Cosmos Tryout Winners Hope to Take Next Step in Pro Career
By Dylan Butler on May 24, 2013 7:12am
UNIONDALE, L.I. — Sean Pauls is racking up the major life events lately.
The winner of the club’s Staten Island open tryout for the soccer squad last month also learned a valuable lesson — the dressing room of a sporting goods store is not a good place to check email on your phone.
That’s where Pauls, 22, was when he found out he had won the tryout and was invited to compete in a preseason minicamp.
“I actually ran out of the dressing room in just my boxers and I started having a panic attack,” Pauls said. “I was very excited.”
Pauls, who played seven different positions in his four years at Montclair State, is one of five winners selected from the tryouts, which were held in each borough.
The centerback is joined by other winners Sam Archer (Queens), Ansger Otto (Bronx), Arturo Barajas (Manhattan) and Yuriy Mazur (Brooklyn). All but Mazur remain training with the club, which starts its preseason June 1.
“They’re all in some way in the same boat,” Cosmos coach Giovanni Savarese said. “Some have shown a little more than others, but there’s a realistic opportunity that one or more than one can be signed.”
Archer won a second open tryout in five months. The 23-year-old forward from Cambria Heights was selected among a group of more than 150 players over the course of two days to join Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire for their preseason training camp in Florida in January.
Archer, who played at John Adams High School and Rutgers University, left the Fire for a trial with Íþróttabandalag Akraness in Iceland. That didn’t pan out, so now he’s hoping to land a spot with the Cosmos, who are set to embark on a second incarnation in the North American Soccer League.
“It’s been good,” Archer said. “I’m working hard, I feel like I’m playing good and showing myself well. Hopefully the third time’s the charm. Hopefully I get the spot this time because I definitely feel confident in my ability and confident in how I’m doing.”
Barajas wasn’t confident when he left the Manhattan tryout at Pier 40. The 22-year-old from New Rochelle said he played well in the small-sided games, but didn’t feel he had enough touches on the ball in the tryout’s full scrimmage to make an impression.
And for a few days, Barajas believed his fears were realized when he received an email from the Cosmos thanking him for participating and informing him that he didn’t make it.
“The week was horrible, especially after I got the first email, but I guess they said everyone got that email,” Barajas said. “I didn’t know that, though.”
His grief soon turned to relief when Barajas, who played at Mercer Community College and FC Westchester, saw his name on the Cosmos site and received a subsequent email confirming his selection. The attacking midfielder, who moved from Mexico when he was 5, is that much closer to realizing a lifelong dream.
“Everyone says you just need that one chance to practice with the team and here we have it,” Barajas said.
Otto was invited to attend the Cosmos Combine in February, but he was sidelined with a badly sprained ankle. A rare chance to showcase his skills to a professional team was wasted.
But Otto, a 23-year-old dynamic attacking player from Iona College, didn’t give up faith.
“I’m a big believer in God so I took it as everything happens for a reason,” Otto said. “Something told me to register for the tryout in the Bronx.”
The native of Ghana did and it paid dividends.
“I’m just blessed to be here right now, learning in a professional environment,” Otto said.
He grew up playing the game in Ghana, where his father Felix coached a professional team called GPRTU. Otto said his father is one of the biggest influences in his life and was his first phone call when he learned he won the Bronx tryout.
“I was really happy. I prayed about it every day and I was excited,” Otto said. “I called my dad right away. It was one of the best feelings in the world.”
The Cosmos will kick off their first season in the second-tier NASL Aug. 3 against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers at Shuart Stadium on the campus of Hofstra University.
They also hope to build a 25,000-seat stadium at Belmont Park in Elmont, L.I. The plan also includes a 175-room hotel, retail space and a new public park.
Barajas said it would mean everything to be on the Cosmos roster for that first game.
“For a club like this, with the history it has, it just makes everything more emotional,” Barajas said.
“Everyone as a little kid wants to play professional. Putting on a jersey that Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer and Carlos Alberto wore one day, that’s just amazing.”