5 POINTS PRESS A Journal of New York Soccer
5/2011 - Issue#3
5 POINTS PRESS “Een Draght Mackt Maght” MMXI Vol. 1 - Iss. 3
Answers The Tough Questions
Soccer, Charity, Celebrity
Inaugural Soccer Match
By Cesar Diaz P.2
By Chris Dobens P.8
By Cesar Diaz & Nick Laveglia P.12
Also in this issue: Meet the NY Pancyprian-Freedoms - by Nick Laveglia P.14 The State of Youth Soccer in NYC - by Chris Dobens P.18 Op-Ed: Be Careful What You Wish For - by Leo Glickman P.22
5 POINTS PRESS 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 ) Chief Editor: Nick Laveglia Editors: Cesar Diaz Chris Dobens Writers: Chris Dobens Cesar Diaz Leo Glickman Nick Laveglia Contributing Writers: J.D. MacKinnon Photography Chris Dobens Nick Laveglia Design and Layout: Brandon A.F. Sonnier
5 Points Press accepts contributing writers and volunteers. To help get involved, please contact us @ firstname.lastname@example.org
5 Points Press Exclusive
by Cesar Diaz
or the past few months, there has been an abundance of articles, media coverage and discussions about the New York Cosmos organization efforts on wanting to become the 20th MLS team. During this ti- me, MLS Commissioner Don Garber has publicly admitted that the league is focused on awarding the 20th MLS team to an ownership group in the metropolitan NY-area. We at 5 Points Press made the decision to learn about the process it takes to become a franchise in Major League Soccer (MLS). In addition, we wanted to know who else was competing with the New York Cosmos organization for the rights to become the second New York franchise in MLS. I contacted the offices of MLS and a one on one phone interview was set up with Dan Courtemanche; MLS Executive Vice President of Communications. Taking a moment from his busy schedule, Dan answered all our questions and gave us a better understanding on the process any potential ownership group has to go through before they’re awarded the rights to be an expansion team. Hopefully, this interview will answer some of your questions.
❺ What are the criteria for an expansion team wanting to join Major League Soccer? DC: When Major League Soccer looks at expansion, it’s conducted very strategically. We look at three-four key areas. First and foremost, you need to have an appropriate market. One that is attractive to sponsors, TV partners, a great geographic location and most importantly a history of strong fan support for soccer and other sporting events. We certainly believe that the metropolitan New York Area fits that criteria. Second, not too far behind the market, you need to have a committed local ownership group with the appropriate financial resources. Preferably, an ownership group that understands the sports and entertainment business, certainly one that would have a magic general partner that would understand the sports and entertainment business. Third, an expansion market has to have a comprehensive a stadium plan where the ownership controls the venue; preferably a soccer specific stadium or plans to build a soccer specific stadium. For example, Philadelphia Union with PPL Park, Toronto FC with BMO Field, or a little different where in Portland where they renovated what used to be known as PGE Park which is now Jeld-Wen Field to a soccer specific stadium. But also it’s working well up in Seattle where the Sounders is playing in Qwest Field but that venue is owned and managed by the Seahawks which is part of the Sounders ownership group. Those are some of the key areas that we look for when it comes to expansion.
❺ How is the “Franchise Fee” determined? Is it a set across the board or does it varies by location? DC: Well, that “franchise fee” which by the way when Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA came on board back in 2005, that expansion fee was $7.5 million each for those clubs. The most recent expansion fee for Montreal which will join MLS in 2012 was $40 million. So, the fee gone up more than five-times since 2005 and it continues to illustrate how Major League Soccer is growing. That fee is determined by our “Board of Governors”, which is a representation or a subset of our ownership group. Each team has a representative or two representatives actually on our “Board of Governors.” That group is led by MLS Commissioner Don Garber and they discuss potential fees and then they set fees for
future expansions. As I mentioned, Montreal paid $40 million dollars. We have not set a fee for our next expansion team but certainly our Commissioner has stated that it will be more than $40 million dollars.
❺ Other than the New York Cosmos, who else is competing to become the 20th MLS Team? DC: Well, we have had discussion with the Cosmos group. And certainly we met with them multiple times. They’re an impressive group. They’re very committed and passionate about legacy of the Cosmos brand. They also have a view and a vision on how to make that legacy hip and relevant. And we’re continuing our discussions with them. It’s also nice that the Cosmos have a MLS connection with Cobi Jones involved and Giovanni Savarese, and Ted Chronopoulous. But you’re right, there are other groups involved and interested in having an expansion team in New York. Our policy is if those potential ownership groups would like to come forward and discuss their interest and potential expansion, then they can certainly do that. But until they make that decision to go public, we keep those conversations private. We can’t really provide any additional details on other ownership groups with the exception of one.
And that’s one that our Commissioner has discussed in the past and that’s the Wilpon Family; the owners of the New York Mets. Clearly, they have an interest especially from a stadium standpoint. They control a lot of the land around Citi Field and many people believe a soccer specific stadium built in that area would be very successful with a team competing in MLS. So we’ve had a number of discussions for a number of years with the Wilpon Family. We’ve engaged in regular meetings with the Cosmos group and then there are other potential ownership groups interested in an expansion team in New York. They’ve elected to keep those conversations private. At the present time, if and when they decide to go public with their interest for an expansion team in New York, we’ll (MLS) fully sup-
port their decision to come forth.
