MLS coach Savarese talks about his time with NY Greeks

By Ralph 'Onz' Chery

Giovanni Savarese (wearing number 20) standing next to ex-NY Greeks coach Luccio Russo.

 

Feb. 4th, 2017

 

From turning pro at 15 back home in Venezuela to playing in the MLS, in Italy, in England to coaching the Portland Timbers now, we can agree that Giovanni Savarese has seen many of the colors soccer has to offer.

After coming from a pre-season training with the Timbers on Jan. 26th, Savarese opened up about a chapter of his career that he holds dear to his heart: playing for amateur powerhouse NY Greek American. 

The 46-year-old coach played for the Greeks from 1990 to 1993 before going to the MLS and from 2007 to 2010 after his professional career.

Savarese’s career with NYGA started with an unexpected chat with one of the current board member, George Mellis—a man who’s been with NY Greeks since Savarese was three-years-old.

“I remember when I got recruited by the Greek Americans, it was actually my first year in college and George Mellis came to watch another player that was playing for L.I.U,” the Venezuelan said.  

“After the game he approached me and said if I was interested in playing for the Greek Americans and I said ‘Definitely I would like to talk about it a little bit more.’ I went to one training and from that moment in 1990 I started to play for the Greek Americans and then it became in essence my club for so many years.”

 

43-year NY Greek American club member George Mellis recruited Giovanni Savarese into the club. Photo by Dinos Avlonitis

 

Savarese shared that the team’s past success and how Mellis talked to him is what inspired him to join NYGA.

“I understood the history of the club, I thought it would be great to be able to play for a team with so much history,” the former NY Metrostars striker said.

“At that time even though you were with a college team you were able to play outside, then that changed the following year. And it was also the approach, the way George Mellis came to me that made me feel like it would be a good club for me to be a part of.”

The ex-Swansea City player then went on to talk about his training sessions with the Queens based club.

“Training with NY Greek Americans was interesting because we could only train a few days a week—not that many days—it was at night but it was great to be able to go there and get together with so many good players,” he said.

“At that time we had so many great players, ex college players, players who came from overseas. There were great matches, we played at the Met Oval, at Con Edison, great, great landmarks that for sure created a lot of history in those matches.”

Some of Saverese’s favorite moments with NYGA were the Greek-Cypriot derbies against NY Pancyprian Freedoms.

“There’s so many good memories I cannot put one out, I’m sure that a lot of them have to do with the games with Pancyprians,” the MLS coach said. “The competition was great, there was always something extra in those matches.”

 

Gameshot of the NY Greek/Cypriot derby. Photo by Dinos Avlonitis 

 

After playing eight years at the professional level, the Caracas native returned to NY Greeks.

“I’m someone who likes to be committed with one club,” he said on coming back to the Met Oval. “The Greeks were very good to me, when I was retiring I came back to the club. George asked me to be part of it, it was a easy decision for me to go back.”

NY Greeks is attempting to do something that’s never been done before this season, win the CSL and the national double (Fritz Marth National Amateur Cup and the Werner Fricker Open Cup) in the same season. The club defeated powerclubs Lansdowne Bhoys and NY Pancyprian Freedoms to reach the regional stages of the Amateur Cup and the Fricker Cup.

Saverese is hoping that his old side will accomplish their goal.

“I always want the Greek Americans to do well in every competition, in everything that they do. They’re very good to me, they’re like a family.”

 

NY Greek American's team picture in the early 90s (Giovanni Savarese is wearing number 15).

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