When I arrive at Shuart Stadium at Hofstra University tonight, it will be a homecoming of sorts for me. Sure, the Cosmos will also be there; after all, they played at Hofstra during their first two seasons in 1972 and 1973…three years before I was born. But from 1984 to 1994, I roamed the sidelines of the then-named Hofstra Stadium.
During that ten year period, my dad was the varsity boys’ soccer coach at Hicksville High School, and five times played in the Nassau County Championship at Hofstra. For all five of those Championships, I ran up and down the near sideline as a ball boy, usually in many layers of clothing to protect from the late November elements but always in the familiar black and orange of the Comets. As a 9 year old, that stadium seemed enormous; it might as well have been Giants Stadium. And the players, too, were sometimes larger than life, many of whom treated me like a little brother. Our family celebrated my dad’s two wins and cried over his three losses, one of which came down to shootouts. (A shootout, not to be confused with penalty kicks, was the most exciting play in soccer. Even at the high school level, it was incredible theater with relatively so much on the line.)
I already know that I’ll be reliving many memories tonight, and will undoubtedly share this story with my fellow Long Island soccer fans. While I was too young in the Seventies and Eighties to appreciate the Cosmos, I was not too young to appreciate the Comets. I’m excited to see the legendary Cosmos players tonight, but I’ll be just as excited to run into a few former Comets. For they are forever tied to some of my oldest and greatest soccer memories.
[On a side note, by dad has been the varsity boys' coach at Cold Spring Harbor High School for more than fifteen years since his Hicksville tenure. During this time, he has coached countless collegiate players and one former MLS player, Alex Grendi. Combining his time at Hicksville and at Cold Spring Harbor, he has won ten Nassau County Championships. One County Championship alluded him in 1998 at the hands of none other than Carlos Mendes, the Cosmos' captain. I always rooted against Carlos for obvious reasons, but tonight I'll be rooting for him.]