"We play entertaining attack-minded soccer and we have fun doing it."
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Guten Morgan AP Leser! I want to start things off quickly today, but first, apologies to Williamsburg. Their interview was supposed to come out last week, and due to being busy I did not keep a good enough of record of what's what and didn't release. Fortunately they're gracious about it, and the interview is now out for all to enjoy. Check it out.
Tell me a little about yourself. Who you are, where you're from, and what your role is with Williamsburg International FC.
I'm Charles von Rosenberg, originally from Denver, Colorado. I’ve lived in New York since 2009.
I traveled and lived internationally for a couple of years before moving to New York, especially in France and South Korea. While travelling, I found that playing soccer was an easy way to interact with new groups of people, make friends, and get some exercise.
How did you come to be involved with soccer in general, and Williamsburg in particular?
I played soccer while growing up, in high school, and sporadically in college. I started playing in pickup games and on free agent teams when I moved to New York in 2009 and eventually fell in with a good group of guys who would go on to become Williamsburg International FC. I am a founding member of our executive committee and I do a lot of the background work that goes into running the club. I play in defense, midfield, and as a last resort in net.
What's the 'origin story' behind the creation of Williamsburg International?
The core formed as a free agent team at Pier 40 in New York City in the Winter of 2011. This group stuck together and eventually played in a 7v7 league in Queens against Barnstonworth Rovers FC, who used the league as training for their Sunday league team in the Cosmopolitan Soccer League. After matches we’d go to a bar down the street called Doyle’s Corner. We’d drink with the guys from Barnstonworth and they’d tell us stories about the Cosmo League, about teams with long histories like Hoboken FC 1912, NY Greek Americans, and Polonia NY. Barnstonworth got us hooked on the idea of joining the CSL. That year John Erganian, Ben Reichner, and myself met up at a bar to put plans together to create a more formal club and apply to join the CSL.
We held a meeting of about 15 players who decided they were with us and submitted the necessary documents to the league office. We were voted in on probationary membership at the league’s General Meeting in 2013 and received full membership in 2014. The club has since grown to two teams in the CSL with affiliated teams in weeknight leagues around the city. In our short history we have emphasized camaraderie and good friends over competitiveness and winning at all costs. We do our best to provide an environment good players can play to an appropriate level of competition but also where anyone can learn and enjoy the game. It’s created an atmosphere at the club where the players on our teams genuinely enjoy each other’s company, and this has shown positive results on the field.
The Doylies nickname comes from the club’s original name: Doyle’s Corner FC. That field in Queens had a unique feature, due to the constraints of the New York street grid, that one corner was cut off diagonally. We gave it the nickname “Doyle’s Corner” after the bar and used the term as a code word for corner kicks to the far post.
In 2014, the club voted to change our name to Williamsburg International FC. We think this is a better name than Doyle’s Corner FC and also distinguishes us from the majority of New York City clubs, who tend to be centered around an ethnicity or nationality. We have had players join our team from 6 continents, more than 20 countries, and many US states. We kept the Doylies nickname as a nod to our roots as a group of friends who enjoy playing together and having a beer after the game. It’s also a good reminder not to take ourselves too seriously.
What exactly does Williamsburg have to do with the name of the club? Is it a street or a neighborhood you're all from?
Williamsburg is a neighborhood in Brooklyn where the club is based. We play the majority of our home matches at two fields in the neighborhood, McCarren Park and Bushwick Inlet Park. Most of our players live in Williamsburg or the surrounding neighborhoods. Our home base and club sponsor, Berry Park, is in the heart of the neighborhood and is the unofficial soccer bar of Williamsburg. We have all of our trophies collected there on display and typically meet up there after matches on Sundays. The neighborhood is an eclectic mix of older ethnic populations, Irish, Italian, Polish, Ukrainian, Orthodox Jewish, Puerto Rican, and Dominican, young artistic and creative types, young families and many young professionals who have been moving from Manhattan in recent years.
