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bana2166
04-21-06, 08:32 AM
As a soccer player and coach, Long Island Rough Riders coach Flavio Ferri might have the best of both worlds in the United States. He was born in Brazil, but played his professional career in America.

Born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Ferri grew up immersed in the most intense soccer culture in the world, if not the universe.

He remembered how difficult it was just to find a playing field.

"It was a fight to get on the field," he said. "After school, kids sprinted over there from the whole neighborhood and it mattered who got what piece of it. Obviously, the older kids had a big advantage because they were bigger and they could push us little kids off to the side."

On the weekends, the adults would play. "They would play from sun up to sun down," Ferri said.

"People ask us what's the difference down there. It's such a cultural thing down there. You can speak to an 80-year-old grandmother before the World Cup and she can tell you what the lineup should be starting from top to bottom and left to right."

Former MetroStars coach Carlos Alberto Parreira is the coach of the Brazilian National Team that is among the favorites to win the World Cup in Germany this summer.

"Parreira once there are 200 million coaches in Brazil," Ferri added, referring to the opinionated and passionate Brazilian population.

It certainly didn't hurt that Ferri's father, Claudio, was a professional player in Brazil -- he played on the reserve side with Santos and trained with the great Pele, a member of the first team. But destiny had other plans for Ferri and his family His parents moved to Matawan, N.J. in Monmouth County and eventually to Miami.

He didn't realize it at the time, but that started Ferri on a soccer journey through the United States and North America before settling down on Long Island. In 2005, he married Laura Martin, a pretty decent soccer player herself in her day who was inducted into the Adelphi University Athletics Hall of Fame last year.

He started his professional career in the United States with the San Antonio Pumas of the U.S. Interregional Soccer League, (now the USL). During 1995, Ferri was the league's regular-season scoring champion with 29 goals. He played for the Austin Capitals, had a stint with the Under-23 National Team in California and was drafted by the Tampa Bay Mutiny of the MLS. He then moved on to the Rough Riders, Staten Island Vipers and New York Freedoms before a six-month stint with Pumas in Mexico.

A sports hernia injury suffered in Mexico and a torn ACL with the Rough Riders began to slow down Ferri?s playing time. He soon realized the end of his career was close at hand.

"I've always loved the game," he said. "I always considered myself a student of the game. I got to a certain point where I was slipping a little bit, but still playing competitively. I didn't want to walk away from it completely. I wanted to stay involved with the game. I wanted to pass on my experience to a new generation. One of the things I enjoyed about it was the dialogue of the game."

So Ferri turned to youth coaching. He hooked up with B.W. Gottschee of the Cosmopolitan Junior Soccer League, and guided its Under-13 team to the 2005 State Cup title in the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association competition.

He also is keeping soccer in the family, having recently married Adelphi University soccer standout Laura Martin.

"My youth teams now, the first thing they do when they see me at practice is they run and say, 'By the way, did you see the ManU-Arsenal game' or 'is it true that Ronaldinho did this, this or that?'," Ferri said. "I take a lot of pride in that when this group of kids, when they have kids, they're just as likely on Sunday afternoon to watch a professional soccer game as a football game. They can have an intelligent conversation.?

"As far as I am concerned, for the United States to get to the next level, that's what it'll take."

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HOME, SWEET, HOME
Coach Flavio Ferri: Riders must be rough hosts

No one has to remind new Long Island Rough Riders coach Flavio Ferri of the task at hand. He said the club must win at home for the club to be successful in the USL Second Division.

"If you look at last year's team, we were not good defensively," Ferri said. "I went to most of the home games. We gave up a lot of goals. You lose 4-1 at home. Four goals at home are not good."

Ferri and the Riders don't plan on allowing that many goals to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds as they open their 13th season at the Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale, L.I. at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Ferri was a member of Riders teams in the mid- to late-nineties that were difficult to beat on its home field, whether the field was the artificial turf at Hofstra University or the natural grass at Mitchel.

"We had such confidence when we played at home," he said. "We had our fans there and we'd come out with the win. Whether it was an MLS team or a team in our division, we were going to come out with a win.

Ferri knows that first hand. He scored the game-winning goal in the Riders 2-1 exhibition victory over the MetroStars at Hofstra in 1997.

"One of my goals this year is to re-establish that with the players and our fans,? he said. ?When the Rough Riders are at home, whoever is coming in, they are in for a difficult time and it will be very tough to take points from us at home."

Ferri certainly has his work cut out for him. After the Riders missed the playoffs for two consecutive seasons for the first time in their history, he knows he must get the team back to respectability again.

His goals?: A winning record and a playoff berth.

"I believe in taking steps," he said. "Every team in the league that is a competitive team, they go into the season wanting to win the championship. That's why you play.

"The fact we've gone through losing seasons, the first thing we want to accomplish this year is to have a winning season. Win more games than we lose. When you're in that position, you want to get to the playoffs.

"When the playoffs start, it's a brand new season. Everyone starts from scratch. You saw it last year. Western Mass was tearing up the league and Charlotte won the championship."

To reach his goals, the 32-year-old Ferri wasn't going to clean house and bring in an entirely new team. He planned to keep a core group of players and bring in some new blood.

Key returnees include defender Gary Sullivan, twin forwards Derrick and Darrell Etienne - Haitian National Team members, forward Moussa Sy, midfielder Jose Sura and defender-midfielder Rich Bradley, among others. Goalkeeper Paul Grafer has retired, so Ferri was keen on finding a reliable replacement. Former Long Island University midfielder Ricardo Ordain, who played with the league champion Charlotte Eagles, has signed with the team, giving the Rough Riders much more speed in the middle of the field.

"The ownership has given me carte blanche in terms of personal decisions," he said. "I could have taken the route of cleaning house and starting over again. I chose not to."

The Rough Riders also will get younger. They were the oldest team in the league in 2005, with players averaging 29 years of age, in contrast to the league average of around 25, Ferri said.

"I think it did show on the field, especially when the season wore on," he said. "Old legs get tired and injuries mount up a little bit. A 35-year-old guy doesn't recover as quickly as a 25-year-old guy. That's human nature.

"We want a much younger and more dynamic team. What I'm going to preach to these guys is that we want to be exciting and dynamic and be fun to watch. I think we will be able to put on the field soccer players so we won't have to resort to long balls, send the ball up the field and hope something happens."

But that doesn't necessarily mean the Riders will be filling the net in record numbers.

"I'll tell you, 1-0, three points to me are just as good as a 5-4 thriller," Ferri said. "I'm not an egoist. I'm about winning. I'm not about headlines or flashiness.

"I like to strike a team that has balance. I had conversations with Moussa, for example, who is a proven goal-scorer in the league. Last year I would see him get the ball at the top and (had) . . . three or four defenders around (him)."

Ferri said he wanted "a team that attacks with ten and defends with 10."

But that doesn't mean Ferri will forget about experienced players.

"You need some experience," he said. "You're up by one when you're playing a Richmond. They're coming at you in waves. You need veteran players to settle a team down.