5 POINTS PRESS A Journal of New York Soccer
6/2011 Issue #4
5 POINTS PRESS â€œEen Draght Mackt Maghtâ€? MMXI Vol. 1 - Iss. 4
5 Points Press is an independent source of news and opinion on soccer and soccer culture in the City of New York. 5 Points Press is a division of 5 Points Media. ( All rights reserved )
Editors: Cesar Diaz Chris Dobens Nick Laveglia Writers: Chris Dobens Cesar Diaz Leo Glickman Nick Laveglia Contributing Writers: J.D. MacKinnon Brandon A.F. Sonnier Photography Chris Dobens Nick Laveglia Cesar Diaz Design and Layout: Brandon A.F. Sonnier 5 Points Press accepts contributing writers and volunteers. To help get involved, please contact us @ email@example.com
SOCCER PROGRAMS COMBAT They're A Great Way To And CitY You Love.
CHILDHOOD OBESITY: Plus Give Back To The G a m e By chris dobens
June 2011 is proving to be a great time in the soccer world. We just enjoyed the climax of the European leagues and the Copa Libertadores, along with the finals of the FA Cup, Europa League, and Champions League. The MLS is in full swing and looking better than ever. The Gold Cup has started, along with more Euro 2012 qualifiers. And the Copa America and Women’s World Cup are just around the corner. We are blessed with a bounty of quality soccer. So there’s no better time to suggest sharing some of that bounty, giving back to the soccer community which has given us so much this season. Besides, what better way to ensure your favorite side has good karma than to appease the soccer gods with a small donation to the charity of your choice, right? There is no shortage of non-profit organizations doing great work on the pitch and off. But they say charity begins at home, and for us that’s here in New York City. The need is far greater than you may think. We’re facing a youth health crisis here in America, with fast-food diets and inactive lifestyles combining to create a generation who are at risk of chronic diseases long before they leave school. In certain neighborhoods of New York City, childhood obesity and diabetes rates are off the charts – well above the national average. Many of these kids are what the charitable world calls “underprivileged,” meaning they do not live in families or communities with a lot of resources. Their parents are more focused on putting enough food on the table instead of worrying if their kids are eating a wellbalanced diet of free-range meats and organic vegetables. And, thanks to budget cuts and space limitations, their public schools often lack a proper playground – let alone an organized sports program. Fortunately there are a number of organizations in our city that offer free youth soccer programs to these kids. Youth soccer is an excellent way to combat this growing health crisis. Everyone can play, including both boys and girls. It gets kids active, working a variety of muscles, and can serve as a great cardiovascular exercise. Plus it’s inexpensive and requires little equipment. There are also social and developmental benefits of playing youth
soccer. It’s great for self-esteem because, with a little instruction, everyone can improve their skill levels. And being on a team teaches kids leadership skills as well as the value of teamwork and cooperation. This is especially true of underprivileged kids, for whom soccer can provide a sense of belonging as well as hope for a better future. In addition to all the other benefits, these programs also give kids a taste of the beautiful game. For some, experiencing the rewards of physical activity will prove to be a lasting lesson that leads them to a healthier, longer life. For others, they will also become lifelong fans of the game. But a select few will likely show sufficient promise to find their way into playing competitively. And that’s very good for American soccer. American Messi Altruism alone is sufficient reason to support the free youth soccer programs in some of New York’s toughest neighborhoods. But an additional benefit is that these programs might discover some stars of the next generation of American soccer. And while none of these programs are focused on mining for that hidden gem, an American Messi, it occasionally proves a pleasant consequence of using the sport to improve the lives of underprivileged youth. Underprivileged communities are teeming with kids who have far more potential than they have opportunities to realize it. So it’s no surprise that some of the greatest players ever to kick a soccer ball came from such humble backgrounds. Eusebio, Garrincha, Maradona, Pele, and Ronaldo all came from poverty, whereas George Best, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Zinedine Zidane would have also qualified as “underprivileged” children. Youth programs for the underprivileged not only benefit our local community, and society as whole, but they also support the growth of the game in America. And it’s no surprise that everyone from MLS clubs to US Soccer are getting involved, to both improve the health and well-being of our nation’s youth while hoping to discover promising new talent. As you can see, there are many reasons to give back to your local soccer community. To make things
easier for you, I have taken a look at some of the best non-profit youth soccer programs addressing the needs of our city’s underprivileged. DUSC’s City Soccer Initiative Downtown United Soccer Club (DUSC) is one of the top pay-for-play soccer programs in the city. So it’s only fitting that they have leveraged that expertise to create one of the top youth soccer programs for underprivileged kids – the City Soccer Initiative. The program began back in 2003, to address growing concerns about childhood obesity and the lack of resources available for sports and fitness programs in public schools. The goal was to create a sustainable youth soccer development program that not only provides underprivileged children with a regular athletic experience but also works with their schools, few of which have organized sports programs. City Soccer Initiative (CSI) operates in 20 public schools throughout Manhattan, including Chinatown, Harlem, Hell’s Kitchen, and the Lower East Side. The program is designed to use soccer as a way to get and keep kids active and engaged in physical fitness, and it currently serves more than 3,000 New York City school children each week – making it the largest of its kind in the city. Most of the boys and girls are 6-7 years old, though there are 8-10 year-olds as well. CSI can work with these schools in three ways. It can support existing physical education classes by providing trained coaches and equipment to teach kids the fundamentals of the game in a fun but structured environment. It can also conduct small-sided games as part of normal recess periods, ensuring that kids engage in positive, cooperative physical play. This is particularly important because, in many NYC public schools, recess has devolved into a period of bullying and inactivity. Finally, CSI can strengthen existing after-school programs by providing free soccer clinics run by professional coaches. Since each school has different needs, CSI adapts whatever mix is most appropriate. In some schools, they work with the same kids throughout the school year, three times each week. In others, they may only train once a week, or the kids may be rotated from
one class to another depending on schedules. One of the challenges faced by most youth soccer programs is the availability of spaces to play. Some schools have playgrounds. Others have to close streets for recess. But CSI’s coaches and instructors adapt, running programs wherever space is available – even in cafeterias. In addition to the school-based programs, CSI offers skills clinics on the weekends. These serve kids who show enthusiasm and talent, giving them a chance to improve their skills and possibly even earn a scholarship to DUSC’s pay-for-play program. In fact, DUSC has already provided scholarships for more than 100 CSI children to participate in its recreational soccer program. While playing soccer provides a fun and popular way for kids to get regular exercise, CSI recognizes that proper nutrition and a balanced diet are key to helping combat the childhood obesity epidemic. That is why it has started to add a nutritional education component to the work it does in several of these schools, hiring a nutrition expert from Columbia University to help create a working curriculum for the program. To supplement its staff, CSI has also created a youth leadership program that develops high school students to be coaches. Not only does this help provide additional hands, legs, and ears to work with the kids, but these student-coaches gain valuable experience and learn life skills that will aid them in coaching or whatever career they may pursue.