❺ What is the time line for the 20th MLS Team? DC: That’s a great question. In the past, for example this year with Portland and Vancouver coming aboard, we went through a very specific bidding process in the Fall of 2008 where we had seven interested markets submit bids. Ultimately, we narrowed it down to two finalists which were Portland and Vancouver. If you’ve seen both teams have been extremely successful thus far at least with their fans, supports, ticket sales, and sponsorships. On the field, Portland has had some success at home. Vancouver’s still trying to find their way after their home opener but they’re both expansion teams and that happens. We had a very specific process in late of 2008 and March of 2009 when we announced Portland and Vancouver as expansion teams. What we don’t have such a formal process for the next expansion round because we’ve indicated that our focus is on the New York area. As a result, that doesn’t provide a great deal of motivation for other markets to jump into the expansion opportunity with MLS. It doesn’t mean there aren’t other markets interested in future expansion but for the time being, we’re focused on the metropolitan New York market. We don’t have a specific time line set forth at the present moment regarding a bid and a process to make a decision on who would be the owner of a team in New York. To be candid with you, we aren’t 100% confirmed that we’re going to have the 20th team in New York because a lot of work needs to be done on a stadium for that club. And until we have more development on the stadium front, it’ll be some time before we’re able to make some announcements regarding a time line, a potential owner, and ultimately a league confirmation regarding an owner. With that said, we would like to have a pretty good idea to potentially have a decision by the end of this year. However, we’re not holding ourselves to a “hard” deadline on that. If we can continue to go into 2012 and we see we’re making potential progress with a potential expansion for the 20th team in New York, we’re going to continue to work on that. We do believe that we’ll see some progress by the end of this year. I can’t sit here and tell you that by December 31, 2011, we’re going to have an announcement on expansion and that team will play in 2014. We just aren’t there yet… it’s still a little too preliminary. With that said if you wrote that the team will likely begin play at the earliest at 2014, you’ll probably be accurate. Even if we came to a decision tomorrow on a stadium plan, they’ll still have to break ground and start construction. Those projects usually take 14-24 months so you’ll be looking at a 1½ - 2 years for a stadium to be built.
❺ Who ultimately has final say of awarding New York or any other market the 20th MLS Team? DC: That would be the current ownership group; the representation which is known as the MLS Board of Governors. They make the final decision. Clearly MLS Commissioner Don Garber and President Mark Abbott present all the information to them. Ultimately, when it comes to expansion much like the other professional sports leagues, the owners vote on who the expansion team will be. Each team will have a vote. For example, Seattle may have multiple owners but collectively they will
decide how to utilize their vote on any issue. Much like a corporate board, they would go around the room and ask how their position, “Yes, No, I abstain.”
❺ With the New York Cosmos organization, what is preventing them from becoming the 20th MLS Team? What do they need to do? DC: They have to submit a formal application for a Major League Soccer team. It would have to be reviewed by our board and voted upon. Before they get there, I think the Cosmos and certainly all of us in MLS are in agreement that we need to continue to work hard at developing a plan for a stadium before anyone can move forward with plans for an expansion team in the New York market. We are working closely with the Mayor’s office and other government entities to explore the various options in the five boroughs for a stadium. Right now, we don’t have a location but we believe Queens would be a successful location for a MLS expansion team.
❺ Just to be clear, the New York Cosmos organization have yet to submit a formal application and a franchise fee has not been set? DC: Correct. Closing statements: We are firm believers that having a second team in the metropolitan NY-area specifically east of the Hudson River would provide a great rivalry for the Red Bulls. The Red Bulls support that decision to move forward with a second New York team. Following my interview with Dan Courtemanche, I contacted both the New York Cosmos and New York Mets organizations in an attempt to obtain an official statement from both parties. For the New York Cosmos organization, I sent them a transcript of this interview and asked if there’s anything they would want to address or comment on. I was informed by a staff member that they’ll try to have an official statement for me before this article is published. A few days after my interview, May 5, 2011 to be exact, the New York Mets announced that they were going to host an inaugural soccer match between Ecuador and Greece on Tuesday, June 8, 2011. I contacted the New York Mets and submitted these questions: Have the Wilpon family formally submitted an application to Major League Soccer? Is the Greece-Ecuador match a test to evaluate the possibility of having a soccer team play at Citi Field during a future MLS season? Is the Wilpon family seriously competing to obtain the rights of becoming the 20th MLS team? Have the Wilpon Family engaged in any conversation with the New York Cosmos organization on the possibility of becoming an ownership partner? I wasn’t given an official statement from the New York Mets organization. However, I was given this response, “Really don’t want to comment on much of what you asked for. We are trying to have different events, concerts at Citi and this is just one of those events.”
While the New York Mets organization declined their opportunity to make an official statement, it’s clear that they’re interested in becoming or being involved with the potential MLS 20th team. How much interest? That remains to be seen. Now, I’m willing to wager that many of you are wondering why the New York Cosmos organization has yet to submit a formal application to MLS. To be honest, there’s no reason make it an issue about it. The fact that Cosmos organization has been working closely with MLS is a fantastic indication that both sides want to ensure that not only is an application submitted, that a well-planned formal application was submitted. While the New York Cosmos organization may want to enter Major League Soccer in 2013, they may
have to wait until 2014. While this may make some Cosmos fans groan, this may not be a bad thing. With two Cosmos Academies and now a U-23 PDL team, the New York Cosmos organization will have more time to develop their talent and have them seasoned by the time they’re a MLS team. Along with the player development, MLS may change their designated player policy which may benefit the Cosmos in their first season. Whether the New York Cosmos is officially accepted as the 20th MLS team later this week, at the end of the year, or even next year, at least Cosmos fans and any MLS fan will clearly know that they’ve earned the right to be the MLS 20th team. For the time being, at least we know that the New York Cosmos organization and Wilpon family have been talking to Major League Soccer about the possible metropolitan New York-area MLS team. The only thing that’s unknown to us is the unknown parties who have expressed interest in obtaining the rights of being a MLS franchise team. Whether they announce themselves publicly remains to be seen. ❺ (Cesar Diaz writes for 5 Points Press. You can also read his other articles on LatinoSports.com, USSoccerPlayers. com, and BleacherReport.com. Easily accessible, you may contact Cesar at email@example.com and at twitter at @CoveringSoccer.)
