfielders and won the league, the Amateur Cup and the Manning Cup with Lansdowne.
Because of his experience at the men’s level and success from his young coaching career, Fuchs gave Holzer a three-month trial that started in late August. The 29-year-old only had a week to get ready for the season.
Despite being short on time, Holzer noted that he didn’t approach his job nervously. The former Iona man recruited players in the CSL and in Warwick. Some of the CSLers on the team were current CSL second top scorer, Ovan Oakley, top full-back, Karim Russell, KidSuper Samba AC defensive midfielder, Vieux ‘Papa’ Mane, and so on.
The club’s first game was a home match versus Real New York F.C. at Hudson Sports Complex on September 7th. Fuchs was in attendance. Around 300 people went to the encounter.
FSA lost to Real New York, 2-1. Holzer was still optimistic.
“Once I saw the game, I knew I had to get two, three, four more guys with experience and we’ll be fine in the league,” he said.
Since it was the team’s season debut, Fuchs gave Holzer the task of winning a couple of home games. The 29-year-old did a little more than that.
FSA blew past Mass United, 5-0, in their second encounter. Fuchs watched the game in England. The Warwick club then beat NH Bobcats F.C., 7-0, before blanking Krajisnik F.C., 2-0. Meanwhile, as busy as life can get in the Premier League, Fuchs was watching all of the matches online.
“He actually watched all the games on the live stream so he’s really fanatic about it. It’s his baby, you know,” Holzer said.
Not only did the Austrian watched all the matches but he was also in daily contact with Holzer.
Christian Fuchs and Michael Holzer communicate everyday about Fox Soccer Academy (Credit: Fox Soccer Academy Images)
FSA finished the season with a 6-1-1 record and won the Northeast Conference Empire Division. Mane was the team’s Player of the Season and topscorer.
“I couldn’t imagine us winning our first ever season,” Holzer said, “a team that has never played before. That was quite an achievement. I’m still proud about that. No one expected it at all.”
The former Stuttgart U-19 player noted that Fuchs was thrilled as well. And as an icing on the cake, the club racked five clean sheets out of their eight outings, the defender was utterly pleased.
Because of Holzer’s success during the season, Fuchs trusted him to start the academy in late October. It was also during his impressive debut season that Fuchs invited the German to Leicester.
“It always takes some time for anybody joining a new organization to settle in, but Michael had no problem doing so,” the left-back told the club.
“He is a great addition to our FSA family and I can't wait to have him over in the UK.”
Holzer is also Iona’s assistant coach. The school won the 2019 MAAC Men’s Championship. Hence, the young coach is enjoying a breathtaking start of his managerial career. Holzer dreams of coaching at the professional level. One of his best traits is his relationship with his players.
“Players who like you are going to fight for you,” he explained.
Holzer will look to absorb as much as he can from Rodgers, a coach he’s very fond of.
“I want to see how his coaching style is in the training sessions, how he communicates with the players, how his tactical approach is,” the New York resident said.
Needless to say, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime for Holzer. Doors do open for young coaches, and all the German needed was a strong start in his coaching career and a CoachUp profile.