In the club’s search to overcome the difficult challenge of making the PDL Playoffs, FA Euro New York has turned to a soccer legend with heavy New York ties as its new head coach.
After an extensive playing career that spanned decades and included playing for the New York Cosmos in the early 1980s, Ferdinando De Matthaeis has taken on a new challenge in a city he’s long called home. With a playing career ranging from the Cosmos to the Brooklyn Italians, New Jersey Stallions and a call-up to an Italian National Team camp, as well as a coaching career that includes IMG Academy, several years in Italy and several Miami-based clubs, De Matthaeis brings a wealth of experience to FA Euro New York that can only benefit the club.
Though FA Euro New York has come up short of the highly-competitive PDL Playoffs in the club’s first five PDL campaigns, De Matthaeis stands ready to elevate the team to a contender while maintaining its focus on player development that has produced a number of professional talents. The 2017 PDL season marked FA Euro’s best Mid Atlantic Division finish yet, but De Matthaeis has his eyes on raising the standard of success to heights yet unreached.
During his preparation for the 2018 PDL season, opening May 4 with the full schedule recently released, De Matthaeis took time to discuss his new role with USLPDL.com, and what a return to New York means to him.
PDL: What does it mean to take charge of such a notable New York club given your long-time connection with New York City?
Ferdinando De Matthaeis: It’s exciting for a couple of reasons. First of all, because it’s New York. Secondly, because I lived here for so many years. I know a lot of people here. I feel that I have enough experience in my 35 years of coaching. The fact that I have coached the last four years in Miami, I’ve gotten a feel for how these shorter seasons work. It’s important to have a big impact, to have good days as players. Personally, it’s a bit sentimental, I’ve got a few things to prove to people in this area, so it’s a good challenge to me.
PDL: You enjoyed an impressive playing career, spending several years with the New York Cosmos in the early 1980s and even getting called up to an Italian National Team camp. How do you hope to translate and pass on your own skills to the players under your guidance?
FDM: As a coach, obviously I have to look back, but the first thing you do is base yourself on the coaches that you had during your career, and I had some influential coaches that really designed my coaching style. It was an easy process, I finished playing not very old, about 33, and threw myself right into coaching. I started off player-coaching and then started taking charge of different situations. I used to coach the Central Jersey Riptide and the New Jersey Stallions back in the USISL. So I’ve had that background starting about twenty years ago. I achieved all my coaching certificates from the U.S., and then went to Italy and took my Italian federation license. I have to tell you, I find it a little harder now because everything is more digital and technical, and I’m used to the pen and paper but everything is getting more technological. But we have to keep up with the times, otherwise we’ll fall behind so we have to keep up.
PDL: You have a wealth of experience in developing young talent, spending time as a coach at IMG Academy, Miami United FC, NJ Cedar Stars and Miami Fusion FC. What have you learned about coaching at those clubs?
FDM: I’m in the second part of my career, which I say because I coached in the U.S. first and got my UEFA license and moved back to Italy for eight years in a professional environment, which was a great experience. So I’ve had the advantage of knowing both the pro and amateur worlds. So in the second part of my career, starting at IMG, taught me a little more about the business side of things. As far as handling some clubs, from a perspective of the players, in the U.S. we have what I call pay-to-train, because playing should be a consequence of training, we have an obligation to the players and parents. In Europe, at some high quality clubs, you can do more calling the shots. You really have to know both worlds to be successful here. With that in mind, I’m always able to get the best out of my players, and adjust to my players’ needs and what the roster calls for. I’m interested in taking charge at FA Euro because I know we’ve got a strong group coming back this year, so I want to see what kind of impact I can have with these players in order to be successful with the club. I don’t have a set way to play, I just look at the material I have and make the best I can. Considering all the hurdles we face, given that we’re not talking about pro players, we have to figure out the best training schedule and times, since some players will be working and studying. The kind of coach I developed into in Miami, in a way I have to listen to players and not be too harsh at this level. Obviously it’s a different issue with professionals, but at this level the best thing to do is create a group of guys that believe in what you do and put everyone to work. Get everybody pushing the same way and it works, which is what I learned the past few years in Miami. Because of the short season, if you start losing, it’s hard to bring things back and it can become a tough season. So we need to star strong and with the right speed.
PDL: In five seasons in the PDL, FA Euro New York has yet to make the PDL playoffs, but came closest last season finishing fifth in the Mid Atlantic Division. How do you hope to elevate the club and bring them to the postseason?
FDM: Well, I understand and looked at the standings and games last year, checked out some clips and I realized that there were a lot of close games. When it comes to that, close games triggers something in players, be it physical or mental. I saw that they lost a few games on set-pieces, but I’d need to see the reasons behind those losses. If you can turn some of those close losses to ties and wins, you have a better shot. As far as the way we’re taking the team this year, we’ve got a bigger pool of players. Since I’ve been named coach, we’ve been swamped by players that want to play for us, even more so than Miami and in Italy. We’re going to have a very competitive team, and the only thing I need to learn is the competition. Down in Miami, the past five or six years, I know the level of play and what it takes. Up North it’s a bit more challenging, and the PDL is definitely more challenging. It’s not going to be some weak teams, so that is something that I need to work and make sure I get acquainted with the level of play and knowing our opponents.
PDL: We’re just a few months away from the start of the 2018 PDL season. What are you most looking forward to in the months to come?
FDM: It’s a nice return. It’s going to be refreshing to me and I’m very excited. Again, it’s a challenge, and when you take teams like FA Euro who have always done a decent job, but haven’t yet excelled in the past four or five years, that’s the challenge for me. It’s better as a coach to try and take a team to a new level and raise them to new heights than it is to take over a club where you’re just trying to maintain the current level. Making the playoffs is our first objective that we want to achieve, and of course we want to develop players and showcase them. The bottom line is at the end of the season, it’s all about the player we’re developing. If we’re able to put some players in the spotlight, that’s our main objective.