Q&A with Former Monarch Joe Funicello Former USL defender currently playing in Iceland

USL Feature

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

An Italian-American, who grew up in Norwalk, Connecticut, Joe Funicello has two connections to United Soccer Leagues. His first was with former USL Super-20 League member the New York Red Bulls on their 2006 run to the league final. His second was last season with the USL Second Division Real Maryland Monarchs.

Between those two appearances on the American soccer ladder, Funicello spent a season with the Corinthian Casuals, an eighth-tier English side, and his current club Þór Akureyri, a second division team based in Akureyri, Iceland. somehow reached the 23-year-old defender in Iceland to highlight his climb through the ranks of U.S., European, and now, Icelandic soccer. Where did you play youth soccer?

Joe Funicello: I spent most of my youth career playing with (
USL Super-20 League member) Beachside Soccer Club out of Westport, Connecticut. This very successful youth program helped to develop great talents such as Marcus Tracy, Kyle Martino, Benny Feilhaber and John Raus. What about high school?

Joe Funicello: I played high school soccer for Norwalk High School in Norwalk, Connecticut. I was a four-year varsity starter and was named FCIAC League MVP two years in a row. I helped lead my team to the Connecticut State Finals, where we lost a hard-fought match to Newtown High School led by Marcus Tracy, current star of Aalborg, BK. How did you end up joining Red Bull?

Joe Funicello: Giovanni Savarese, who was the head of youth development and the MetroStars’ all-time leading scorer, brought me in for a trial. He felt that I had what it took to make the jump from high school into the pro game. I ended up signing a developmental contract with the MetroStars and spent six months training and playing with the reserves.

Because of my age and lack of professional experience, the club and I agreed that playing on the USL Super-20 League team would allow me to get more playing time and to develop more as a player. I finished my season helping them reach the North American Championship Match. There were a lot of changes happening with the MetroStars during this time. That was the year they became the New York Red Bulls. Changes in club personnel unfortunately led to me being released from the reserves/first team. I saw this as an opportunity to pursue a European career and headed to England for two years before returning to USL. How did you end up playing with Real Maryland?
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Joe Funicello: I was finishing my season in England with the Corinthian Casuals. Tom Taylor, a good friend of mine who had been playing with Real Maryland at the time, recommended me to Head Coach Anthony Hudson. Hudson invited me over for a trial and I signed shortly after. Did you enjoy your time there?

Joe Funicello: I loved my time at Real Maryland F.C. We clinched the playoffs for the first time in team history. It felt very good to be a part of that and USL history. I also learned a lot from Hudson. I feel he is an up-and-coming coach in the world of professional football. His knowledge and passion for the game is what I truly admire about him. Playing with Real Maryland also gave me the opportunity to make some great friends. I still keep in touch with them today. I definitely feel playing for Real Maryland and in the USL helped me grow and develop as a player. USL is a great league with a lot of great talent. It not only gave me more experience at the professional level, but it also allowed me to refine my skills as a defender. Guarding such strong forwards as Jamie Watson, Matthew Delicate and Ty Shipalane kept me at the top of my game. Talk about your time in Iceland with Þór Akureyri.

Joe Funicello: I signed a five month contract with them, which will see me through when the season ends in September. However, I have the flexibility to transfer to another team if a more lucrative opportunity presents itself. This type of contract suits me because my goal is to continuously progress to higher levels of play. With that being said, the team I am currently with is also a very well known club here in Iceland with a lot of great talent and opportunity to improve on my skills. I'm very excited to be playing for such a well known club. The head coach, Lárus Orri Sigurðsson, is also a well known name in the football world. He played for West Bromwich and Stoke City in the English Premier League and he also played for the Icelandic National Team on several occasions. He was West Bromwich Albion player of the season in the 1999-00 season. He is someone I greatly admire and hope to learn from while I am here. This club is known for moving players, mostly to England and other Scandinavian countries, which is exciting for someone like me. How did that trial/contract offer come about?

Joe Funicello: A 10-day trial was setup by my agent William Fitzgerald. He is a very well known Sports and Entertainment attorney for Rucci, Burnham, Carta and Carello, LLP. It’s a law firm based out of Darien, Connecticut. After the trial period, I was offered a contract by the club. What are the differences in styles of play between American and Icelandic soccer?

Joe Funicello: The USL is a very competitive league with a lot of individual technical talent. The pressure is very high and play is very direct. In Iceland, I feel it is more similar to most parts of Europe that focus more on possession and creating opportunities. What are your career goals?

Joe Funicello: I am always open to new opportunities abroad or at home. My goal is to continue to enjoy the beautiful game and improve myself every day. I hope to keep climbing the football ladder and one day play at the highest level possible.


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