UNIONDALE, L.I. — Sebastian Guenzatti had always wanted to be a professional soccer player. It was his dream in his native Uruguay and it remained true when his family moved to College Point when he was 11 years old.
Eleven years later, Guenzatti is living that dream with the New York Cosmos.
“I was waiting for this opportunity for like two years, since Gio told me about it,” Guenzatti said of competing for the Cosmos.
Gio is Giovanni Savarese, the Cosmos' head coach. The Venezuelan first coached Guenzatti with the Met Oval U-18 Academy team when the midfielder was 16. Savarese knew immediately Guenzatti was a different breed.
“He never missed a practice. He was always at every single training, regardless if it was snowing or if he didn’t have anyone to take him there. He would find a way to be there,” Savarese said. “He played with a passion. He didn’t want to lose. Every time he stepped on the field he gave you 100 percent because he wanted to make the best of it and he was hungry to do well.”
Guenzatti was a standout at the historic Metropolitan Oval in Maspeth, which is the first place he played when his family moved to Queens. The same was true at Francis Lewis High School in Fresh Meadows, where he helped the Patriots become a perennial powerhouse.
While other elite players choose to hone their skills in college, Guenzatti went a different route, jumping at the chance to play professional soccer. It meant leaving his family in Queens and going back to his native Uruguay to play with adults.
He spent two-and-a-half years in Uruguay, most recently competing for Segunda Division club Huracan FC, where he made nine appearances.
“It was a good experience,” Guenzatti said. “I got a lot out of it. I played with big players.”
All the while, though, Guenzatti remained in contact with Savarese, whom he considers a mentor and friend. When Savarese learned of the second incarnation of the Cosmos and that he’d be the head coach, he immediately reached out to Guenzatti.
“I thought it was the time to come back,” Guenzatti said. “The Cosmos have a big past, so I thought it was the right time and the right team. They’re coming up and I’m trying to pay Gio back for everything he’s done for me.”
Guenzatti, who signed with the Cosmos in July, proved to Savarese that he improved as a player. He was one of the club’s best players in the preseason, even scoring a spectacular goal in a preseason loss at Leyton Orient in England.
“He’s more mobile. He moves the way we like and really covers a lot of ground during the game,” Savarese said. “That’s important with us. Physically he has grown — taller, stronger, more powerful. That also helps him to get to the different areas. He’s able to go through players one-on-one and [is] comfortable on the ball to go at players, which is a good quality to have on a team.”
Guenzatti would have likely been in the Cosmos' starting lineup for their first match in 30 years, but a FIFA paperwork snafu forced him to sit and watch as the Cosmos defeated the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in front of a sellout crowd at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium August 3.
Guenzatti said he heard there was the possibility he wouldn’t be able to play three days before the match. But the official word came down the day before it.
“I was home and my world went down,” Guenzatti said. “I didn’t have any words. I didn’t want to talk to anybody that day. I just stayed home.”
Guenzatti made his regular season debut a week later as a starting midfielder in a 0-0 draw at the Tampa Bay Rowdies. He also started last week against the Carolina RailHawks, but was sent off in a 3-0 loss following a straight red card in second-half stoppage time.
As a result, Guenzatti had to serve a one-game suspension and was unable to play in the Cosmos' second home match Saturday against the San Antonio Scorpions.
It was yet another bit of disappointment, but Guenzatti is too determined to let another setback affect him.
“There’s a lot of people who can’t wait to watch me play, and I can’t wait for the next game,” Guenzatti said. “The Cosmos experience is once-in-a-lifetime. You never know if you’re going to get this again, so I’m taking it and listening to the older guys and learning every day.”