If you would like to support this terrific program, you can make an online donation by visiting: http://bit.ly/5PPCSI. Asphalt Green’s CSL Soccer Program I recently spent a Saturday evening over at Asphalt Green, a non-profit sports and fitness organization with a 5.5-acre campus on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. My nephew used to play in its Green Wave youth soccer program, one of the most successful payfor-play youth soccer programs in the area. But I wasn’t there to watch one of these games. I was there for the opening night of Asphalt Green’s Community Sports Leagues (CSL) soccer program. The CSL program functions as an athletic department for eight middle schools in Harlem – schools which otherwise wouldn’t have the resources or expertise to give their students an opportunity to play organized sports. In addition to its spring co-ed soccer program, which serves approximately 100 kids, Asphalt Green also runs a similar CSL program for flag football in the fall as well as girls’ basketball and gymnastics in the winter. Having watched the CSL soccer program in the past, I was impressed by this year’s opening night. The quality of play among the kids was clearly at a higher level. Thanks to the generosity of Modell’s, most of the kids were sporting brand new Adidas F50s. And, as if the action on the field wasn’t entertaining enough, the Harlem Village Academy Middle School – which
fields a team in the program – brought their fledgling cheerleading squad along to spice things up. Asphalt Green hosts the half-field games on its brand new FieldTurf field, under its brilliant new stadium lights. It also provides uniforms and some basic instruction in both the game and conditioning, along with referees drawn from the Green Wave program’s elite coaching staff. The schools not only provide the players, but teachers volunteer as coaches. And the night I attended, their seemed to be more teachers on hand, rooting for the kids, than even parents. These educators are obviously committed to producing well-rounded, healthy kids in our communities. Plus, since Asphalt Green’s program works with the schools to field teams, the kids develop a more positive connection to their schools. As a result, teachers have noted an academic improvement among the program’s participants. There were a few kids who clearly stood out on the pitch. And the Asphalt Green coaches already had their eyes on them, as potential candidates for the partial scholarships the organization offers to its competitive travel soccer program. To support this great program, your best bet is to send a check to the Director of Development, Asphalt Green, 555 East 90th Street, New York, NY 10128 and specify that the tax-deductible donation should go the CSL Soccer Program. You can make donations online at http://bit.ly/5PPAG, but you won’t be able to earmark the money for the CSL Soccer Program. The Claudio Reyna Foundation Claudio Reyna was the first American ever to captain a European side, enjoying a 12-year career that spanned the English Premier League, Scottish Premier League, German Bundesliga, and MLS. With his 122 caps for the US national team, he represented his country in four World Cups, captaining the side for two of them, and was the first American player to be selected for a FIFA All World Cup Team. These days, when not busy serving as the Youth Technical Director for the US Soccer Federa-
tion, Reyna is focused on the foundation he started in 2008. Serving the greater New York area, the mission of the Claudio Reyna Foundation (CRF) is to improve the lives of underprivileged children through soccer, education, and community involvement. Their goal is to help these kids grow healthy bodies, minds, and spirits – to become better athletes, better students, and better citizens. To achieve this, CRF has set up five soccer academies around the city (along with seven others in Newark, where Reyna grew up) that serve as free afterschool soccer programs for boys and girls ages 6-12. The programs run throughout the entire school year, with two sessions being held each week at a NYC Parks Department Recreation Center near the schools. Each session begins with academics, since players must maintain good grades to participate. Tutors and other volunteers are available to help the kids with their schoolwork. Then they receive a full hour of training from USSF A certified coaches, the cream of the crop. Training sessions cover everything from soccer skills and teamwork to fitness and conditioning. Even nutritional education is regularly included. The Newark academies are based at charter schools, and that connection works well in developing an academic commitment. It’s also helps gauge the success of the program, as the schools can easily provide feedback on both grades and attendance. Fitness is more difficult to measure, though, because children’s bodies are changing dramatically at these ages. But other factors – such as attitude and appearance – are easier to assess. Coaches set the bar high, providing the right balance of inspiration and discipline that is often missing from these kids’ lives. CRF is planning to expand into other cities and hopes to be serving as many as 1,000 children this fall. You can help ensure the success of their academies right here in New York by donating online at http:// bit.ly/5PPCRF. America Scores NY Many of you may be familiar with America Scores, a national non-profit that provides after-school
soccer programs for inner-city youth that integrate soccer, poetry, and community service. Their teambased approach is designed to improve the children’s health, academics, and civic engagement. I must admit that soccer, poetry, and community service seemed like an odd mix at first. But then I thought back to the philosophy of Northfield Mount Hermon, the boarding school I had the privilege of attending, which is to nurture the head, heart, and hand. Suddenly it made sense to me. Poetry helps stimulate their minds, fostering creativity. Community service teaches them the importance of giving, as well as their place in a greater community. And soccer gets their body moving, helping them stay healthy and develop physically. America Scores New York runs programs in three public elementary schools in Harlem, serving approximately 90 boys and girls in grades 3-5. They also have a Junior Scores program at one of the schools, which works with even younger kids. The program begins by forming soccer teams, creating a bond and shared purpose among the kids while getting them physically active. They then take that team back into the classroom to “discover their voice through poetry.” And that voice is then used to champion change within their community. In the fall, kids will have two days of practice, two poetry workshops, and then they compete against teams from the other local schools on Fridays. At the end of the season, a boy and girl from each of the 13 cities where America Scores operates compete in a National Poetry Slam event. For the spring season, they switch the poetry workshops to service-learning, with the kids spending two days a week working on their community project. At the end of the season, the kids share their projects with one another at the SHOUT! event. And for cynics who might dismiss this as too touchy-feely and do-goody, America Scores is a proven model with measured results. They evaluate the participant’s progress both on the field and in the classroom. The kids achieve improved fitness, develop as soccer players, evolve as poets, and become active ambassadors for change in their communities.
