New Pier 40 fields put Downtown tourney on the map


By Jill Stern

Thanks to the new fields at Pier 40, Downtown United Soccer Club was able to host its first annual preseason soccer tournament the weekend of March 11-12. After months of preparation and planning by DUSC volunteers, all involved declared the event was a success.

“We couldn’t be more pleased” reported Bob Russo, DUSC’s director.

Cindy Sirko, an active DUSC parent — and hotshot goalie for the DUSC soccer moms — who runs the girls travel division, offered some insight into why DUSC never hosted a tournament before.

“Tournaments work best when they take place on adjacent fields,” Sirko explained. “This year, at Pier 40, we’ve had our first opportunity to hold a tournament in a Manhattan facility that can accommodate five games at a time. We can’t wait for people to see the fields.”

And people did see the fields.

“We’ve had a great response from teams outside of the C.J.S.L. [Cosmopolitan Junior Soccer League],” Sirko noted. “We had teams from Long Island, Westchester and New Jersey competing. We’re excited about building relationships with teams outside the city. Soccer is growing rapidly in the region and we all hope to get out and see more of it.” Sirko added that whenever she attended other tournaments, she gathered names and contact information so that she could invite those teams to come to Manhattan.

Suburbanites who drove into Manhattan were pleasantly surprised, if not even a little jealous of the local soccer-loving city dwellers. A parent from Long Island who didn’t give her name laughingly said she wouldn’t have left New York City for the suburbs if she had known about the new Pier 40 fields.

“Now you have the best of both worlds here,” she noted.

Tim Kelley, who manages the Soccer Coliseum in Teaneck, N.J., said. “The key to running a smooth tournament is good time management.” The Soccer Coliseum runs tournaments all day long on both Saturdays and Sundays and it has a reputation for excellence. The coliseum has been around for 10 years, and the staff, through experience, has a lot of competence in running consistently high-quality tournaments.

So it was a wise choice for Gustavo Palomino, DUSC’s director of coaching, to refer to the staff at the coliseum for advice in advance of DUSC’s first tournament.

“Gustavo is friendly with one of our refs, who introduced us recently,” Kelley explained. The format of DUSC’s tournament was reminiscent of the coliseum’s.

The seven age brackets had varying numbers of teams playing. The maximum was 16 teams while one bracket had as few as eight teams. Each team was guaranteed to play at least three games. Each bracket had a finals, and some brackets held semifinals, depending on how many teams were in the bracket.

DUSC split the full-size fields into two and played seven on a side. Each game was 28 minutes long. As at the coliseum, there was one timekeeper who announced over a loudspeaker how much playing time was left and then blew a horn to end the game. There were two-minute breaks — and blaring music — between each game.

When the music stopped, the next game began, again to the sound of a horn. To adhere to a strict schedule there were no breaks and no timeouts. The clock did not stop: This is what Kelley claims distinguishes the Soccer Coliseum from other venues. The same technique seemed to work for DUSC this weekend, as all games started on or very close to schedule.

Sirko was not sure if or how much DUSC will collect from the weekend.

“This is our first tournament; we’ve had startup costs,” she noted. “All clubs use tournament profits to help pay for their programs. Travel programs are very expensive. To the extent possible, the club hopes to defray costs to the families of the players. DUSC also has a policy of not turning away players willing to make a serious commitment to a team. We have many families on full or partial scholarships.”

Before the tournament started, Palomino said, “This is DUSC’s first tournament and we are very excited about it. With the new wonderful fields we have at Pier 40 it offers us an opportunity to have more of these. We hope to make this a fun, exciting and rewarding experience for our members and all the participating clubs.”

True to Palomino’s hopes, the weekend at the pier was all that and more. Wouldn’t it be great if the suits who want to turn Pier 40 into a shopping mecca were in attendance?