Under new coach, U-12 team is putting it all together


By Judith Stiles

From the sidelines of soccer games, impassioned parents can be heard calling out to their children in a medley of different tongues, Vayas! (“You go!” in Spanish), Marque le! (“Mark it!” in French).

Rapid-fire Italian, Greek and even Ukrainian pepper the sounds of enthusiastic clapping when the Under-12 A team from Downtown United Soccer Club scores a goal, and it is many a goal this team has been scoring in the past few months. Most recently they took home first place at the Manhattan Kickers Indoor Tournament at Chelsea Piers, beating top-rated teams from the metro region and Long Island, causing a huge upset.

They hold first place in their division in the Old Beth Page Winter League, and they earned second place in this winter’s Brentwood Indoor Tournament, a trophy usually nabbed by teams from Long Island.

For years this team has had a lot of individual talent, players such as their strong defenders, Henry Cames and Aristofanis Loannidis, or the M.V.P. from the Eastmeadow Tournament, Roddo DiStefano. However, any coach will tell you individual talent will only take a team so far. A coach needs players who play well together as a team in order to have a winning season.

At halftime if you listen to the dedicated parents of this team, just about every one of them is an armchair coach, exchanging comments on strategy and substitutions. Along with the diversity of languages comes different cultural baggage on how to best play soccer, often resulting in parents yelling advice to players during a game that contradicts what the coach is instructing the team to do. It is no accident that coaches distance themselves from the fans during the game by situating themselves and their players on the opposite side of the field from the parents. At the end of the day, who does a player listen to, the coach whom he sees five hours a week, or his parents whom he has to live with 24/7?

Some of the U-12 fathers are fantastic players themselves, and they come from different corners of the world with unique styles of play: Mexico, France, Italy, Greece, Ukraine and don’t forget Queens. These fathers have strong opinions, creating a unique challenge for any coach.

Thanks to Cesar Markovic, head coach at Downtown United, every team is assigned a new coach each year. Children are always changing and a new coach gives players the opportunity to reinvent themselves and experience a new coaching style. In fall 2003, Luis Cediel took over this team and shook things up. First, he welcomed two new talented players, Hector Roche and Paul Sanchez, who have a great work ethic and take every practice very seriously. As the new coach, Cediel’s expectations were made clear from day one.

“You give 100 percent in practice and in the game or you sit on the bench,” recounts Bruno Cames, team manager. “Luis runs a terrific practice that is highly structured where he often addresses specific issues such as improving speed and ball control.”

Most often it takes a good coach to turn a team around. But the age-old question is what makes for a good coach? Certainly, Coach Cediel has all the right credentials, having coached for over 15 years, most recently a U-16 Girls Olympic Development Team. He also has a coveted A license, the highest obtainable level, making him eligible to coach pro teams.

Not only has he brought the team into focus, he has that rare ability to motivate his players. Now even the soccer-playing dads are respectfully deferring to Cediel’s every word. The record speaks the loudest. In September when he started with this team, they went up against the Cosmopolitan League’s first-place team, B.W. Gottschee, and they got squashed, losing 4-1, then 5-1. After five months of hard work with coach Cediel, the DUSC squad dethroned the same Gottschee team when they beat them at the well-known Kickers Tournament.

Now, during winter, this team is training hard, often outdoors in frigid weather. When their competition starts coming out of hibernation in March these boys will be match-fit. They look forward to spring and most of all next fall where, if all goes as planned, they will be winning their games on the beautiful new regulation-size turf fields at Pier 40.