If you would like to support America Scores New York, you can donate online at http://bit. ly/5PPASNY. South Bronx United South Bronx United is a non-profit youth soccer club created to use the sport as a means for social change. While they technically do charge a nominal registration fee ($30-60 for the year, which is about 1/50th of what some of the local pay-for-play programs cost per year), the fee is waived for a number of the participants. Beyond the benefits of youth soccer already mentioned, South Bronx United takes a very handson approach to enriching the lives of the kids who play on their teams. The kids are required to attend its after-school tutoring program five days a week to ensure they are performing well academically. They also must engage in character-developing activities, which include leadership institutes, conflict resolution workshops, and career days. And the high school students attend additional programs geared towards putting them on the path to college, including SAT prep sessions, college nights, and organized college tours. As if that weren’t amazing enough for a grassroots program that’s only two years old, they also field some impressive soccer teams. They now have more than 300 kids in the program, with teams ranging from U4-19, including competitive U10-19 travel teams. While success on the field keeps everyone engaged, the real goal is to keep these kids in school – and away from violence, gangs, and other negative behavior – giving them a chance at a college education and a brighter future. And in the South Bronx, arguably one of the toughest neighborhoods in all of New York City, that’s no easy task. Using soccer as its tool, South Bronx United hopes to evolve into a beacon of hope and a force for social change in the neighborhood, offering a comprehensive program to educate neighbors in health, fitness, character, and careers. While their focus remains on building a better future for the community by addressing the needs of its youth today, they are looking to expand their role, possibly starting a men’s soccer
team and eventually a full-service community center. One of the coolest things about South Bronx United is that you can actually sponsor a player. Donations of all sizes are welcome, but you can tap your inner Abramovich by giving $100 to sponsor a player for the entire year. To choose a kid to sponsor, visit here: http://bit.ly/5PPSBU. They offer photos and mini bios for most of them. Or if you still fancy yourself more of a player than an owner, South Bronx United have partnered with Play 2 Give here in New York City. For a $5 donation to South Bronx United, you can participate in an organized pick-up game. To see the upcoming schedule and learn more about these recreational games, visit Play 2 Give’s MeetUp page: http://bit. ly/5PPP2G.
of Parks & Recreation’s Summer Camps Program, which operates in all five boroughs. Soccer is only a small component of this program, and my efforts to clarify exactly what type of equipment is being provided – as well as if any Red Bull’s coaches will be offering guidance or support – were left unanswered. The team has set a $30,000 cap on their donation, which might tell you a little about their expectations for the season. They’ve already scored 19 goals in their first 13 games, a pace that would see the NY’s Got Wings program fly off in mid-July. Unfortunately, you cannot donate directly to this program. You can make a donation to the Parks Department, but it would be difficult to ensure that your funds were dedicated to the small sliver of soccer they provide. Give A Little, Gain A Lot Whether you have time and skills you’d like to share, or cold-hard cash (money is more meaningful to these organizations, as most tend to have plenty of volunteers but very limited financial resources), we hope you will give what you can to support these youth soccer programs right here in New York City. If not, don’t blame us when the ref makes bad calls against your team. The soccer gods can be very vindictive! ❺
FC Harlem Lions Similar to South Bronx United, the FC Harlem Lions are a non-profit youth soccer club that has also embraced the game as a tool for social change. The Lions, which is an acronym for Leaders In Our Neighborhoods, were founded in 1990 and currently serve approximately 500 boys and girls in Harlem and the Bronx. They have a U5-13 recreational program, U1016 development program, U12-17 competitive travel program, and a men’s U20 team that competes in the USL Super 20 League. In addition to their work on the field, they try In addition to contributing to 5 Points Press, Chris Dobens to enrich the lives of their players through the Lion writes a soccer blog, Total Footblog, which can be found at Share Partnership Program™. This program is de- TotalFootblog.com. signed to develop partnerships with organizations that can support the kids in academics, character development, nutrition and fitness, and community service. To support FC Harlem Lions with a donation, visit. http://bit.ly/5PPFCL. The NY Red Bulls Give NY Wings No, not spicy BBQ wings, though that would certainly be a welcome donation. The New York Red Bulls, perhaps nervous about the prospect of someday sharing the city with another MLS franchise, launched their NY’s Got Wings program this season. For every goal they score in the regular season, the team will donate $1,000 worth of equipment to NYC Department
by Cesar Diaz
My favorite aspect of covering American
time has never died. Like a fan who grew up loving the
Soccer is my interaction with the fans. When it’s said
Brooklyn Dodgers; that has love endured despite the
and done, I have nothing but the utmost respect for
the fans. They’re the ones who not only advocate for
the sport, they’ve also invested their love and dollars
spent in finding rare NASL books and a couple of New
towards their chosen club & National Team.
