At a young age, Eligio Guarino fell in love with soccer while watching it with his father and grandfather. Now, at 17, he is playing professionally with the New York Cosmos Soccer Club.
“I’ve been playing soccer since I could walk, basically,” Guarino said. “I’ve been playing competitively since I was 3 or 4.”
The East Rockaway Junior-Senior High School senior has played attack midfield and left wing for the Cosmos since August, competing against older players. He said he has enjoyed the competition, and has learned a great deal from the experience.
Guarino played for the Lynbrook/East Rockaway Sting from 2011 to 2015, helping the team win two State Cups and two Long Island Cup championships. In addition to the Cosmos, he has played for the U.S. Soccer Devvelopment Academy teams of the New York City Football Club and the Red Bulls.
He explained that the academy is similar to minor league clubs, from which the best players are selected and groomed to become professionals. He played on the under-13 and under-14 teams for the Red Bulls from 2015 to 2016, and then for the under-15, under-17 and under-19 teams for the NYCFC from 2017 to 2020. As a student, he is a member of the National Honor Society.
He also played in the Generation Adidas Cup, a major youth soccer tournament that includes international teams, in Toronto last fall and again in Atlanta in February. He played three games at each tournament and tied for first for most goasl, scoring five in the six combined games.
Overall, he said, it has been challenging and rewarding to face players in their 20s and 30s. “It was definitely a learning experience and something new to me just playing with much older people,” he said, “so it’s much more physical and much quicker than I’ve been used to playing. It was definitely more demanding and definitely very helpful as an experience.”
Though he said he hopes to continue to play professionally in the future, Guarino has committed to play soccer at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, one of the top Division I soccer schools in the country.
“We’re really proud of him, not just because he’s a soccer player, but because of the kid he is,” said Guarino’s father, Leo Guarino. “He’s a real special kid and just a real nice kid. He doesn’t go out of his way to let people know what he’s accomplished.”
Leo added that his son is a creative and skilled offensive player who uses both feet well and is a strong dribbler.
Jim O’Connell, who coached Guarino for many years with the Sting, said he was impressed with all he has accomplished at a young age. “He’s a special kid in terms of having an innate ability in a sport that he turns, because of his hard work, into a skill, and that skill has allowed him to take it to the highest level,” he said. “The great thing about him is he never came off as being better. He was the consummate teammate, always willing to pull someone along with him. He had a unique awareness of his role on the team.”
With the Cosmos, Guarino practices daily at Mitchel Field. His trainer, Jonathan Scalia, described him as a hard worker and a natural leader with a tremendous drive. “People tend to be better when he’s playing with them,” he said. “He makes his teammates a lot better. He’s the complete package.”
Scalia has trained Guarino for 12 years and said that when he was 10, he played like he was 18, and at 17 he plays like a 30-year-old. He added that Guarino rises at 5 a.m. before school each day to jog.
Guarino said that after college he hopes to play professional soccer in Europe, preferably for A.S. Roma, the team he grew up watching with his grandfather, who emigrated from Italy to the U.S.
“Ever since I started playing, I always wanted to do that,” he said. “That’s my dream.”