February 28, 2013 | 2 comments | 480 views
Soccer trip of a lifetime
Four local boys had the chance of a lifetime recently, visiting Italy to play soccer in the 25th Annual Trofeo Costa Gaia tournament.
The Under-13 Olympic Development Program team included four youngsters from Long Island, Anthony Morales and Chris Maggi, of Franklin Square, and Brian Celis and Nick Gaviria, of Elmont.
“We had tryouts and took the best 18 guys,” ODP organizer Mario Mastronardi said of the process. “We based the invites through the ODP website as well as personal recommendations, then we had a couple practices, figured out who was going to start and sub, see how they worked together and just brought them over there.”
The boys did their country proud, going 4-2-1 in the tournament, recording a goal differential of 16-5 and becoming the first American team to reach the semifinals before losing to the eventual champion, Inter Milan.
“It was amazing because we got to represent the country,” said Gaviria. “It was a good experience, and I’m glad to go.”
Luis Alberto, the squad’s coach and a former pro player in the Argentinian and Indoor American leagues, said that seeing the boys in the hotel showed the difference in size between the Americans and the champion Inter Milan team.
Comparing Inter Milan squad to American teams he has faced, Morales said, “They were more aggressive, and took it really seriously.”
Even beyond Inter, the general perception was that the Italian teams were a force to be reckoned with. “The competition was a lot harder,” said Maggi. “… They were amazing.”
Against stiff competition, the Long Island boys made a measurable impact throughout the 10-day trip. In their first game, Celis netted one of his team’s two goals, leading to a victory in the Torneo Franco Manca, a series of scrimmages the Americans eventually won. They received a trophy for their efforts in that smaller tournament. In the main event, the Trofeo Costa Gaia, Morales came up huge when he scored the only goal in the team’s third consecutive 1-0 win.
Players from 60 countries were invited to the tournament and faced competition from national teams in their age group, but gritty play and strong defense helped the Americans hold their own against some of the best young players in the world.
The team garnered so much attention that they were invited to next year’s tournament, which Maggi said was fine with him. “I want to keep going if I can,” he said, “and I would love to be over there again.”