York Cosmos player autobiographies, it’s been worth it.
While the history of any club is fascinating,
However, if I could give it all up to experience the New
the people’s history of the club is sensational because
York Cosmos in their glory days that I could remember,
good or bad memories, they vividly can recall the
monumental moments of their team. At the end of
the day, the fans are the ones who have kept me hon-
a gentleman named Horace Porras. He commended
est with my writing.
me on my research and he told he used to follow the
In the case of the New York Cosmos, I’ve al-
Cosmos. He also informed me that he was part of the
ways loved the team that I never stopped loving them
Cosmos Headers; the supporters who followed the New
even after the NASL folded. While the organization’s
York Cosmos back in the day.
slogan maybe “Twice in a Lifetime,” my Cosmos life-
From the hours of research to the dollars I’ve
Last December, I had received an email from
I told that if he was ever in New York, we should
meet up because I would want to hear about his experience with the Cosmos Headers.
Months go by and Horace informs me that he
was going to in New York City and like a rattlesnake going for the bite, I jumped at the opportunity. A few weeks later after our email exchange, we met at Planet Hollywood over breakfast.
After a few hours of breakfast and coffee, I ad-
mitted to Horace that I was envious of him. I confided in him that I would exchange every article that I’ve ever written to have lived his memories.
From having breakfast with Franz Beckenbauer
in Argentina to Julio Cesar Romero giving up his jacket, to even the Cosmos Girls giving him an autograph picture with their each signature, Horace has lived the life many from our generation would be envious off.
To compliment his personal experience is his
impressive New York Cosmos memorabilia. Photos of his autograph photos, past programs, and a poster from Pele’s soccer match left me in awe. Once we ordered our breakfast, Horace gave me his recollection of the Cosmos Headers.
“While it was a fan’s club, it was also a serious
thing because we had meetings where the organizers would invite players from the New York Cosmos to have conversations with the fans,” recalled Horace.
“What was special about that time is that were
very diverse and proud to support the Cosmos. Nowadays, supporters clubs are recognized and essentially viable for any team. Basically, there’s no difference in what we did other than it’s more accepted and it is implemented as part of club’s DNA.”
“Our leaders who reach out to the Cosmos of-
fice inquiring if specific players would attend. Not only would they show up, they would bring t-shirts, soccer balls, and other gifts for the fans. Players like Johan Neesken, Beckenbauer attended regularly and would
answer all of our questions and sign autographs after- wards.”
My favorite story that Horace glowingly remi-
nisced about how he met Franz Beckenbauer. At the “The beautiful thing about being part of the
time Horace was living in Argentina and the German
Cosmos Headers that each of has is living proof that National Team was there. So he contacted the German the NASL was successful. Anyone who claims that it
Embassy and asked for Franz Beckenbauer in English.
wasn’t successful, I constantly ask them, “Compared
He was switched to his the Hotel where Beckenbauer
“While the NASL may have not last as long as
Horace he spoke with Beckenbauer and when
many of us would have liked, for that short time peri- he told him he was part of the Cosmos Header, Beckod in the late 70’s and early 80’s, many of us supported
enbauer invited him for breakfast the next day. Vividly
our clubs on a regular basis throughout the league.
recalling their conversation, Beckenbauer also intro-
With former NASL teams like the Seattle Sounders,
duced Horace to the German players. All in all, it was
Vancouver Whitecaps, Portland Timbers, San Jose
an experience that he enjoys telling his friends and
Earthquakes, and possibly the Cosmos, the impact the
NASL had still resonates today; not only in MLS but
also in the USL Pro and NASL.”
the Cosmos Headers and the games he attended with
Now in 2011, Horace states that his time with
Throughout our conversation, Horace also his father are a time of his life that he would always
talked about how some of the NASL rules like the not treasure. With the possibility of the New York Coscalling offsides in the penalty area made the game ex- mos joining MLS, he looks forward to following his citing because players were allowed to be more aggres- beloved team on a regular basis. ❺ sive and creative with their goal scoring. He stressed that it forced defenders to defend more aggressively.
Cesar Diaz is a Columnist for USSoccerPlayers.com. In
He also pointed out that at one point; FIFA played a addition, he covers soccer for LatinoSports.com and 5 few exhibition games where they experimented with
Points Press. Easily accessible, you may contact Cesar at
firstname.lastname@example.org and at Twitter @CoveringSoc-
At one point of our breakfast, Horace com- cer.
mended his father for introducing him to the NASL and New York Cosmos. He admitted that the times he spent with father watching the Cosmos were always worthwhile.
In addition to attending Cosmos Header meet-
ings, his father in time established a relationship with a staff member who worked for the Cosmos. As a result of his father’s friend, he was able to meet players such as Pele, Chinaglia, and Carlos Alberto after their training sessions.
