MATARAZZO AIDING YOUTH DEVELOPMENT
While American players have generally had increased success in Europe over the past decade, the number of American coaches in Europe has remained stagnant.
Joe Enochs last year became interim head coach at Osnabruck in the 2.Bundesliga for a stretch of games and Gregg Berhalter is now the coach of Hammarby. But those occasions have been rare.
As a younger player Pellegrino Matarazzo moved to Germany to pursue a playing career. He played in the lower levels in Germany and finished out his playing career in 2010 with FC Nurnberg's second team.
Following a four year run with FC Nurnberg, Matarazzo remained with the club to pursue a career in coaching. Right now he is the assistant coach for Nurnberg's U-23 team but he also has a powerful position within club in terms of youth development.
For Matarazzo, 34, the transition into coaching was something he always knew he wanted to do even before he made the move to Europe in 2001.
"Even before I came to Europe as a player, I was coaching in camps and I really enjoyed it," Matarazzo told YA. "I kind of always knew that I was always going to stay involved in the game. Right now I'm coaching but I'm also doing other things that are soccer related but not coaching. The clear decision was made to become a coach when I came to FC Nurnberg [in 2006]."
FC Nurnberg was interested in keeping Matarazzo as a coach while he was still a player. In the last year of his playing career Matarazzo was also an assistant coach for the reserve team. After the season they offered Matarazzo the chance to stay with the club as a coach and to work in youth development while he began the long process of getting his coaching licenses.
Right now Matarazzo holds a UEFA "A" license and hopes to obtain his UEFA "Pro" license within two years.
"It's a lengthy process but that's also part of the reason why I came to this club," Matarazzo explained. "They also offered me an opportunity to get my licenses and work my way into coaching. That's what I decided do and they've been very supportive of that."
Normally, an assistant coach to the club's U-23 team would not have significant power within the club's entire organization but Matarazzo has helped the club significantly with regards to their development of younger players.
FC Nurnberg, like many other Bundesliga clubs, is very structured. Aside from the senior team, the club has teams ranging from U-23 all the way down to U-8. Matarazzo has been a key figure for the club in coordinating the teams in how they train and work with players.
"I developed and implemented a new concept for the top U-23 and U-19 players [at FCN] to aid them into professional soccer," Matarazzo said. "That means in-depth strength and weakness analysis along with individual training programs. We meet once a week with the first team head coach to talk about the state of their performances.
"I'm also involved with the DFB," he added. "They have certain elite schools for soccer and our club has cooperation with one of those schools and I coordinate that. That means I organize the kids and I instruct the coaches. I was also involved with athletic training and I ran the whole athletic program here from the U-12s to the U-23s for two years."
"The most valuable experience for me is the last two years when I was a very big part of setting the entire curriculum for all the teams here from the U-8s to the U-23s. There were five or six of us who set up training programs and the content of each training session. It was very in-depth and was a very great experience."
Matarazzo was born in New Jersey and he comes from an Italian-American family near New York City. Like many other American soccer players, he developed his game in the United States before moving abroad.
As a coach he has taken the opposite route and has developed his coaching skills first in Europe. Since Germany has one of the best youth development systems in the world, Matarazzo believes he started in the right place.
"Here at FC Nurnberg, our youth teams are at a very high level," Matarazzo discussed. "If I was in the States, I'm not sure that structure is there with the academies right now. Here in Germany I have a certain experience and insight into how an academy can and should be run. I don't think I would have seen that in the States."
While he is currently in Germany and is in the process of obtaining his final license, Matarazzo does have a long-term goal of returning to the United States to develop the game in his home country. The game has changed significantly in the United States in recent decades but the number of coaches there who have his experiences remain few.
Matarazzo's ideal goal is to get involved with US Soccer with their youth development but he is also very open to getting into MLS as a figure who would have a powerful position in how academies there are run.
"I'm thinking of going other way around," Matarazzo said of his future. "Even if I don't get my UEFA pro license, I want to use my experience and knowledge to somehow help out US Soccer."
Matarazzo does not see himself having a very long career in Europe but he also does not know exactly when he will return to the States. Either way, he does look forward to that opportunity.
"I'll stay here until I realize I'm not moving forward anymore but as long as things are moving in a positive direction and learning, I'll stay," Matarazzo concluded. "But as once I realize I've reached a limit, then I'm going to try to take that back home to States. That could be next year or in four years. I don't know yet. But I think the experience I've gained here as a player and a coach is something that not a lot of people have. I think I have a lot to offer."