BRIAN SCIARETTA - Tuesday, September 13, 2011
As the Israeli Premier League is now underway, Bryan Gerzicich and Haopel Kiryat Shmona are aiming for another run into the top of the table after last season's top five finish.
Gerzicich, 27, joined Kiryat Shmona at the start of last season from Hapoel Haifa. Kiryat Shmona had just earned promotion into the Israeli Premier League and Gerzicich was acquired to shore up the defensive midfield.
Gerzicich started the entire season for Kiryat Shmona as they remained in contention for a Europa League berth until the final weeks of the season. Finishing in fifth place was the best ever finish for the club that plays in the small village located in the northernmost point in Israel.
Gerzicich is optimistic that the team can continue the success this year and push for a spot in the Europa League. The team lost some key players during the offseason but Gerzicich insists that the valuable team chemistry from last year is still present.
"This year's expectations are to supersede last season's performance," Gerzicich told YA from Israel. "You always work to improve and continue to grow as a team and player personally. The reasons for the successful campaign we had last season were our unity, humility and hard work. We prepared a lot and had a good preseason so that things go better than last year."
The Israeli Premier League allows clubs to have five foreign players and Gerzicich currently takes up one of those spots for Kiryat Shmona. His play last season earned him the reputation as one of the best defensive midfielders in the Israeli Premier League which is a league that is improving steadily within UEFA.
Gerzicich is very happy at the moment playing at Kiryat Shmona but does admit that in the future he would be open to moving to a higher league.
"Today, there is nothing else on my mind other than Kiryat Shmona because I have a contract with them and am very comfortable here," Gerzicich stated. "However, you always aspire to move on to more competitive leagues for personal growth."
Gerzicich was born in Los Angeles to Argentine parents. When he was only three months old, he left the United States with his parents and has never returned.
Despite never having been back to the country of his birth, one of the leagues that does interest him is the MLS and he would be interested playing there one day.
"I have never had the opportunity to visit my country of birth," Gerzicich discussed. "I would love to be able to play in Major League Soccer, since its level of football keeps growing. I have many friends who have visited the US and speak highly of MLS."
In addition to MLS, Gerzicich is also open to the idea of returning to play in Argentina. Gerzicich grew up in Argentina and signed his first professional contract with Arsenal de Sarandi of the Argentine Primera Division.
In 2006, Gerzicich played with Arsenal de Sarandi's first team a number of times but he was recruited to go to Israel and quickly found better professional opportunities there. Now that he is a more polished player in his prime, a return to Argentina is also very appealing.
"Argentine soccer is very competitive and it took a lot to be able to sign my first contract and debut there," Gerzicich recalled. "Unfortunately, I was unable to get a lot of consistent play."
"Then an Israeli entrepreneur offered me a chance to go to Israel," he added. "He gave me a chance to visit the country before signing any contract. I spent a week with this person and I really liked the country. I also got the opportunity to play and, on the financial side, it really helped and that led me make my decision. But I remain eager to return to Argentina."
Gerzicich also holds out hope one day that his continued strong play will attract the interest of US national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. No players in the US national team player pool have come out of the Israeli Premier League but the league is improving steadily with the top teams now competing well in European competitions.
It is certainly an uphill battle for Gerzicich to make the US team but it is something that motivates him every day.
"I work to improve every day," Gerzicich concluded. "I have always hoped to play with the US National Team. It's the greatest thing that can happen to a player; to wear and defend the uniform of the country of his birth."