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Preseason over! But now the real work begins

Posted on 25 March 2010 by ASN Staff

New York Red Bulls midfielder Luke Sassano completed his second season with the organization in 2009. In this, his fourth guest column for ASN, he wraps up the final stage of the team’s preseason. Sassano’s other columns can be viewed here.

With the final whistle of the Santos game, the preseason has officially come to an end.
Three preseason trips, two snow storms avoided and an undefeated record; I would say that this preseason has been a success. But now the real work begins.

As exciting as the Red Bull Arena grand opening was, I have a feeling we can expect the same–perhaps even a more hightened atmosphere–this weekend against Chicago in the season opener. Winning against a team of the caliber of FC Santos felt great, but we know that the real business starts on Saturday. The confidence in the locker room is great; we really believe that we are building something special here. The support of the fans has been exceptional– we really do have the best fans in MLS.

The stage is set, the atmosphere is set, and the excitement is set as the season is starting on schedule. What a way to open Red Bull Arena! But that’s only the beginning of what we hope and are confident will be a successful season.

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'Attitude has been great'

Posted on 10 February 2010 by ASN Staff

It’s only been three weeks but so far this preseason has definitely been exciting.

We had our first 14 days of camp in the beautiful soccer specific resort in La Manga, Spain, where we played a couple of European teams. For me I was happy to extend the good weather from California (home) before getting completely situated in the New York winter.

Although the tapas and great weather was some of what we were looking forward to, the main focus was of course on the field and on the business of improving each and every day as we begin the preparations that will be the base for the rest of the year. The attitude has been great so far. Priorities are mostly to sure everyone is staying healthy and getting fit for the nine month season ahead.

So far results have been quite positive, as well as our quality of play on the field. There’s a definite excitement in the air as guys can’t wait for the first game against Santos that we play at Red Bull Arena. For now we have one more week at MSU before we head to Orlando for two weeks to continue preseason. While we’re down there we’ll be scrimmaging against some other MLS teams. I’ll have an update on which ones after we arrive.

In Spain we had some friendly poker games. My luck started off great, winning two of three tournaments, then the rook or the “ringer” as I call him (Austin da Luz), came in and swept four tourneys in a row. So just a heads up if you ever see him at a poker table; steer clear. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Besides the competition on the poker table, we’ve added some real quality and exciting players to the team that will help in our quest to return to the MLS Cup 2010. Although its’ early in the preseason process, I can tell that we’ve made strides not only on the field as a team, but at becoming a tight knit group off of it. We’ll continue to work though. Every day is another opportunity to improve.

Questions or thoughts? Let me know, I’d be happy to answer anything soccer or not.

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The MLS Combine and SuperDraft experience from one who was there

Posted on 11 January 2010 by ASN Staff

New York Red Bulls midfielder Luke Sassano completed his second season with the organization in 2009. In his first guest column he got us caught up on what he had been doing since the team’s last game of the season. In this, his second piece, he relates his own experience from Major League Soccer’s Combine and SuperDraft.

Luke Sassano

The combine is underway and SuperDraft will be held this Thursday in Philadelphia. By now we all know who has been called to the combine and who has not. For those who aren’t there: no worries, you can still play professionally. There are still many opportunities. I know the exact feeling. I was a 50/50 shot to make the combine as a senior and by the luck of the draw I did. I was excited but also prepared mentally had I not made the list.

The combine was a great experience, getting to play with the top players in the nation. However my main issue with the combine is that it is held over a month after the final college game. That’s a lot of time, if you ask me. to be waiting around. I remember going into the combine, as fit as i felt, my soccer skills simply weren’t as sharp. I think the combine should be two weeks after the final game, before the holidays so players are still on top of their games and coaches can make a more realistic assessment of the talent.

Luckily coach [Juan Carlos] Osorio and [assistant coach Richie] Williams saw something that they liked in me and two weeks later I was drafted in the third round, number 32 overall, in the 2008 SuperDraft. A feeling I will remember for the rest of my life is when I got the phone call from Jeff Agoos telling me I was going to be a New York Red Bull. At that moment the past 18 years of my dedication, commitment and hard work had finally paid off. I felt it vindicated all my past coaches, players, friends and family who had provided me so many opportunities and sacrificed so much just so I could have a chance to fulfill my dream. Of course I was also grateful to the Red Bull coaching staff for taking a chance on me. My thoughts are that luck is when skill, hard work and determination meet opportunity. For everyone involved whether it be soccer, another sport, of life in general, don’t be afraid to fail no matter what the circumstances. Sail. Dream. Discover.