MLS 2 NYC Update by Nick Laveglia We have been down this road before. Talks of a second Major League Soccer team in the New York City area have been reoccurring for awhile. However, nothing has been formerly materialized into something substantial. Before you say, “We have been down this road before,” for the first time ever, a possible solution is eminent. MLS Commissioner Don Garber continues to speak of their intentions to get something done in the Queens area. Between the Wilpon family and the New York Cosmos, there are plenty of alternatives to finalize a deal. This week Citi Field hosted a soccer game between Greece and Ecuador. Leading up to the game, the Mets and representatives from
local political offices spoke of their interest in soccer. Mets Executive Vice President David Howard statement on the matter may have been the biggest hint that Soccer in Queens might not be that far off “We are already in discussion about possibly hosting an exhibition match later this summer between a European club team and a Central American team,” said Howard. “And Major League Soccer is on record as saying they would like to have a second team in New York” Many believe that Howard was hinting Citi Field as the obvious location which he stated will be the home of future soccer matches. In addition, he stated that it could also become the home of a future
Major League Soccer team. Interestingly enough, the Mets organization didn’t imply that they were in the running for as a potential contender for a MLS team. With that said, the New York Cosmos come into the equation. The Cosmos has consistently made it clear that they are looking to build a stadium in New York City, with Queens being one of the locations they are discussing with the city. It is very possible that the Cosmos would make Citi Field their home for a year or two while their soccer specific stadium is being built nearby in Queens. The Cosmos have admitted to engaging the Wilpon family in the past so it’s evident that a partnership is indeed possible. ❺
by Chris Dobens
If you are at all familiar with youth soccer in New York City, you know that itâ€™s tryout time at the elite travel programs and academies. Which is why I wanted to check in with Giovanni Savarese, the director of the Cosmos Academy East, to see how their program has evolved and whatâ€™s in store for next season.
The Locavore Approach to Professional Soccer The original New York Cosmos bought a star-studded line-up, but MLS salary caps and designated player rules prohibit clubs from doing that today. While some teams have tried to purchase “bargains” from overseas, most now realize that the key to success in MLS is growing your own talent through an exceptional youth development program. And for those who doubt our ability to develop players worthy of wearing the Cosmos kit, keep in mind that Giuseppe Rossi – among the top scorers in Spain’s La Liga this season and currently being courted by the likes of Barcelona and Juventus – was the product of local youth programs until the age of 13, when he left for Europe. And with academies like the one established by the Cosmos, as well as other development academies in the metro area, the prospects for world-class player development here in New York City are improving dramatically each season. US Soccer created the Development Academy program back in 2007 as a way of ensuring consistency of quality and instilling best practices among the most elite youth development programs around the country. There are currently 78 such academies nationwide, and they consist of two types. First are the traditional Development Academies, which are the top pay-for-
play programs that meet US Soccer’s demanding criteria. Then there are MLS academies, which differ in two ways: they are owned by an MLS club and they are free of charge. Of the 16 US-based MLS clubs, all but four currently have academies. The Cosmos Academy is unique in that they are not an MLS franchise, yet their academy program is free. And like the other non-MLS academies, players aren’t contractually obligated to the Cosmos. They are simply registered with US Soccer. The Cosmos also have their Academy West, which is led by Savarese’s counterpart, Cosmos Academy West director Teddy Chronopoulos. Similar to Academy East, this program is designed to harvest the fertile fields of youth soccer in Southern California. While Academy West players will be ineligible to play for the Cosmos when they enter MLS, the players are currently eligible to play for their New Yorkbased PDL team. And according to Savarese, this summer’s Cosmos PDL squad will feature a number of them – along with some college players not already committed elsewhere. There are seven other academy programs in the metro area: Albertson SC, FC Westchester, Match Fit Chelsea, Met Oval, New York Red Bulls (a full-fledged MLS academy), NJSA 04, and the Player Development Academy.
The Structure of the Cosmos Academy Next to resurrecting the Cosmos brand, the smartest thing the owners of the new New York Cosmos did was acquiring BW Gottschee, one of the oldest and most competitive youth soccer programs in New York City. Founded in 1951 by Austrian immigrants, BW Gottschee earned a reputation as the club for players interested in landing a college scholarship and perhaps playing the game professionally. While adhering to a shared philosophy and commitment to quality, the Cosmos have since restructured the program into two levels. The first level, BWG Cosmos, mirrors the original program with U5-17 teams in the standard pay-for-play model. These teams are designed to develop players strong enough to compete at the next level, which is the Cosmos Academy. The Academy is a highly competitive free program divided into Pre-Academy (U12-15), Academy (U16-18), and PDL (U23) teams. BWG Cosmos teams compete in the CJSL and other metro area pay-for-play leagues, just as BW Gottschee had done. The Cosmos Academy teams play in the age-appropriate elite leagues designed by US Soccer. This includes a local Pre-Academy league, a regional Academy league, and a regional PDL league – with the latter two age groups also competing in showcase tournaments around the country. Currently the academy-level teams play on a November-June calendar. In May, June, and July,
they hold a series of player identification camps and practices. These are opportunities for players from other youth soccer programs to tryout for the Cosmos Academy – or a possible slot on a BWG Cosmos side with a chance to play at the academy level in the future. Whether a team is playing as part of the Academy or BWG Cosmos, they are being shaped with the same philosophy and style of play, according to Savarese. He regularly meets with his coaching staff to discuss strategy and tactics for the teams as well as for player development in general. And the coaches have a vested interest in working together as teams typically rotate coaches at least once every two seasons. “We are trying to emulate the 4-3-3 systems that have been successfully used by both presentday Barcelona and the Dutch National Team of the 60s and 70s – giving players in the midfield more possession and interaction and the ability to create,” explained Savarese. The mechanics of practices are tailored to each age group, but Savarese said that the emphasis is always on winning and retaining possession as well as thinking quickly and reacting to the game. “We concentrate on the technical and tactical parts of the game,” added Savarese. “We also teach our players how to think and see the game.” At the academy level, teams practice three times a week with conditioning built-in to that training regimen. They also have one additional practice each week solely devoted to conditioning – but always with the ball, noted Savarese. In a move that seems well at
