Sacir Hot has taken on a new challenge. He will be guiding FC Motown from the sidelines as head coach when the Garden State Soccer League club kicks off its 2017 US Open Cup qualifying campaign against New York Greek American SC on September 11.
The 25-year-old New York Red Bulls Academy grad was RBNY's fourth-ever Homegrown signing - back in 2011. The club (and MLS player development methodology in general) has come a long way since then. RBNY didn't nurture its youth prospects quite so well back in those days. The Red Bulls released Hot in February 2012, less than a year after he'd joined Bobby Wood, Sebastian Lletget, and Perry Kitchen on the USA U-20s roster for the 2011 CONCACAF U-20 Championship.
As noted when Once A Metro checked in with Hot last year, he may no longer be a player for RBNY but he is still a fan - which would make a Motown-RBNY match-up in USOC 2017 very interesting. However, even the possibility of any such game is a long way off. FC Motown is one of 64 amateur teams contesting the Open Cup qualifying rounds for spots in the tournament's first round proper next year. There are at least three qualifying rounds to get through just to get to the main draw, and FC Motown has its work cut out for it simply to get past its first opponent.
The Greek Americans are one of US soccer's more successful clubs, winning USOC four times (a hat-trick of titles from 1967 to 1969, and again in 1974), and winning the USASA Amateur Cup in 2014.
FC Motown's history is a little shorter. The club's origins are in Morristown's No Idea Sports League as a co-ed rec team. But it has been the dominant team in GSSL's Super Division over the last two seasons, and its new head coach has high hopes for the club.
The Motown squad includes midfielder Emerson "Emmo" Lawrence, a Villanova alum who has trained with NYRB II. Maximiliano Garcia played his college soccer at Seton Hall, and was considered to be among the better creative attacking options eligible for the 2014 MLS draft. Andres Berriel and Rodrigo Santiago are Uruguayan attackers with pro club experience in their home country: the former with El Tanque Sisley; the latter with Juventud de Las Piedras and Canadian Soccer Club.
Sacir Hot hasn't stopped playing entirely. FC Motown is affiliated with Cedar Stars Academy in the Cosmopolitan League (the league the Greek Americans are in, incidentally). Hot joins a few of his Motown players on the Cedar Stars roster. For the GSSL outfit, he says he'll "jump in if I have to", and expects his role to be "80% coaching, 20% playing."
But Coach Hot's immediate focus is on Motown's USOC match on September 11. He took a moment from his game planning to answer a few questions for Once A Metro.
Once A Metro: Is this a long-term appointment?
Sacir Hot: Long-term appointment...potentially. Evaluating time horizons is tough in the soccer world, but this is a club on the move that I am happy to be leading.
OAM: What brought about the move into coaching?
SH: I believe that we all have a destiny in life. I noticed from a young age I was always talking and directing on the field, which lead to me always being the captain. I also noticed that, when I was younger, I would always analyze the pro's movements whenever I watched a game at Giants Stadium - whether it was MetroStars or the international games. So I feel like my journey through the professional soccer world was just a learning experience that set me up for coaching.
OAM: Why FC Motown?
SH: FC Motown provides a platform where the founders, Scott Kindzierski and Dan Karosen believe I can take the club to the next level given my experience. It has been a meteoric rise for FC Motown: from a team in the No Idea Sports league to one of the top semi-pro teams in the nation. Four players have already gained contracts off of FC Motown, and others have had trials. It is a unique situation. Hopefully, I can push the players and allow them to take that final step to achieve their pro dreams.
OAM: In the locker room and in training, what kind of coach are you? One of the guys? An Alex Ferguson, teacup-throwing type? A passing-percentages and expected-goals guru?
SH: Carlo Ancelotti has always been my coaching idol, so if I were to compare [my coaching style] to anyone it would be him. To get the best out of players in the men's game, you need to understand that you're not only coaching a player, but also talking to a grown man. To get the most out of a player, you have to have a mutual personal respect. You never hear players speaking sourly about Ancelotti because he gets the players to like him personally at every club.
OAM: Are you tactically ideological? Do you have a way you want to see your team play?
SH: Yes, I'm very tactically oriented. Being from the Balkans, I grew up on Italian football. Also, I was never really the athletic type: I knew how to read the game well and position myself to make it to the next level. At the senior level, it's too late to work on individual techniques, so the next step is tactics. For me, that is the difference between the champions and the rest of the pack.
As far as playing style, I try to incorporate the RBNY system. It is hard, however, to get our players as fit as the RBNY players, so I try to imitate based on our fitness level.
OAM: How long have you had to work with the players, and what can we expect to see from them in this game?
SH: We have had about four weeks of training before our first game, but I've known the majority of the players for a long time. You can expect to see a lot of possession from our midfield players, attacking flair from South American forwards, and defenders who are not afraid to play out of the back. Collectively, we will put pressure on our opponents as the Red Bulls do.
The match kicks off at 7:00 pm on Sunday, September 11 at Athenia Steel Park in Clifton, NJ. UPDATE: