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Joe Balsamo | MLS Soccer Italia Interview

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MLS Soccer Italia recently sat down with FA Euro club president Joe Balsamo, an Italian coach born in Switzerland with familial roots in Sicily, who spent his American career playing in the NASL before dedicating the passion for his craft on the sidelines, becoming a youth coach and founder/president of FA Euro.

MLS Soccer Italia: FA Euro is an important organization for youth soccer in the United States. How did the club become about and what are your principal activities?

Joe Balsamo: FA Euro is a club born five years ago. The intention was to create a club with a professional image with a methodology of training based on a European model, specifically an Italian one. Our objective is to give young talent a pathway for them to realize their dreams, whether that pathway is a scholastic or a professional one.

MLS Soccer Italia: How rooted is the club in New York?

Joe Balsamo: We are in the heart of Brooklyn, in a very urban enviornment that hosts all walks of life.

MLS Soccer Italia: Based on your personal experiences, how much is soccer followed in the Big Apple?

Joe Balsamo: New York is unique because it's a global melting pot and they're severel ethnic groups who have imported their own culture along with their footballing philosophy. Soccer is everywhere here.

MLS Soccer Italia: What specific areas or zones in New York are hot spots for soccer?

Joe Balsamo: Really, there are a lot places in New York where soccer takes place. You have iconic locations like Calvert Vaux Park, where we are located. Several generations ago, it was a place for players around the world where played in then dirt fields. You have famous locations in Queens such as Flushing Meadow Park. However, there's a need for more spaces to play because in urban areas such as Manhattan or Brooklyn. There's more cement than they are green spaces to play sports. There is also a lack of sport-centric facilities, especially for soccer.

MLS Soccer Italia: How important is it for you to participate in the Viarregio Cup? What are your goals for the tournament?

Joe Balsamo: For us Italians, we know the importance of Viareggio. It's an incredibly important showcase that takes place on a global level. I don't think people in the US are familiar with its value and importance. Obviously, we care deeply about it and want to make sure that our club impresses. Our objective is to qualify for the first round by playing entertaining football. From a personal point of view, another great goal I wish to achieve is to have one of our players be scouted by a club in Serie A or Serie B.

MLS Soccer Italia: What are FA Euro's relations with Italian and European football?

Joe Balsamo: Most of our staff is largely comprised of Italian coaches who've had experiences both in Italy and the United States. All of us have important contacts in Europe, specifically Italy. We often bring teams to tournaments in Italy, especially during the off season months where we compete against several different Italian clubs.

MLS Soccer Italia: What is your personal experience in US Soccer?

Joe Balsamo: I arrived in the United States when I was 17. I would watch the Cosmos and I grew to like the idea of playing against them.

MLS Soccer Italia: In comparison to the NASL days where you used to play, what is the differecnce between soccer then and now in the States?

Joe Balsamo: Today, soccer is a lot faster. Players run more and they're athletic, even if they're less technical and tactical in comparison of the days past.

MLS Soccer Italia: What is the level in the USL and PDL?

Joe Balsamo: The level in both USL and PDL is growing more every year. I think one of the principal factors of the league's improvements in quality and level is thanks to their partnership with the MLS. This motivates and entices players because it gives them a real window of opportunity that no other leagues in the country can offer.

MLS Soccer Italia: After the US National Team's unexepected World Cup in Russia, what do you think needs to change about American soccer?

Joe Balsamo: The coutnry's failure to qualify, like Italy's, was a ugly blow for everyone, especially for people like us who work in the sport. It affects our work because, as a collective whole, it's like taking a big step back. Not only do we need to roll up our sleeves and get back to work, we have to learn from this mistake and continue to work hard.

MLS Soccer Italia: Even Italy won't be going to Russia. Do you see similar ties between the crises affecting both nations?

Joe Balsamo: It's completely different as the roots of the problems are different for each.

MLS Soccer Italia: Who would you like to see coach the United States and Italy national teams?

Joe Balsamo: I think Tata Martino would be great for the US. For Italy, Capello or Ancelotti.

MLS Soccer Italia: In your opinion, why haven't the two New York MLS Teams achieve championship glory in the MLS?

Joe Balsamo: It's difficult to understand, but maybe because in big cities like New York there is more pressure. But there's great energy and enthusiasm here. The Red Bulls have had done very well these past couple years, so it's only a matter of time. NYCFC are still new to the league so they'd need more time before they're able to achieve something signficiant along the lines of championships.

MLS Soccer Italia: You're Sicilian. Do you still have ties to your homeland?

Joe Balsamo: Yes, I still have my friends and family there. I return often to see them.

MLS Soccer Italia: Do you follow Palermo? What's your thoughts of them these past couple years?

Joe Balsamo: YeIt hurts me to see Palermo in Serie B. It was one of the only 'smaller' teams in Serie A that were able to draw a full house.

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