odds with the Cosmos legacy, players must also adhere to regulations regarding their off-field behavior and appearance. For example, they are given guidance regarding the way they dress and present themselves. And despite my years as a long-haired dirtbag player in the late 70s/early 80s, I must confess that I kind of like this approach, given today’s glut of brash Balotellis. “We encourage our players to express themselves on the field, not off of it,” explained Savarese. I hope Savarese and his coaches will lead the charge on this front, because I can’t imagine the likes of Cantona and Messing carrying that message with any credibility. All jokes aside, not only are the Cosmos taking the right approach with their academy, but they are doing so generously. They have already invested more than a $1 million in their bi-coastal youth development program. According to ESPN, that’s twice the annual budget of DC United’s academy, which has been lauded as the best in MLS. Some of the Challenges The plan for the Cosmos Academy looks perfect – on paper. But New York City is a strange place, and growing up in this town in the 21st century offers a whole different set of challenges. For starters, there is an abundance of distractions. You’ve got the usual ones, such as out-of-town vacations, with families taking their kids overseas to visit relatives or see the sites. Then you’ve got the time suck of things like video games, television, and the Internet. And as adolescence looms, many of these kids start to
place social interaction above their passion for the game, as is often evidenced by their desire to play for their school team as opposed to a stand-alone soccer program. On top of all that, New York parents are notorious for overscheduling their children. The Cosmos are looking for committed kids, and they frown upon those who miss practices. Punctuality is a key tenet of the academy. I have spoken to some of the players in the program and their parents, and it’s clear that the Cosmos Academy is not for kids simply interested in soccer – or even those who “like to play” the game. To succeed with the Cosmos, just as in the game itself, you need to make it your top priority – not another activity on a schedule designed to make you look well-rounded for some college. Speaking of education, I’ve long been a fan of the IMG Soccer Academy in Florida, which has helped produce the likes of Landon Donovan, DeMarcus Beasley, Oguchi Onyewu, Jozy Altidore, Eddie Johnson, Michael Bradley, Eric Lichaj, Jonathan Bornstein, Jonathan Spector, and Kyle Martino. By incorporating academic studies with player development, IMG has a proven track record of shaping talented soccer players. Their formula is studies in the morning and sports in the afternoon. And that is something I think MLS academies and the Cosmos could and should emulate. But the one advantage IMG has is that it’s a residency program, meaning that the kids are physically removed from other distractions. And that’s tough to achieve when you are an academy serving local players. One final challenge the
Cosmos face is geography. New York is one of those places where a lot of families don’t even own a car. So the notion of parents driving their kids to soccer practice doesn’t necessarily apply here. With the Cosmos hosting their program in Queens and Brooklyn, that can be an obstacle for children who live in the other boroughs, especially the younger kids who aren’t old enough to take public transportation on their own. And, whether the kids live in the South Bronx or the Upper East Side, chances are both parents are working full-time. Fortunately the Cosmos Academy has started hosting some tryouts and other sessions in places like Randall’s Island. But with a shortage of available fields around the city, they may have to hope that parents will get creative to get their kids in the program.
Outreach and Recruitment Eric Cantona once said, “Systems don’t win games, players win games.” So how are the New York Cosmos going to attract the best and brightest young soccer talent in the tri-state area? The Cosmos have talked about establishing a foundation that would bring free youth soccer clinics to schools that lack an organized sports program. Not only will this help address a variety of issues, including the epidemic of childhood obesity in certain sections of our city, but it will also create channels to identify and nurture talented kids – ultimately bringing them into the development program at some level. Think of it as an altruistic talent identification program. Though there are already a number of organizations doing this to vary-
ing degrees of success. For now, however, the Cosmos are recruiting the old-fashioned way – often with the help of former long-haired dirtbag players who now resort to blogging. While the Academy offers individual tryouts throughout the year, they are also taking advantage of the city’s traditional tryout window to host a number of open practices and camps. Talented kids who are committed to playing the game at the highest level can attend any of these sessions – which are regularly posted for BWG Cosmos and the Cosmos Academy - and hope to earn a spot at either level. But for a good, detailed summary of upcoming Cosmos Academy East tryouts, you can visit http://bit.ly/5PPCA. One thing is for certain, though, academies like the Cosmos’ have given young soccer players a much clearer path to playing professionally. The old model – at least in New York City – was to join an instructional or recreational program, then a travel team, possibly play for your high school as well, and then get into a prominent college soccer program with the hope of attracting national attention. And with all those different steps, there’s a greater chance of stumbling along the way. But thanks to the Cosmos and other academies, now kids can join a pre-academy program and be on a direct – and coherent – path to playing for an MLS club. That’s good for the MLS, and even better for US Soccer. It might even convince the next Rossi to stick around. ❺
by Cesar Diaz
On Friday, June 3, former USWNT goal-
Following the soccer clinic, each member of the
keeper and Women’s World Cup champion Briana
South Bronx United girls’ team was presented a
Scurry and U.S. Soccer sponsor AllState made a sur-
soccer kit and tickets to Sunday’s women’s match
prise visit in the Bronx to conduct an unannounced
between the United States and Mexico. All of this
soccer clinic for South Bronx United’s girls’ team.
was made possible through the generous donation
Across from Yankee Stadium, this monu-
mental soccer clinic took place at the Macombs
Dam Park and was an experience anyone present
Scurry is in town because she’ll be supporting the
will never forget. Not only were the girls enthusias-
U.S. Women’s National Team’s World Cup send-off
tically involved in the soccer clinic, they made the
match against Mexico on Sunday, June 5 at Red Bull
most of coaching clinic as well as their opportunity
Arena at 2PM, ET. In addition, she’ll be signing au-
to kick the ball past the legendary goalkeeper.
tographs that day at Red Bull Arena, Gate B at the
AllState Fan Zone from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm.
Observing Scurry’s interaction with the girls
In addition to the surprise soccer clinic,
demonstrated that even though she’s retired from
competition, the fire is still there. However, what
Briana Scurry and sign a special flag that was given
was more captivating was how easy-going she was
to the USWNT after the U.S. Women’s National
with the team. She’s a natural coach and she kept
team’s 1-0 victory over Mexico as a special send-off
everyone active and involved.
gift leading up to the 2011 Women’s World Cup.