NYFEST Raises More Than $25,000 for NYC Youth Soccer by Chris Dobens s a reporter, attending the 2011 New York Film and Entertainment Soccer Tournament (NYFEST) felt like a four-day trade show crammed into 10 hours, topped off with a generous helping of cold rain. You had the badge, a line to check in, crappy food choices, and most of all, a lot of walking around from place to place, on a schedule but in search of the story. The big difference was that NYFEST was a lot of fun. Towards the end of the goal-studded the celebrity game, the sun finally emerged, as if to give its blessing to what had happened there. And when I left Pier 40 after the final whistle, I couldnâ€™t help but smile, reflecting on the seven lessons I had learned:
We’ve come a long way baby
The foundation of NYFEST was the entertainment industry 5-a-side soccer tournament. An impressive 44 teams participated, competing in a round-robin tournament with the top two teams from each of the 11 groups advancing to the knockout phase. As is often the case when corporate teams compete, it was really a mixed bag. But nearly every squad had at least one talented player. Some of them were very talented. And nearly a dozen of the teams were chock full of top-shelf talent. While many of the them had former pros and other notable ringers, there were plenty of players who merely played in college – products of the current US youth soccer system. Ten years ago, back when I was playing in this city’s amateur soccer leagues, a tournament like this wouldn’t have been nearly as entertaining. There would have been far fewer people at these companies who had played the game competitively. Which brings us to Lesson #1, that soccer in this country has indeed blossomed. And just as New York City attracts the best minds from all around the world, it seems we have become the beneficiary of much of its soccer talent as well.
Comedy Central is inherently funny
Two shows from the network – The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report – fielded teams in the tournament. And we were eagerly awaiting the Comedy Central derby. As fate would have it, they ended up meeting on a puddle-ridden pitch for what turned out to be slapstick swamp ball. John Oliver was arguably the only shining star for the Daily Show. But not even Kenny Dalglish could save their fortunes. Their goalkeeper cleared the ball right into the back of one of the Colbert Report players, knocking it into his own net. The Colbert Report ended up winning 1-0 thanks to that painful own goal (watch it here). The Daily Show went on to finish last in their group without a single win. The embarrassment should be enough to ensure that Jon Stewart shows up next year to salvage some pride. While it’s easy to have a laugh when people are slipping around and falling into puddles, especially when there’s an uncooperative sphere of leather involved, something about this derby made it even funnier – perhaps because the people playing in it were laughing just as hard as we were. And it should be noted that, though tempers did get much more noticeable as the tournament went on, everyone seemed to keep their sense of humor. Lesson #2 is that the entertainment industry can be very entertaining.
Cobi & The Cosmos
At first glance, it seemed unfair that the New York Cosmos were allowed to enter a team. Technically you could argue that they are in the entertainment industry. But the problem is that they have more former professional soccer players on staff than most companies. Their starting five were superb, and even their bench had talent. Despite drawing in their first match, they seemed to be able to score at will. One of the best goals of the day came from Cobi Jones. He chested in a throw from his own keeper, despite a rather physical challenge from the opposing goalkeeper (who was clearly channeling Tony Schumacher) from Visit Films. That being said, I would be remiss for not mentioning Cobi’s ”condition.” Though it certainly isn’t easy for me to do so, as I’ve always been a big fan of his, and these days my own midriff has started taking on orbitals.
Despite having retired from professional play only four years ago, the former US international and Los Angeles Galaxy star was a good dozen buffet lines from match fit. It didn’t help that most of his teammates looked like they were fresh out of the spa. And I had even argued with other reporters that his jersey might have been too small, and that the rain made it clingy. But his form was clearly off, a reality amplified by seeing other former US internationals in the celebrity match (a game in which Cobi was noticeably absent). Perhaps he was sick, given that he started most matches on the sideline, wearing a hat and coat as he huddled under an umbrella. But even some of the players I interviewed urged me to report on this. The bottom line is that the Cosmos can’t keep Cobi behind a desk. He needs a regular kick-around to keep him sparkling. That said, the Cosmos surprisingly finished second in their group. The team they drew with in their first match, the Magpies, had a better goal differential. And the Cosmos were eventually eliminated in the knockout phase by Elsewhere FC, which proved a tad embarrassing since they did have the most star-studded line-up and were knocked out of the Sweet 16 in a tournament they helped sponsor. Lesson #3 is that it takes more than a handful of former pros to win an amateur soccer tournament in this city. That’s how good our game has gotten here in Gotham.
