Koziol horizontal
Courtesy of the Koziol family

Local soccer greats remember one of their own in Jersey native Stan "Stas" Koziol

Ask anyone who plays this sport and they’ll tell you straight away that soccer is a fraternity.

It’s a band of brothers and sisters that regardless of where you played, it’s more the memory that you played together that remains the rest of your life.

The Tri-State area soccer community lost the life of one of its brothers on Monday with the passing of Stan Koziol. Koziol, affectionately known as “Stas” or “Stosh,” passed after a battle with leukemia.

He was 48.

He is survived by his wife Margret and his two children Nicole and Matthew.

A native of Clifton, N.J., Koziol attended Loyola (Md.) University where he was a two-time All American and still holds the program record for assists. Following college, he turned professional where he enjoyed an eight-year career playing in the old American Professional Soccer League (APSL) for the Maryland Bays (1988) and the Boston Bolts (1989-90). He played internationally for the Puerto Rican national team during qualifying for the 1994 FIFA World Cup and had a fantastic indoor career, playing for the Baltimore Blast (1989-90), Hershey Impact (1991-92) and Canton Invaders (1992-93).

Through the many stops of his illustrious career, Koziol made many friends along the way. Philadelphia Union CEO and managing partner Nick Sakiewicz considered Koziol one of his dearest – family even.

“Stas was like family and a dear friend whose tenacity on the soccer pitch followed him off the pitch and throughout his life,” Sakiewicz said.  “It has been an honor to compete against him, play with him and, most importantly, to have known him for most of our lives starting with growing up on the streets of northern New Jersey playing soccer. Stas touched so many lives. We will all miss him immensely.”

One of Sakiewicz’ fondest memories of Koziol and his brother Joe came from his own playing days as a goalkeeper with the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

“Not sure who had the assist, but in my last game as a pro for the Tampa Bay Rowdies in 1989 against the Boston Bolts, Joe Koziol scored the last goal I ever gave up as a pro and I’m almost certain Stas had the assist that night," Sakiewicz recalled. "What I can remember is them celebrating like school boys in my goal mouth like it was yesterday. It’s a great memory; one that I cherish.”

Similar sentiments were offered by John Harkes, host of the Counter Attack radio show on Sirius XM satellite radio and former U.S. men’s national team midfielder.

“Stan Koziol will be missed dearly,” Harkes told philadelphiaunion.com. “I was fortunate enough to spend many quality years with Stan and [his brother Joe Koziol] playing soccer together in Kearny, N.J. for Thistle FC. Stan is one of the most genuine, humble and passionate guys around. He loved his soccer and of course loved life, family and friends.  Truly a great person who was always there for others and my families' thoughts and prayers are with Joe and Stan's family.”

Fellow New Jersey native Peter Vermes, head coach of MLS defending champion Sporting Kansas City played with Koziol at Loyola and on developmental teams in New Jersey and like Sakiewicz and Harkes echoed only praise for his fallen friend.

“I played with Stan in 1984-85 at Loyola College in Baltimore,” Vermes recalled. “He was a Jersey guy through-and-through and I got to know him well playing on the New Jersey state team. Stan was a fierce competitor, a winner, always focused and was very committed to his teams. He was a year older than me so I looked up to these traits. His passing is so sad and my thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”

A funeral mass is set for 10am this Saturday at St Rose of Lima Church, 415 NE 105th St. Miami Shores. FL. 33138. For more information call, (305) 758-0539.

In remembering Koziol's life, the Philadelphia Union will be accepting donations to The Stan "Stas" Koziol Memorial Fund. The monies will then be collected and sent on to the foundation or cause that the Koziol family designates in the near future. The Union will also honor Stan and his family at a home match at PPL Park this season and present those donations to the family at that time.  Please send donations to: Philadelphia Union and in the memo note proceeds are to benefit The Stan "Stas" Koziol Memorial Fund, 2501 Seaport Drive, Switch House Suite 500, Chester, PA 19013.