With the Bronx being one of the poorest
Fans in attendance had the opportunity meet
Initially, I was asked if I was willing to con-
communities in the United States, Scurry’s presence
duct a phone interview with Briana Scurry. Once I
was an invaluable soccer experience not only for the
was informed that she was hosting a soccer clinic,
girls but also for the staff, who were all volunteers.
I easily chose the latter. I did meet Scurry and we
It’s really a testament of the dedication each child,
talked for a few minutes. I’ll be honest—I didn’t re-
volunteer and parents have made in making South
ally ask any questions. If anything, I told her that
Bronx United a continuing success.
she may be the only American World Cup winner
that I’ll ever meet.
Based in the Bronx, N.Y., South Bronx Unit-
ed Soccer Club’s mission is to use soccer as a vehicle
for social change while helping youth build charac-
the easier assignment, I believe the bigger story was
ter, teamwork and leadership skills.
Scurry coming to the South Bronx and making the
South Bronx United soccer programs pro-
South Bronx United Girls’ Team smile. In addition
mote educational achievement, health and wellness
to Briana’s contribution, it was fantastic seeing how
and character development, while also training
the generosity of both AllState and the volunteers
youth to develop soccer and athletic skills appropri-
of South Bronx United provided some hope in the
ate to their ages, abilities and interests. The program
While getting an interview would have been
Boogie Down Bronx. ❺
recently unveiled it’s first girls’ team featuring girls ages 14 to 17.
by Chris Dobens
If you have never been to the
these farcical storefronts. But kids,
original Patsy’s Pizza on First Avenue
like Spanish Harlem (or SpaHa, as
between 117th & 118th Streets, then
hipsters like me call it), are full of
you haven’t really lived. It’s like go-
ing your whole life without seeing a
rainbow, or hearing children’s laugh-
doorway with a small yellow &
ter. Though there is a chain of Patsy’s
black canopy – shaped like half a
Pizza’s in the city, the only thing they
soccer ball – just above it. It read
have in common with the original is
“EuroMex.” And, had I looked up,
the name. The quality of the pizza is
I would have spotted the massive
in an entirely different league.
green “soccer” sign near the top
It was during one such epicu-
of the building. The unassuming
rean experience that my nephew and
entrance was tucked between a
his friend told me of a soccer shop
marble shop to the left and a flow-
on East 116th Street. I had traversed
ers & gift shop to the right. I was
that East Harlem crosstown thor-
struck by the possibility that these
oughfare on many occasions and
kids may have indeed found some-
was confident that they were telling
tales. East 116th Street has a few in-
teresting eateries, but the shops are
headed up the stairs to this sec-
all second-rate, with limited selec-
ond-floor establishment. Reaching
tions of knock-offs and cheap im-
the top of those stairs, we surfaced
ports. But after devouring our third
into what is indeed a soccer Shan-
pie, I agreed to humor them and go
gri-La. Before me hung the largest
see this soccer Shangri-La.
and most impressive collection of
As we made our way West
soccer gear I’ve seen in this city – a
along the South side of 116th Street,
brightly lit bouquet of jerseys from
I remained skeptical. We passed a
around the world.
number of shops, and I had a handful
of mockery ready to throw on them
to the Cosmos gears – Umbro jer-
as soon as they led me into one of
seys, t-shirts, hats, etc. Then some
We stopped in front of a
We opened the door and
I was immediately drawn
Pele-branded shirts caught my eye. There was an
color. They live for that stuff.
abundance of Mexican clubs represented. And every
team you could imagine in Europe. Home and away
sizes, EuroMex also had an impressive collection of
jerseys. Training tops and jackets. International
kids jerseys. There are plenty of boots as well. In fact,
you’ll find everything from shinguards to shoelaces.
But what really knocked my socks (plenty of
While the majority of the jerseys are in adult
Barca clocks and Milan stadium blankets. Cosmos
those, too) off was the retro wear. You can get the
baseball caps to Mexican tricolor wrestling masks.
latest Manchester United jersey online, at places like
Soccer.com and WorldSoccerShop.com. But at Eu-
came to New York in 1988 from Hidalgo, Mexico –
roMex, you can get the latest Aon jersey, the AIG
the cradle of Mexican soccer. In 1994, he opened his
jersey, and even the Vodofone jersey. If you looked
original shop just down the block. It was street-level
hard enough, I wouldn’t be surprised if you found
but small, limiting the merchandise he could offer.
the classic Sharp jersey as well.
In 2007, he opened a second – and larger – shop in
Part of the beauty of shopping at a place like
Brooklyn, on 5803 5th Avenue in Sunset Park. And
EuroMex is discovering hidden gems, like the store
in June of last year, just as the World Cup was driv-
itself. Online shops are great for getting the latest
ing America into a soccer frenzy, Flores opened his
gear. But when I visit iTunes, for example, I rarely
new shop on 116th – the largest of them all (246 East
am purchasing something produced in the 21st Cen-
116th, just West of Second Avenue, on the South side
tury. To carry that analogy to the soccer world, Eu-
fo the street). He admits that he was a little apprehen-
roMex has the latest music from your favorite artists,
sive about not being on street-level, but the second-
but they also have many of the classics and limited
floor walk-up gives him enough room to showcase a
issues. Simply flipping through the racks is bound to
much wider selection.
trigger some footie nostalgia, as you see a jersey that
reminds you of a particular game or season.
time between the two stores. Everytime I’ve visited
Even more amazing was the stuff we didn’t
his shop on 116th, either he or someone from his
recognize. EuroMex had jerseys we had never seen
family was there. He grew up being a Club America
before. And when my nephews can’t name the team,
fan and also supports Manchester United on the Eu-
you know it’s a rarity. With these kids, you can name
ropean stage. And while he doesn’t look old enough
any of the top European players and they will tell
to have grown children, Flores has one son who plays
you exactly what boot they wear – make, model, and
for Memorial High School in New Jersey (look for the
EuroMex is owned by Jaime Flores, who
Flores is a friendly family man who splits his
photo behind the counter) and another who plays in
know exactly what I want. But if you are looking to
an amateur Mexican-American league in the Bronx.
browse – whether in search of a gift for a fellow fan
His passion for the game is on display around the
or simply to add something new to your own ward-
store, where you can find nearly everything you need
robe - EuroMex is the place to go.