How Swede it is The aforementioned Magpies were Umbro’s (another sponsor) entry into the tournament. They were just as lethal as the Cosmos, but with a killer instinct. They had talent like former US international Carlos Jaguande, and a bench nearly as strong as their starting five. But what really set them apart is that they regularly play together in one of the MetroSoccerNY amateur leagues (as the Bowery Football Club). The team that eventually eliminated the Cosmos in the knockout phase (4-3), Elsewhere FC, were also a product of MetroSoccer NY. They had an impressive player pedigree as well, but the advantage for these teams was that they had been playing together for some time – and it showed. The Magpies eventually went down at the hands of Angel’s Crest, one of the strangest teams to take the
field. They only had one sub, and two of their players were still in high school. A third, Callum Johnson, was only 11. I know that the labor laws can be a bit fuzzy in the film industry, but they assured me that the boy did some work for them when he wasn’t busy with the New York Red Bulls Academy. One has to appreciate the irony of seeing such a talented prospect at a Cosmos event, knowing that he has already committed to their rivals. Angel’s Crest then lost to Grassroots Soccer, who went on to win the tournament. Another interesting team was the one fielded by FoodRepublic.com. First of all, the site itself is a great find. It’s a resource for guys who like to eat and drink well (apparently like Cobi and me). But for a gastro Web site, they sure did have a lot of talented soccer players on staff. But it appears that the founder of the site,
celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson (Red Rooster), is soccer mad. And like Jon Stewart, he’s probably cursing himself for not being there, as his team eventually lost in the final to Grassroots Soccer. Like the Magpies and Elsewhere FC, FoodRepublic.com plays together in a MetroSoccer NY league – under the name Blatte United, with “blatte” being Swedish for immigrant. Like a number of the Magpies, FoodRepublic.com also boasted a bevy of Swedish immigrants (Samuelsson is famously from Sweden). We’re not talking goons like Zlatan, but some players with great skill and a real feel for the game. As I mentioned, FoodRepublic faced Grassroots Soccer in the final, having dispensed with Curtis and Sony Pictures Classics (NYFEST co-executive director Dylan Leiner can be proud for taking his team that far). Grassroots, which had the advantage of employing a staff willing to dedicate their careers to the game, prevailed 3-2 in a very close contest. But Lesson #4 is that the key to success is to play together year-round, with MetroSoccer NY offering some of the best competition you will find. That and hire Swedes.
The Power of the Samba The day started out cold and raining. And that’s pretty much how it stayed. But, with the exception of the youth soccer clinics (there always seemed to be some kids kicking it around, but the bottom line is that parents just don’t like letting their kids run around in the rain), the weather didn’t deter any of the players. All the teams showed – and stayed to play. Plus, there were a surprising number of spectators who came out. And while future NYFESTs will surely improve upon the food and other ancillary activities, having
NYFEST continued on page 16
Old Trafford. Camp Nou. Citi Field? C i t i F i e l d H o s t ’ s I n a u g u r a l S o c c e r M at c h by Cesar Diaz & Nick Laveglia
ueens, NY—For one night, the baseball diamond New York Mets fans are accustomed to seeing will
be converted into a soccer pitch. Citi Field—the home of the Mets—for one special night will host
their inaugural soccer friendly match between the national teams of Ecuador and Greece on Tuesday,
June 7 at 8PM ET.
This game should be viewed as not only a celebration of soccer, but also as a celebration of the diversity
of our city and Queens borough to be exact. With two teams representing their countries, fans of both nations will come out not only to support their national team, but to educate each other about their cultures.
Queens has areas with large populations of both Greek and Ecuadorian Americans and it will be ex-
pected that they will be at the stadium that evening showing love for their homeland.
Prepare the cannons because the speculation machine is about to be fired! What does this mean? There
are a few reasons the Wilpon’s would do this and we will look at the two most likely scenarios.
Could this be a dry run for soccer in Queens and possibly even Citi Field? Prior to this announcement,
there was a rumor that the New York Cosmos might be playing an inspirational match in June at Citi Field.
It also has been public knowledge that the Mets are looking into bringing a MLS team to Queens and
are one of the perspective owners that MLS Commissioner Don Garber is in talks with.
However, don’t get too excited, because while it could be a “Dry Run”, it could also be a cash grab. The
game has the potential to sell a lot of tickets bringing many people to the stadium spending money on Parking, food, souvenirs, on a night where the Wilpon’s would normally be paying CON ED to have their neon signs on for all to see.
Due to the Bernie Madoff fiasco, the Wilpon’s financial woes became publicly known. As a result, there
remains a serious possibility that this could be a way to recoup some lost money.
Also soccer fans should be prepared for a lot of negative commentary about this match from non-
soccer Metsfan. On a regular basis, Mets fans pay premium dollar to watch baseball at the World Class facility. Knowing that diamond to pitch conversation is going to take place, they’re probably are not going to be happy if the Outfield is not fully restored for the Mets return home.
Luckily, this strategically placed game gives the field crew about a week and a half to prep the field for
baseball once again.
Overall, Citi Field’s historic soccer match maybe a classic in terms of community pride and the brag-
ging rights behind the victory. Boasting one of the most loyal fans in South America, the 56th-ranked Ecuador team will be ready to give their fans a competitive match they deserve.
With the game being in played Queens County, Ecuador may have the slight home advantage because
the county has the largest population of Ecuadorians in the United States.
However, Astoria, Queens has the largest Greek population outside of Greece. With Queens being the
melting-pot borough for South Americans and Greeks, Citi Field may be the most electrifying place to host a soccer match that evening.
