The New York Cosmos hosted a player combine at Hofstra University. Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese, along with assistant coaches Carlos Llamosa, Alecko Eskandarian and Memo Valencia were present to assess over 200 players in attendance.
"It was a great day to see a lot of players," said Savarese. “The turnout was excellent. I think that we will definitely be able to sign a few players from this combine. Overall, it has been very good."
Due to the cold weather, the first day of the combine was held indoors with the players divided into teams and playing small-sided games. Local college coaches such as Long Island University Brooklyn's TJ Kostecky and Hofstra University's Richard Nuttall coached the teams and helped to run drills.
"We are looking for those players that definitely bring something different to the game. We want to see something that catches our eye," added Savarese. "The most important thing is to understand if they’re good on the ball because we want to be a team that is comfortable with the ball. That's why we’re playing in a small-sided game first before moving to a bigger field and then to the full-size field. Some guys can play well in tight space and some others can't."
The players came from a diverse range of backgrounds. A large portion of the players had local ties, having played for nearby colleges or in the Cosmopolitan Soccer League. Some players traveled from Europe or were standouts at the New York area grassroots soccer tournament, Cosmos Copa.
One of the players looking to impress was Chelsea Moriken Sangary, who played under Savarese on the Cosmos U-23 squad that participated in the 2011 Premier Development League season.
"It was only the first day but I think I did pretty good," said the tricky winger, Sangary. "A lot of the guys are college players and some of them come from different cultures. I feel like it was a great thing today. I have been training for weeks for this. Even if was raining or snowing, it didn't matter."
James Marcellin, a defensive midfielder who recently played with FC Dallas and the Portland Timbers was also looking to earn a spot on the Cosmos. "This was my first time playing in a combine but I played good," said Marcellin.
Teddy Niziolek has been the star midfielder for NYC Poland as they reached the final of Cosmos Copa for the past three years. In 2011, he scored a remarkable goal from his own half in the final of Cosmos Copa that eventually made it onto SportsCenter's Top 10 Plays. After excelling in the club's grassroots soccer tournament, Niziolek was hoping to land a spot on the Cosmos roster.
"I thought the level of play today was pretty high," said Niziolek. "The players here are good technically but my work rate was high and I just tried to play to the best of my abilities. This combine has been well organized I am pretty happy how it's turning out so far."
"It was pretty much what I expected," said Savarese. "The players that I thought were going to do well did well. There were some surprises, both good and bad, but overall it was what we anticipated. We had a good turnout of guys coming from overseas."
The combine concludes on Monday, Feb. 18. The Cosmos plan to hold a series of open tryouts later in the Spring.
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