– whether you are on the pitch or in the stands.
But is EuroMex really the best soccer shop in
lem, be sure to stop by and see what EuroMex has
New York City? I live right around the corner from
to offer. Not that you should need an excuse to visit
Soccer Sport Supply, arguably the oldest one in town.
Patsy’s, but now you have one. EuroMex gets new
The staff there are also notoriously nice, and they do
gear all the time, so it’s worth it just to stop in every
have some interesting items. But the selection is lim-
now and then and see what they have. Sure, you can
ited, and you have to be careful because some of the
shop online at www.euromexsports.com, but then
jerseys are made by Doss – which means they’re not
you won’t enjoy the thrill of discovering that hidden
authentic. Though I have yet to visit their bigger one
gem. And you won’t get any pizza! ❺
So the next time you are up in Spanish Har-
in Brooklyn, I’ve been to the Upper 90 store on the Upper West Side. It’s small, but it has a nice staff and a great collection of the more popular teams – including all the new Cosmos gear. But you can just as easily find the popular stuff at the Adidas Store and Nike Town, both of which offer a respectable representation of the top teams they sponsor.
I’m sure there are other hidden gems around
the city (feel free to send me an email if you know of one), but I have yet to witness anything like EuroMex in terms of size and selection. They have it all – from your favorite team to stuff you’ve never even seen before. I picked up a glorious blue Pele shirt – and I didn’t even know “O Rei” had his own clothing line.
Sure, I’ll continue to shop Objectivo.com and
WhoAreYaDesigns.com for cheeky t-shirts, including the latest Brandon Sonnier designs from the Borough Boys, and hit the mainstream retailers when I
Salernitana Su in NYC: San Mat by Chris Dobens
by Chris Dobens
upporters tteo As we gear up for the 2011 Cosmos Copa NYC tournament, which is basically a mini World Cup with amateur teams fielded by New York City’s various ethnic communities, it’s interesting to look at the role those communities play in the city’s soccer landscape. For example, we found one Mexican immigrant – a Club America and Manchester United fan – who has set up an amazing Shangri-La of soccer shops. On the corner of Second Avenue and 90th Street, in an upand-coming area of the Upper East Side that I like to call UpYor (short for Upper Yorkville), we find two friends from Italy, both lifelong Salernitana Calico 1919 fans, who have given us a delightful taste of their homeland with the San Matteo Pizza and Espresso Bar. Yes, pizza and espresso. And soon to be gelato as well. Fabio Casella and Vincenzo “Enzo” Scardino grew up in Salerno, Italy. Casella learned to cook at an early age, picking up the best recipes and practices from everyone in his extended family. Scardino learned his skills in Polla, a town just outside of Salerno that’s known for its cuisine. He even opened up a gelato parlor, Templum Gelateria, there. Both Casella and Scardino grew up supporting their local team, Salernitana. While the club has been wallowing in the Serie B
& C for most of its 92-year history, the team enjoyed a run in the sun of the Serie A in the 1998-99 season, having won the Serie B the year before. The side was buoyed by Italian journeyman strikers Marco Di Vaio and David Di Michele, who currently play for Bologna and Lecce, respectively. Other notable players included a 20 year-old Gennaro Gattuso as well as Rigobert Song, a Cameroonian defender and cousin of Arsenal’s Alex Song. Salernitana only survived a single season in the Serie A, finishing a point shy of avoiding relegation. It’s been their only spell in Italy’s top level since the club’s first foray in the 1947-48 season. But Casella and Scardino remained faithful, and brought their love of Salernitana with them when they moved to New York – along with their culinary and managerial skills. Casella worked at Mike’s Deli and Joe’s Deli, two Arthur Avenue institutions in the Bronx, as well as helping shape the Italian cheese programs at both Dean & DeLuca and Grace’s Marketplace. Scardino has been crafting custom pizza ovens throughout the city – and the US. Last year they teamed up to open San Matteo, along with Casella’s brother Chrio. Scardino built the oven, which is a prominent feature of the place, and there’s a Salernitana jersey and banner hanging from the walls. The restaurant has
already become wildly popular with the locals, and has received praise from restaurant reviewers online and in the mainstream media. It’s got a comfy neighborhood feel and can be hard to find a table at times. But whether you are on a date or meeting a group of friends, you will feel at home at San Matteo. While their heavenly Neapolitan pizzas are the primary draw (no slices, but individualsized pies), you should really try a panuozzo. A delicacy native to the Salerno area, the panuozzo is basically a sauceless pizza that has been folded over – somewhere between a sandwich and a calzone. Though that doesn’t quite do it justice. Just go and give one a try – you won’t be disappointed. Afterward, enjoy a cup of espresso. I admit I was skeptical about the pairing of pizza and espresso at first, but it really makes sense. It’s a great way to cap off the meal. Plus, look for Scardino’s homemade gelato as a dessert option later this summer. While their beloved Salernitana will be playing a twolegged playoff with Verona for promotion to Serie B later this month, the staff at San Matteo are looking for a little football of their own. They have challenged a local bar to a friendly soccer match this summer. And, of course, you will surely find Italian soccer on San Matteo’s TV this fall, as the restaurant proves to be a home away from home for many Italian passions. ❺
Scenes from the Boroughs & Beyond Photos by Cesar Diaz, Cesar Rivera, Daniel Budasoff
A Journal of New York Soccer