Two countries, two passionate fan bases and two completely different styles of Soccer and soccer sup-
port that will blow your mind away. The diversity, the music, the food and the energy outside of Citi Field on match day may demonstrate once and for all why Queens would be the perfect location for a professional New York-market Major League Soccer franchise.
Tickets went on sale to the general public on Monday, May 9 at 10AM ET. For more information,
please go online at www.507TIXX.com or by Phone to (718) 507-TIXX. ❺
Meet the New York Pancyprian-Freedoms by Nick Laveglia
ho are the New York Pancyprian-Freedoms? They’re a Jamaica, Queens team founded in 1974.
Coached by Luka Lukovic, the Pancyprian-Freedoms are the current United States Adult Soccer As-
sociation (USASA)-affiliated first division Cosmopolitan Soccer League (CSL) defending champions. Playing their home games at St. John’s University Belson Stadium, the blue and white wearing PancyprianFreedoms have amassed a total of six league titles since their inception.
Along with their six league titles, they’ve also registered three Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup triumphs in
their 36-year team history.
The New York Pancyprian Freedoms moved onto the next round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup
qualifying with a 4-0 over Danbury United on Sunday, May 1st. Playing the qualifier at home, the Freedom welcomed Connecticut’s own Portuguese-American club Danbury United.
The first half saw some chances, including a Freedoms header just wide of goal in the 32nd minute, but
the game really did not pick up in action until the 35th minute when Danbury’s Michael Mingione was sent off for a challenge on a New York defender.
The ejection opened the door for the Freedoms to take over the game, and they did.
In the 40th minute, former two-time USL Second Division (pro third division) Most Valuable Player
and Scoring Champion Julio Cesar Dos Santos opened up the scoring with a header to put the Freedoms up 1-0, which they would take into the intermission.
New York entered the second half with the intent of putting Danbury away. Ten minutes in, New York
had their opportunity but they had the misfortune of seeing the shot on goal fly off the post.
Despite the numerous opportunities to level the game, Danbury failed to capitalize on their attempts.
Due to their impotent scoring attempts, Danbury ultimately paid the price as the flood gates opened in the 65th minute as the Freedoms were awarded a penalty. Stepping in to take the penalty kick, Stefan Dimitrov succeeded and gave his teammates a 2-0 lead. Confidently ahead, New York did not let up as they took a 3-0 lead two minutes later due to John Koutsounadis well-timed strike. In the 84th minute, New York clearly ended the party for Danbury the as man of the match Dos Santos netted his second goal of the match to give New York the 4-0 lead with minutes to spare.
With the win, New York will advance to the next round to play away against Mass Premier on May 22
in a “Win & You’re In” match.
Despite the upcoming May 22nd encounter, the Freedom are undefeated in league play. As one fan
expressed to me during the qualifier, they hope to etch 2011 on the list of titles they have on their caps.
Once again, who are The New York Pancyprian-Freedoms? They are one of the best amateur sides in
New York City that very few know about. To follow and learn more about the Pancyprian-Freedoms, you may follow them on their team page in Facebook. ❺
NYFEST continued from page 11 Manhattan Samba on hand really gave everyone a boost. Lesson #5 is the resolve of New York City’s soccer community. We’re certainly not fair-weather fans. And give us a good drum line, and we’ll endure just about anything for our game.
Celebs & Pros Given the miserable weather, you’d expect most celebs to bow out in favor of indoor activities associated with the Tribeca Film Festival, another of the event’s sponsors. But not celebrities interested in soccer. NYFEST 2011 had a surprisingly good turnout for an inaugural event – particularly a rain-soaked one.
Ethan Hawke and Frank Whaley were the two biggest names from Hollywood. Both ran with that awkward gait you’d expect from guys who spent their youth on a stage instead of a field. And while Whaley soon left for the bench (never to return), Hawke did more than distinguish himself. Even at 40, the guy was in their, mixing it up. He made an incredible tackle to save a goal. He was like a far less annoying version of Lucio. And he played the whole game, without ever slowing down. Former NBA star Steve Nash was also a factor. He grew up playing the game and it showed, as he scored a nice header in the first half. Former Israeli tennis sensation Gilad Bloom got a goal as well, though one could argue that he spent most of the match offside. Andrew Shue may remembered better as a former LA Galaxy player than as an actor. He brought his
proverbial shit on Saturday. He was one of the true standouts, driving a lot of the action and scoring a lovely header. Some of the former US internationals in the celebrity match impressed while others wallowed in their own shadows (cough, Tony Sanneh, cough). John O’Brien was as sharp as ever, picking up a goal of his own. Even at 33, he could easily get back into MLS. Claudio Reyna saved his best for the second half, scoring a pair of goals. Eddie Lewis also found the net, as did the Cosmos’ Gio Savarese, who clearly wasn’t tired from the tournament. But the star who stole the show was tennis legend John McEnroe. He played soccer in high school in New York City, at the time when the New York Cosmos ruled the American soccersphere, and has been known to still play in pick up games. Early in the first half, Tab Ramos lofted a ball to the far post where McEnroe, at 52, was flying in. He delivered a textbook header, kissing the inside of the post as it went in for the first goal of the game. McEnroe didn’t take the field for the second half, but – having already scored the most memorable goal of the day – his work was done. Lesson #6 is a two-parter. First, celebrities who like soccer, just like the former professionals who played, are a hearty lot. They could have stayed home, warm and dry. But they showed up, and delivered an entertaining game for the fans, with no fewer than 11 goals. Second, John McEnroe is the man. Incidentally, Luke Rodgers and Tim Ream showed up for the game as well, but neither took the field. It ..would have been a bit awkward, as the players all wore Umbro New York Cosmos jerseys. Rodgers and Ream were decked out in Red Bulls gear, which made me glad I wasn’t on the PR side of this event.