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The offseason thus far

Posted on 03 January 2010 by ASN Staff

New York Red Bulls midfielder Luke Sassano completed his second season with the organization in 2009. It was, in his own words (which follow below) a disappointing campaign. An eternal optimist (our label, not his) the UC-Berkeley graduate nevertheless took several initiatives to improve himself on the pitch and off it. To the latter end, he began to work with CHF International, the international development and humanitarian assistance organization. The partnership is his part of Athletes for Hope’s First Annual Who Gives! Racing for a Cause campaign.

ASN spoke with the 24-year old for our short piece that profiled his charitable work and found him not only friendly and outspoken, but surprisingly (due to his insistence of being “a math and sciences guy”) a very good writer. This led us to ask him to contribute as a guest columnist, and he agreed. In this first piece Luke gets us caught up on what he’s been doing since the team’s last game of the season. A second piece, on the Major League Soccer SuperDraft, is in the works. We hope to make this a regularly-occurring feature thereafter. If anybody has any idea for a name (“Sassano’s Shout-Outs”? “Sassano’s Soap Box”? “Luke Lips”? Uh, maybe not) post them in the comment area below. We can put them up for a vote later.

Before you ask, Luke says he is as much in the dark about the identity of the next Red Bulls coach as the rest of us. But it’s a great read anyway and we are grateful for his contribution. Read on:

Luke Sassano ©ASN/Julia Harper

The new year agenda is now beginning to gain steam. A chance for a blank slate. I, for one, am excited. We have a new place to call home with the opening of Red Bull Arena, a place that will really put soccer on the map in the New York/New Jersey area. I’m personally looking forward to being a part of the new era in Red Bulls soccer and am excited for our loyal fans who have waited over 10 years to get a soccer specific stadium–really 30 years if you go back to the New York Cosmos and the (first) NASL. I’m also looking forward to demonstrating how much we’ve learned from our mistakes last year. I want to go out and prove that 2009 does not define us as a team and that it was merely a fluke. As a team and an organization we have learned a lot from the ups and downs of this last year. It was frustrating for everyone involved, especially our fans. I can’t wait for that first game on grass and to finally to be off of the cement-like turf at Giants Stadium.

Although last season didn’t go as planned for me personally or for our organization, there were many things to learn that ultimateley will help us in our quest for the MLS Cup. On one of the positive notes, after the season, Jeremy Hall, Nick Zimmerman (who is now with Philly), and myself were able to visit our sister team in Salzburg to train for three weeks. It was a great experience. We got to see first hand how different the level and style of play is over there and witness the organization’s overall professionalism and commitment to achieving success. We trained with the reserves team, which is mostly made up of players about our age, and had the opportunity to play the first team in a friendly scrimmage. What really stood out to me was how committed the players were. Most, if not all the players on the reserve team had never gone to college. To me the mentaliity in Europe seemed that either you become a professional footballer at a young age or you go to a university–there is no in between. Another thing I noticed is how meticulous the practices are and how intricately-woven the organization is from top to bottom. And lastly, the facilities were top notch. I thought our facilities at Montclair State were the best I had ever seen for a professional soccer training ground, but these facilities in Austria really were a sight.

Besides playing soccer I also had a chance to see the sights. Austria is a beautiful country and Salzburg, based at the foot of the Alps, is incredibly picturesque. My time in Austria was a great learning experience and I hope to use that as a springboard into our preseason.

So the offseason has been very busy and the hard work as already begun. We report in mid-January for training camp where we get to meet our new sporting director as well as our new coach. I’m not sure what the preseason schedule holds for us, but i know it’s going to be exciting as well as challenging. We know we have a lot of work ahead, all of which starts with establishing the proper foundation in preseason.

The opening of Red Bull Arena I believe will be a turning point in the history soccer in this country. I also think the level of investment in soccer in the U.S. will put the MLS on the map to a worldwide audience. I couldn’t be any more excited or happy to have the opportunity to be a part of this time in New York Red Bull History. Until next time.

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