Paisley Athletic FC makes its mark in W-USL, local soccer community


Before the start of the season, Paisley Athletic FC Head Coach and Sporting Director Michael Sylvia believed that this year’s roster was the strongest it’s had in program history.

After a few early hiccups, the USL-W League team based out of Kearny is showing that potential. Paisley Athletic has gone 3-1-1 over its last five games, improving to 5-5-2 heading into the final week of the season.

“We’ve kind of hit our stride personnel wise,” said Sylvia. “We know what the group looks like and we’re putting our best foot forward at the moment.”

Sylvia’s vision of a young, athletic roster, especially up top, has come to fruition in recent games. Abby Droner, a rising senior at Chatham and a Georgetown commit, has led the offensive explosion with 11 goals, Kennedi Cotter, a rising junior from Bayonne, has five goals and two assists, and Addison Halpern has six goals with an assist.

“Up top, on the offensive side of things, we’re very, very powerful, especially when we have our top roster out there and the way we play,” Sylvia said. “It’s almost a race for goals.”

Halpern, the reigning Girls Soccer Statewide Player of the Year, has gotten that production in just three games after returning from a stint with the US U-19 National Team.

“She’s an amazing player and anytime she steps on the field it’s fireworks with her,” Sylvia said about Halpern, who is committed to play at North Carolina and scored 40 goals last season to help lead Rutgers Prep to a Non-Public B championship. “Just having her available really, really strengthens the attack.

“Abby’s another one where you have her in the attack and the fireworks kind of go off. Trying to get them in the right places on the right days is really key for us.”

The dynamic trio up front are hardly the only high school players, playing a key role. Kate Langfelder (Ramapo High School, Kansas commit) has been a presence in the center midfield and Cassidy Corcione, a Freehold Township graduate, who signed to Michigan State has been a key cog on the backline.

The defense features a pair of Scotch Plains-Fanwood graduates in center back Lily Camacho (Seton Hall) and Rebecca Kessler (Binghamton)

In total, two-thirds of the roster is 19 or younger, with the 16-year-old Cotter, the youngest of the group.

“This was purposeful this year. We really wanted to reach out to some of the high-level young talent for a couple of reasons,” said Sylvia. “One, to make those connections before they went to other places. But also with the heat in the summer and knowing what the league is like, we wanted a young group to supplement a few of our more experienced players just so we could play the kind of style that we wanted.”

While the focus has been primarily on younger players, two veteran captains, who returned for another year were Dani Etienne, who played on Haiti’s 2023 Women’s World Cup team and captain Nickolette Dresse, who also captains the Puerto Rican National Team and won NCAA championships for Penn State and Florida State.

There is also a local presence on the roster with North Arlington’s Arancha Antunes (Manhattan) serving as a holding midfielder while Kearny graduates Skyler Matusz (Seton Hall) and Gabriela Matias coming off the bench at forward and goalie respectively.

Paisley Athletic closes its season with home games against Manhattan SC on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. and AC Connecticut on Saturday at 7 p.m, both at Kearny High School. While the season will ultimately fall short of a division title and berth in the W-USL Playoffs, Sylvia has seen continued growth that he expects to continue both on the team and in the general soccer community.

“To see girls light up about soccer in the community is a really, really special thing,” said Sylvia. “I think regardless of where we do fall in the standings, I think to be able to create these opportunities for female athletes is really, really huge because girls see these role models and they can literally talk to them. That’s something we really haven’t had before in the past. It’s just growing and that’s an amazing thing.”

Learn more about the writer ...

Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer

Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)