Of Soccer & Actors Looking back on the Copa del Rey final between Barcelona and Real Madrid earlier this week, I wasn’t sure how I felt about mixing actors and soccer. It seems there’s already too much theatrics in the game. And, while I’m all for supporting soccer charities, I’d like to start one of my own. I’d like to establish a Web site that could afford the rights to clips from all the big leagues, and dedicate itself to exposing (and humiliating) players who cheat, dive, and simulate. Forget those armbands that say “respect.” What we need is same-day exposure of the kind of behavior that’s killing the game. Let’s get some respect for the fans, for the game, and for the refs. And it all starts with these players having some respect for themselves. $25,000 REASONS WHY SOCCER IS A SUCCESS IN NEW YORK CITY Speaking of soccer charities, they did well at NYFEST 2011. The event raised more than $25,000 to give under served kids in New York City a chance to play the beautiful game, benefitting DUSC’s City Soccer Initiative and the Claudio Reyna Foundation as well as Grassroots Soccer and the Sanneh Foundation. Lesson #7 is that whether we are casual players or serious competitors, New York City cares about sharing the game. It’s a sport that anyone can play, and NYFEST raised a lot of money to give the next generation a shot at glory. Congratulations to everyone who participated in NYFEST 2011. And thanks to the Tribeca Film Institute, Umbro, and all the other sponsors who made it happen! ❺ (In addition to contributing to 5 Points Press, Chris Dobens writes a soccer blog, Total Footblog, which can be found at TotalFootblog.com.)
the state of youth soccer by Chris Dobens
he amazing success of the 2011 NYFEST soccer tournament and the upcoming Cosmos Copa NYC 2011 tournament are a testament to the progress and success of the amateur adult game here in New York City. As more and more homegrown talent graduates from improved youth and collegiate programs, combined with the city’s steady influx of overseas footballers, we have seen a growth in both quality and quantity at the adult level. But what about the kids? How is the next generation of American soccer shaping up right here in New York City’s parks and playgrounds? The timing for this article couldn’t be better, as May is when most programs – especially the competitive travel soccer teams – hold their annual tryouts. It’s a good time to assess where we’ve been, and think about where we are going. While I have been active in the New York City youth soccer community on and off for almost 15 years, I decided to tap the wisdom of Dimitrie Draguca. He is one of the vice presidents of the Cosmopolitan Junior Soccer League (CJSL), which is the largest competitive youth league in the city. He is also an assistant director and coach at Downtown United Soccer Club (DUSC), which runs recreational and competitive travel programs at multiple locations in the city. And he has worked at two of the city’s other big pay-for-play soccer programs: Asphalt Green and Blau Weiss Gottschee (now BWG Cosmos). With two decades at the forefront of New York City youth soccer, Draguca is ideally suited to help us prepare our report card.
Soccer Blossoms Across the City
A quick look at the CJSL schedules and standings will tell you that the number of programs, teams, and players have all increased over the past 10 years. “There’s always been a lot of interest in the city,” explained DUSC’s Dimitrie Draguca. “But the big programs have gotten even bigger, and the small ones have grown too. Plus we’re starting to see more ethnic clubs – Latinos, Poles, and Russians, for example.” It’s an interesting observation in that most of the youth soccer programs started years ago as ethnic clubs. But the trend in those days was to assimilate, whereas now people are more comfortable taking pride in their heritage. Looking beyond CJSL, the number of leagues has grown as well – especially on the competitive end. MAPS, for example, is a Jersey-based league for teams seeking a higher level and greater variety of competition. The Tri-League, which almost functions as a citywide Champions League, has provided an elevated level of competition for CJSL teams who have dominated their age group. It is now being taken over by the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association, which is our CONCACAF of youth soccer. A new, even more competitive league, the New York Club Soccer League has just emerged. It offers elite youth teams from the city additional competition and greater exposure, scheduling games with some of the top teams on Long Island, many of which attract college scouts. Some of the DUSC teams are even expanding their schedule in order to participate in this league. And the Long Island teams, considered among the strongest on the East Coast, welcome the competition from New York City clubs, which is a testament to the strength of our teams. The city’s other big league, West Side Soccer, is more of a recreational league and serves as a feeder system for the competitive clubs playing in the CJSL. However, a lot of kids and even a few teams are traveling north to compete in the Westchester Youth Soccer League. Not only does it offer some good competition, but it has attracted most of the quality girls’ teams in the city – something I’ll come back to later in this piece. The one downside of all this growth is that the number of teams in the city has grown at a much faster rate than the fields available to them. The lack of adequate field space has always plagued soccer in New York City, and now even more so. As a result, you often find an 11-a-side team practicing on a quarter of the field, which doesn’t exactly help you work on things like corner kicks.