The team currently plays in the Cosmopolitan Soccer L eague. What is that league like?
The Cosmopolitan Soccer League is one of the oldest amateur soccer leagues in the United States. It was founded in 1923 and is rich in US soccer history and tradition. You can feel this history most intensely at the league meetings, but also every Sunday out on the field. Some notable historical moments for the league and its most notable clubs:
In 1960 the league’s all-star team played both 1860 Munich and Manchester United on Randall’s Island, NY, losing by one goal each game. In 1969 the all-stars lost 2-1 to Barcelona FC in a tight match.
The same CSL all-star team formed the core of the side that went on to become the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League. "The Cosmos was our team, our select team" CSL’s former secretary emeritus Fritz Marth said of the side that in the 70’s lured Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and other world stars.
The New York Pancyprian Freedoms won the US Open Cup three-times in the pre-Major League Soccer era 1980, 1982, and 1983. They reached the semi-finals of the CONCACAF Champions Cup in 1983, defeating Mexican side Puebla on penalties before forfeiting to CD Guadalajara because they couldn’t agree to the dates of the matches.
The New York Greek Americans are among the most successful US Open Cup sides of all time having won the trophy on four occasions. The Seattle Sounders are the only other side in the history of the tournament to have won in three consecutive years. The Greek Americans won the US National Cup in 2013-14.
Three-time CSL D1 champions, Lansdowne Bhoys made waves in the most recent US Open Cup by travelling to Pittsburgh and stunning the USL’s Pittsburgh Riverhounds 2-0.
There are more than 100 clubs participating in the league. While many of the more historic sides are in the top divisions, there is plenty of history in the lower tiers. One of our early rivals, currently a mid-table Metro 2 side, SC Eintracht New York was founded in 1933 and won the US Open Cup in 1955. It’s a special pleasure to test yourself against clubs that have been such a consistent part of the American soccer scene throughout the years.
While the league is steeped in history it’s also young and dynamic with new members that are constantly testing even the most established clubs. With a surge in interest in soccer in the US, there has been massive growth in the lower tiers of the CSL. The league has even given consideration to opening up a fifth tier in order to accommodate the new clubs. As a club, we tend to find more similarities with the new members like Flushing FC or Brooklyn Bound SC as we fight to establish ourselves as a more permanent presence in the New York soccer landscape without being able to rely on the strong ethnic connections that many clubs here have used to form the core of their identity.
The CSL is hands-down one of the best leagues to play in in the country. The level of competition is very high. Most clubs have a strong identity and are well organized. The league meetings are an amazing insight into the multi-cultural diversity of New York City through the lens of soccer. We love being a part of the history and are having a blast helping to build the future of the league.
I noticed in the league standings you are in first place in the CSL's Metro Division One. Does this mean you've been promoted to Division Two?
The league follows the traditional international calendar, with a full season running in the Fall and Spring with a Winter break in between. We are the leaders in Metro 1 through the first half, but we have a lot of work to do in to keep our spot at the top of the table in the Spring. If we finish in the top two spots we will be offered promotion to Division 2 on the condition that we can field a reserve squad. We started our second team in the CSL Metro 2 division this year with an eye to the future, developing our club’s potential to field two squads.
We are also through to the semi-finals of the Eastern New York State Soccer Association’s Division 3 State Cup after two big wins over competition from the Long Island Soccer Football League. We are two wins away from a first State Cup trophy.
The Metro 2 squad will do their best to give us a shot at a third trophy when they compete in the CSL League Cup in the Spring.
Why exactly do you have to be able to field a reserve team in order to move up a division?
This is a league requirement of the CSL. My understanding is that fielding a reserve team requires a club to have a deeper roster and a more stable club structure. The matches for the D1/D1 Reserves and the D2/D2 Reserves are coupled, meaning the reserves play their match just before the top squad on the same field. This reduces the chances that a team plays shorthanded and provides an opportunity for managers to assess player development on the second team.
