Starting Friday, every match Tony Judice plays for the Jesters could be his last.
Judice turned 29 earlier this season, placing self-doubt on his future. While his body is holding up, part of the Jesters’ best regular-season performance in recent years, the former Covington High standout knows he can’t play the sport forever. Plus, Judice wants to utilize his business degree, something hard to do with a morning soccer practice schedule and road games like Friday night’s National Premier Soccer League playoff match at against the second-seeded Atlanta Silverbacks Reserves at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga.
The Jesters are seeded third.
“I’m taking it year by year,” said Judice, now in his fifth season with the Jesters. “I’m getting up there in age, but at the same time, if another opportunity presents itself, I’d have to consider it.”
His return to the Jesters next season could be vital to their future.
One reason the organization has had success this summer was familiarity in the lineup. More than half of the current players had played with each other before.
During previous seasons, half the season was lost as teammates learned how to play with each other.
Not this season.
“We have a chemistry and an understanding,” Judice said. “Things kind of click better. We already know how each other plays.”
Atlanta played New Orleans twice his season, tying 1-1 at Pan American Stadium and winning 3-1 at home.
In the other conference semifinal, top-seeded Chattanooga FC will face fourth seed Nashville.
The winners of the two matches will meet at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The conference champion then advances to the region semifinals, with a chance to qualify for the national semifinals.
Jesters coach Kenny Farrell said he hopes defender Johannes Forstpointer (ankle) will return to the lineup after missing last week’s international friendly with Monterrey. Meanwhile, defender Andri Jonsson is aiming to recover in time from a fever.
“Hopefully they’ll be ready to play at game time,” Farrell said. “If not, we’re going to have to make some adjustments.”