Quality at All Levels
Quantitative growth is good, but what about the quality? Draguca has witnessed a steady improvement in the quality of players over the years, which he attributes to an improvement in the quality of the programs – and the quality of the coaches in particular. “We’re doing a much better job of educating our coaches,” he noted. “That has led to the better performance on the field.” Whereas a lot of the coaches used to be guys like me, former players who liked telling kids what to do, now you are more likely to find coaches with US Soccer Federation (USSF) certifications. To be a head coach at DUSC, for example, you’ll need to be USSF A certified, the top accreditation available. DUSC also rotates their coaches every two years, ensuring that the kids get exposed to new thinking and different personalities. It’s a practice that the Cosmos Academy East also employs. Other programs, like Asphalt Green, have brought in nutrition and sports-injury experts to support their coaches. They have also adopted the practices of the Positive Coaching Alliance, a non-profit that strives to instill values such as good sportsmanship and fair play, and have brought in trainers from that organization to train both coaches and parents to ensure more positive support for their players and teams. Some of the teams at Asphalt Green have also added an extra practice session focusing entirely on conditioning – even in the off-season. This has evolved as more coaches began to understand and appreciate the physical needs of young players – and the challenges they face in the sedentary world beyond the pitch. The Cosmos Academy East, which includes conditioning elements in all three of its weekly practices, also dedi-
cates a fourth training session exclusively to fitness. “Youth soccer in New York is head and shoulders above what it used to be,” said Draguca. “But it can be even better.”
Opportunities for Improvement
There’s more interest and opportunities in youth soccer in this city than there have ever been. But growing outward and upward isn’t always a good thing. Are we doing the right things to ensure that the youth of New York City have a shot at playing the game at its highest levels? Draguca cites three areas in which he’d like to see improvement in the city’s youth soccer programs. The first is a practice that’s already being widely adopted by the more progressive clubs, which is the use of small-sided drills in practice. Inspired by professional teams like FC Barcelona, youth coaches across the city are spending more time on small-sided games and drills. It’s harder for the coach to run three concurrent drills, but the kids get more touches and stay more active throughout the practice than they would running regular drills. The other change Draguca would like to see could be a bit more challenging to implement, since it might require more staff and result in potential loss of revenue for a lot of the pay-for-play programs. He would like to see less competition and smaller teams for the younger age groups. Many clubs already play smaller sides, such as 8 vs. 8, for the younger kids. Asphalt Green, for example, plays 8-a-side until U12, which is when they switch to 11-a-side. Draguca is in favor of going even smaller – 6 vs. 6. or even 4 vs. 4. The advantage is that more kids will get to spend more time on the field, assuming you split up the teams. Plus they’ll get more touches – especially the kids who are developing more slowly. For anyone who hasn’t watched a U8 game recently, the kids who have the skills tend to control the ball, and the rest are mostly observers. Smaller-sided games would get everyone involved more, giving them all a better chance to grow and develop. Draguca envisions utilizing the same field space as the half-field games but running several simultaneous small-sided games. And he would prefer that they be instructional, as opposed to competitive. Most programs in the city field competitive teams beginning at U8, but DUSC currently caps it at U11 – and plans to move that up to U12 next year.
Selling the Parents on Development Over Competition
But this might be a tough sell for parents who have elected to enroll their child in a competitive program instead of a recreational one. And while both the kids and the parents seem to prefer a competitive environment, even at that age, Draguca and many of the other coaches I know would rather see an instructional environment that allows young players to develop and grow without the added pressure of competition. If your child is a marginal player, this approach would give them more playing time – and an opportunity to play in an environment where they will get more touches on the ball with greater freedom to experiment. And if your child is a prodigy, they will still have a chance to grow and shine, but by the time the team is old enough to play competitively, there’s a better chance that several other players will have developed to the point where it will be a great kid on a good team instead of a great kid on a marginal one. And instead of travelling from Manhattan to Brooklyn for a 9:00 AM game on Saturday morning that lasts less than an hour, the kids can play multiple smaller games – and get a far better workout than they would in a conventional game. In fact, instead of 20 or so games in a season, you could run a series of daylong mini tournaments where smaller sides play a game, rest a game, play a game, etc. It would be a better experience for the kids and easier on the parents. Which leads to another issue raised by Draguca, and that’s kids – and parents – getting burned out. Travel soccer is demanding. Teams practice at least twice a week, on top of homework and all the other extracurricular activities. There’s a game every weekend, plus tournaments throughout the year. And unless your child is on a winning team, with a fun group of parents, it can get old really fast. Having attended nearly every one of my nephew’s games for the past nine years, from recreational soccer at 3.5 years through his U12 season, including traveling to the US Futsal National Championships – twice,
I must admit that I’m a little burnt out. And, frankly, I think he was too. But now he has switched programs, and seems to be re-energized. The third area where Draguca would like to see improvement is in the girls’ game. A few years ago there was a huge push, with all the big clubs developing their girls programs. But it often lacked the leadership and organization needed to overcome the challenges it faced, as clubs and leagues suddenly had to cope with twice the demand for field space, coaches, and even refs. As a result, most of the girls’ teams eventually left the CJSL and now compete in the Westchester league, which had a more developed girls’ program. Draguca would love to see the CJSL reclaim the girls’ game and bring it back to the city.