I've heard there are Member Clubs in the CSL. Is Williamsburg International a member club, and if not, would it ever want to be?
Every club in the CSL must apply to become a member of the league. New members are voted in at the league’s annual general meeting (AGM) in late summer. Membership is typically granted for an initial probationary year. If all goes well and a club is successful, their full membership is voted on at the AGM following year. Only full members are allowed to vote at the AGM. If a club has problems, they may be offered an additional probationary season, or they may be denied membership. We became a full member in 2014.
How does the prospect of promotion and relegation, as long as criteria are met, change how you practice and prepare as a team?
Obviously, promotion and relegation gives clubs the opportunity to dream. You always want to show that you can compete at the next level no matter where you are in the pyramid. However, the amount of money, time, and organization needed to succeed increases significantly at each step. So, we set our club goals each season with a realistic view of where we are at now and where we might be in the future.
First and foremost, we are focused on making sure that our teams are having fun. Of course, winning helps. But a lot of this is about making sure that we are meeting our organizational needs. A lot of our focus is on how the club is growing and maintaining a positive off-field experience. Our competitive goal last year was to win promotion to Metro 1 to pave the way for a second team. We thought we were ready to take that step and it turned out we were able to win Metro 2. We are definitely motivated by promotion, but we want to make sure that we are ready for that step by building a solid foundation.
The CSL does its best to assist with the financial and organizational challenges of promotion and relegation between the divisions. For example, the prize money increases for winning at each level, with the goal of helping winning clubs to cover some of the cost involved in moving up to the next division.
In a more general sense, to me the most important feature of promotion / relegation is that it allows teams to naturally find their appropriate level of ambition and competition. There is a bit of a bottleneck right now in the top division of the CSL. There are about 5 or so clubs that could easily compete at the next level up and the remaining teams are significantly under-matched.
If the US pyramid were opened up, even just amongst the levels below MLS, it would not only encourage ambitious teams to advance, it would move talented players and teams up the pyramid to the appropriate levels, and it would also help calibrate divisions more appropriately at every level.
So right now, at the top of the CSL, the teams are just on another level compared to everybody else?
There is a difference in resources among the very top tier of clubs in the CSL. There are probably 5 teams in the top division of the CSL that could easily compete at a higher level. There are at least a few players who had meaningful careers in the MLS or other leagues before joining a top CSL side. James Riley, for example spent 11 years in MLS and now plays for the NY Pancyprian Freedoms. It is certainly possible for a team to break in to D1 at that level but it takes more resources and more organization to do so. As an example, NY Shamrock SC was recently promoted to D1 and struggled last year to avoid relegation. However, they have a solid club organization and have been able to find the resources and players to challenge for the top of the table this season. So, it’s not impossible to get there, but there is certainly a small group of elite level clubs in the CSL.
How do you go about planning and laying the foundation, as an organization, to take another step up in league play?
We have an executive committee for the club and a management group for each team. We hold club meetings twice a year where we discuss the current state and future plans for the club. It’s a very organic decision making process. We are always working on improving the club culture, getting more competitive, raising money, improving our organization. It’s really about making an honest assessment of where the club is at, what it’s capable of, and figuring out how to mobilize the resources to get there.
What do teams do you consider to be Williamsburg Internationals top rivals?
As we’ve only been around the league for a couple of years we haven’t had the chance to form any deep rivalries, but there’s definitely been some fun matchups over the years.
Last season we had a great battle with BW Gottschee for the top spot in the Metro 2 West division that went down to the last match of the season. We tied both of our league encounters which were real back and forth struggles finishing 3-3 and 2-2 respectively. We managed to finish ahead of them in the standings despite them not losing a single match all season. Five draws undid them as we finished with only one loss and two draws.
