In the spring of 2022, then-Goshen College student Henrique Eichenberger embarked on his dream project: starting a soccer club.

Through Eichenberger’s connections and with the support of GC president Rebecca Stoltzfus, Goshen City Football Club played its first season in 2023.

Since Eichenberger was a fall-sport athlete at the time, he wanted a way to play soccer in the summer. He describes his summer of 2022: “I played in a club that was just formed in Ligonier called Fox United … I saw that I might be able to do that here in Goshen, and I thought it would be amazing.”

In order to get the club started, Eichenberger leveraged his support from Stoltzfus to connect to Goshen’s mayor, Jeremy Stutsman. Stutsman helped organize Eichenberger’s vision — a team centered around community — into a reality.

Eichenberger also found allies in the GC business department while he was putting his plan together. “I just started putting a project together and I started presenting to the business department, business professors, and they helped me out with all the projects,” he said.

GCFC started with a bang, racking up five wins, two draws and three losses under head coach Tyler Born in their first season.

Born and the team also made it to the UPSL Midwest Central Playoff Finals, falling to Chicago Nation FC, who had already beaten GCFC in the regular season.

“I think we exceeded our expectations that we had for ourselves, as well as what the community maybe had,” Born said. A Goshen local and former GC soccer player of four years, Born takes a slow and steady approach to coaching.

“I’m not looking at ‘I want to finish first; I want to be in the final,’ but more of those short term goals. Did we improve today? What did we improve on? Where else can we improve? Then taking that, reflecting on it and then implementing it the following day, just hoping for constant rise of improvement,” he said.

Justin DeWeese, Goshen City FC’s assistant director, recalled the first-ever GCFC home match. “I still think back to that day a lot … once it got underway, then it was just like, goal after goal after goal. It was a beautiful night and the stadium was packed. Lucas Bontrager, who’s on the team this year as well, he scored the first goal last season, and he played for Goshen.”

Bontrager himself said, “I went to Goshen College with Henrique, so it’s pretty cool to be able to see him last year kind of starting this out and seeing the community get around it as well. Having a couple of those home games, we had so many fans being able to come out and I think that was a great thing to build a community around us and have a lot of support from them.”

While DeWeese is currently serving as assistant director, last season he had a less solidified role with the club. “I was kind of like the in-between person between Goshen College and the team,” DeWeese said.

This association led to a lot of connection between GC players and GCFC players, including Tim Wilkening, a Maple Leaf who was injured during GCFC’s first season and got the opportunity to serve as GCFC’s assistant coach.

“[It was a ] big opportunity that I got from Henrique when I came into spring of 2023,” Wilkening said. “He asked me right away if I wanted to be his assistant coach, and I thought about it a little bit but at some point then I said yes. [It] connected with an internship at Goshen College as well. [It was a] great experience and something that I will never forget.”

For their first game, GCFC will face Chicago Fire FC Academy — the reserve squad of the one and only MLS team — on April 11 at 7:30 p.m. All five GCFC home games will be played at GC’s soccer complex.