LOUISVILLE, KY.--The Derby City Rovers announced Thursday that Lwandiso “Ace” Gonya has been appointed Head Coach for the club’s Premier Developmental League (PDL) team ahead of the 2018 season. Gonya has a long history with the club, dating back to it’s inaugural PDL season in 2011. Known for his creativity and flare, he dazzled fans and tormented opponents as a player for the Rovers PDL team for 4 seasons, before joining the coaching staff following the 2014 campaign. Since that time Ace has been a full-time coach with the Rovers Youth Academy and an assistant coach for the PDL side.
“I would like to thank the club leadership for having the confidence in my abilities and giving me this opportunity. I look forward to taking the helm this summer and putting a team on the field that will entertain the fans, model a strong example for our Youth Academy players, and embody the club’s unique brand of football,” said Gonya.
A native of South Africa, Gonya was recognized as a top prospect at the age of 16, when he was the leading scorer for the developmental side at 1st Division club Hanover Park, and was the joint Golden Boot winner at the prestigious Bayhill Premier Cup international tournament. From there he went on to a distinguished career at NAIA powerhouse, Lindsey Wilson College, where he was an All-Conference selection and two-time National Champion.
Since crossing over to the coaching ranks, Ace has had the privilege of working with some outstanding mentors that have influenced his coaching. Chief among these influences was former Major League Soccer (MLS) and Jamaican National Team legend, Tyrone Marshall. Marshall, who has been an assistant coach with Real Salt Lake of the MLS since 2015, coached the Rovers PDL side in 2014, the last season Ace was a full-time player. “Tyrone taught me a tremendous amount about the game, imparting his vast experiences from his playing career in the MLS and competing on the international level with Jamaica,” reflected Gonya. “I had already begun coaching youth players prior to the season we worked together, so I was eager to soak up all I could from Tyrone. He was always willing to discuss ideas and share his experiences, and I’ve tried to incorporate all I learned from that time into my own coaching philosophy.”
Derby City Rovers President and Technical Director, Nathan Pitcock, had this to say about Gonya’s appointment, “Ace has been a real presence on our Youth Academy staff and has also made a big contribution as an assistant coach for the PDL the last 3 years, so there’s no doubt he’s ready to step up and coach the PDL this summer. Just as important though, is the fact that we will have one of our own former players coaching the PDL side. It’s another example of the steadfast commitment to development that this club embodies. Anyone who saw Ace during his playing career will be salivating at the prospect of seeing what kind of football his team will put on display. He always played with remarkable skill, and creativity. He had this silky-smooth style, where he seemed to bait defenders with his apparent nonchalance, only to humiliate them with an array clever flicks, feints, and audacious passes. He was an absolute delight to watch. At this club, we view the game as a joyful expression for the players on the field, and we want to create a spectacle for the entertainment of the fans who come to watch. It's exciting to have one of our former players molding a PDL team that will bring this vision of the game to life, and share it with our community.”
The Derby City Rovers 2018 PDL season, their 8th in the league, will get underway next month. The team will open up the season on May 18th in Lansing, Michigan, as they face league newcomers Lansing United. After a stretch of road games the Rovers will make their home debut at King Louie’s Sports Complex on Friday, June 8th, against the West Virginia Chaos. The PDL, known as the Path2Pro, is the 4th Division on the American soccer pyramid, and is widely recognized as the top amateur league in North America. With nearly 70 percent of all MLS SuperDraft selections since 2010 having PDL experience, the league has served as an important stepping stone for aspiring professionals. The Rovers will have 7 home matches at King Louie’s this summer, and another home match at Centre College in Danville, KY. Season tickets will be available for purchase at RoversSoccer.com