Our derby match is with Brooklyn Bound SC, a relatively new club in the league that are based in the same neighborhood. This series has been a bit lopsided so far as they’ve yet to defeat us in three tries. But there’s certainly potential for a good rivalry there as they continue to grow and improve.
We’ve played the most total matches against NYC Metro Stars and that’s always competitive. Our series record is 3W 1D 3L, with each side having won a cup match over the other on penalty kicks. While I wouldn’t say we have a rivalry with them, they are consistently a tough squad and the matches are always competitive and entertaining.
How have you been preparing for the upcoming season, and when will that kick off for you?
As the CSL plays a full year Fall - Spring schedule, we are currently in the middle of our season. Many of our players play all the time and are grateful for a little break. There are the winter meetings. We attended the CSL annual winter meeting last night and will hold our club meeting soon. We will participate in an indoor tournament and schedule some friendlies in late February. Our competitive schedule will kick off on March 12th with a League Cup match and continue with regular season matches on March 19th.
How does the team normally go about finding new players for the squad?
Our recruitment at this point is pretty organic. The majority of players either found us through our website or through a friend who plays on one of our teams. People get involved with the club through practices, weeknight leagues, or through friendlies. The CSL squads come out of that player pool. We don't hold tryouts or anything. A players attitude and commitment tend to shine through in how they go about getting involved with the club. Skill level is secondary for us. We want to get people involved in our community and to have fun. If you have a bad attitude or if you aren't going to show up and be ready to play than you probably won't help the club much.
What league and or team do you watch for fun?
Personally – I watch just about any league or team for fun, though we have fans of all the big clubs among our players. I’m most interested in competitive international matches like the World Cup rather than professional competitions. There’s something about the national support of a country’s team, especially in soccer, that just isn’t matched in any other sport or competition.
Favorite players, one past, one present?
My favorite player of all time is Zinedine Zidane. He was such a beautiful player to watch, able to impact the game in so many ways. I was a big Juventus fan growing up and began rooting for the French national team while living in France in the early 2000’s towards the end of his career.
Not surprisingly, I really enjoy watching Paul Pogba now, another French midfielder who starred at Juventus before moving to a bigger club.
Do you have any books or podcasts, soccer related or otherwise, that you would recommend?
There is a photo journal blog called Roads and Kingdoms that ran a series called “The Far Post” during the last world cup. http://roadsandkingdoms.com/series/the-far-post/ They covered some amazing stories from around the world that all tied back to soccer in some way.
One of my favorite posts from this series told the story of attending the first match between Pakistan and Afghanistan in 37 years in Kabul. In the blog they get into a little bit about Mohammed Mashiqri, a player for the Afghan national team who moved to the US and started up an Afghani club in Queens that now plays in the CSL. http://roadsandkingdoms.com/2013/afghanistan-united/
I would highly recommend reading all of these posts.
Would you rather attend the Euro's, AFC Asian Cup, or World Cup?
If you could meet one person from soccer history, who would it be and why?
I’d love to meet the 1930 US World Cup team that took 3rd place in Uruguay. If you had to single out one person, I guess it would be Bert Patenaude who scored the first hat-trick in World Cup history during that tournament. I find it fascinating that a pretty rag-tag group of US soccer players took a boat down to Uruguay and back to participate in the first World Cup and were able to hold their own against the South American giants. There was a great story on that team from Sports Illustrated a couple years ago that may help explain my interest. http://www.si.com/longform/soccer-goals/goal10.html
Closing question. Someone asks you why they should get out and watch Williamsburg International games. What do you tell them?
We play entertaining attack-minded soccer and we have fun doing it.
Thanks again for your time Charles. Good luck in the upcoming season. Remember, if you are enjoying the weekly content coming out on AP you can Follow AP on Twitter, or Like AP on Facebook. And if you want make sure you never miss an interview, and want to read articles before everyone else, click here and sign up for the Newsletter. You'll be the first to know when articles are released and learn about other exciting content down the road.
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