The Emergence of the Academies
Any discussion of the city’s youth soccer scene would be incomplete without looking at the emergence of the academies. There are basically two kinds of academies: Development and Major League Soccer (MLS). In 2007, US Soccer created the Development Academy program as a way of ensuring consistency of quality and instilling best practices among the most elite youth development programs around the country. For the most part, these academies are pay-for-play travel soccer programs that have met the standards set by US soccer, and their status is reviewed on a regular basis each year. Currently there are 78 such academies nationwide, with eight of them in the New York area: Albertson SC, Cosmos Academy East, FC Westchester, Match Fit Chelsea, Met Oval, New York Red Bulls, NJSA 04, and the Player Development Academy. In addition to meeting higher standards, these teams receive coaching support and visits from US soccer, which increases the chances that their players will earn a chance to represent their country. MLS Academies differ in two ways. First of all, while still part of the national development program, they are owned and operated by MLS clubs, such as the New York Red Bulls. MLS Academies are also a relatively new phenomenon here in America, and four of the US-based MLS franchises still have yet to establish them. Given that the goal of these academies is to produce professional players, under contract, they tend to be free of charge – which is the other key difference. Naturally, the competition for a spot in the MLS Academies is even tougher than for the other academies. And there are some programs, like Cosmos Academy East, which aren’t tied to an MLS franchise but still are free of charge (as the Cosmos hope to join the league in 2014). What does this mean for youth soccer in New York City? Well, for starters, the path to professional play is a lot clearer. And the city’s most talented young players are more likely to receive top-level training at an earlier age. But the fear is that this might drain the ranks of leagues like CJSL, which has already seen teams spin off into MAPS and the Tri-League. Pay-for-play programs like Asphalt Green and DUSC also have to worry about their top talent running off to join the Cosmos or Red Bulls as young as U12. Not only does that translate to a direct loss of revenue, but it has a rippling effect as teams – stripped of their best players – get weaker. Draguca remains optimistic. DUSC currently scholarships a number of athletes, and he is hoping that kids – and their parents – will consider factors like the amount of playing time they might get at a club like the Cosmos versus what they have been enjoying on their DUSC team. For many players, they will have a better chance of getting noticed starting for a DUSC team than they will sitting on the bench for the Cosmos or Red Bulls. In the end, most everyone agrees that this is a good thing for youth soccer – both here in the city and for the nation as a whole. It raises the bar for everyone, and it gives kids more opportunities to grow and develop. Which, at the end of the day, is what it’s all about. The state of youth soccer in New York City is better than it has ever been. And thanks to the dedication of coaches like Dimitrie Draguca, it looks like it will get even better in the years to come. ❺
by Leo Glickman
e all want soccer to be a big success in this country. Fans of the game in this City harbor dreams
that putting a team in a densely populated soccer neighborhood in the media capital of the world will
catapult soccer into the top four major American team sports.
But hold on a minute. Are we taking for granted what we already have in MLS? First, the average
ticket price for an MLS game is half that of the NHL and NBA. A night out at a soccer game for a family of 4 will cost you on average 100 bucks less.
Also, because of soccer’s lack of broad appeal in this country, everything about going to a soccer game
is less of a hassle. I was a Metrostars season ticket holder for 5 years. Sure, the Wednesday nights sitting with 3,000 other people in Giants Stadium could be depressing, but, I’m pretty sure that if Metrostars games looked anything like game day for the Giants, I wouldn’t have gone as often as I did. If you were unfortunate
enough to be traveling to Manhattan after the U.S. v. Argentina game in March, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Then there’s the camaraderie of the fans. Almost everyone you know or happen to meet likes football
and baseball. It’s not at all special to bump into a fellow Yankee fan at a midtown bar or smoking a cigarette in front of the building. But admit it, it’s still a thrill to meet a stranger and find out he’s a fan of Dwayne DeRosario. Being a soccer fan in the US is a little like belonging to some exclusive underground club or knowing a secret handshake.
Beyond that, the smallness of the game in this country has a really nice grassroots feel to it. Because
the game isn’t so heavily advertised, and our players aren’t such wealthy celebrity superstars, they don’t feel so out of reach. I remember it being such a thrill to watch Clint Mathis in 2001 blossom into a superstar, obviously because I love the game and loved my team, but also because Clint Mathis didn’t seem so out of touch with us fans. On the flip side, I remember one game against New England right after the 1998 World Cup. When Mike Burns, right back for the Revs and the national team was walking off the field, I ran down to the first row and said “hey Burnsy” as if I was a friend. He walked over very nicely and I screamed in his face “THANKS FOR SCREWING UP THE WORLD CUP, BURNS”. He was subbed out for the start of the second half, which was perhaps my greatest achievement in athletics. You’d never get the chance to do that at a basketball game unless your name is Spike Lee.
Now, there is a certain satisfaction to thinking that Don Garber believes he can fetch $100 million for
the New York franchise. It would be nice to know that the game has sufficiently grown to entice an investor to pay that kind of money.
It’s also gratifying to watch the Cosmos create so much buzz for the game here with the celebrity su-
perstars they’ve partnered with. It’s really cool. But it’s also the antithesis of what the game has been about in this country for the last 16 years, which is the grassroots. When the soccer celebrities come you will matter less; you who have supported and nurtured the game in this country when it was almost a novelty sport. When the hordes of sports fans come, MLS and its teams will care about you, the hardcore supporter, less. That’s why it is so important for us, the hard core soccer fan, to stay engaged with what’s happening with the NYC franchise. We must stand up now and be counted, or the rug will be pulled from under us. As soccer fans, we have to support the growth of the game in this country.
But there are many reasons, 100 million reasons in fact, to be careful what you wish for. All we can do
is stand up, for ourselves and all the soccer fans in this country – the people who watch the Concacaf Champions League, who watch the qualifiers before the hexagonal, who care about the game right here in our third world soccer country. Get stuck in! ❺
Published on May 11, 2011