LIVING HIS DREAMS At the Theatre of Dreams as Calderone finds himself at Old Trafford as Cosmos GK
Chad Calderone: "To have this coming from that, it's unbelievable. To get to play a team like Manchester United, one of the top, one, two, three, four, five teams every year and knowing their history is incredible."
Photo courtesy of the New York Cosmos
By Michael Lewis
Eight years ago, Chad Calderone was told that that his dream of pursuing a pro soccer career was over after suffering a horrific knee injury.
On Friday, Calderone, quite fittingly, will enter the "Theatre of Dreams" -- the legendary Old Trafford, home of Manchester United -- as the New York Cosmos backup goalkeeper.
As a member of the the Cosmos Under-23 team, Calderone was one of eight players selected for the team's roster for Paul Scholes' testimonial game in Manchester on Friday (Fox Soccer Channel, 2:30 p.m. ET).
Please pardon the 31-year-old Calderone if he has to pinch himself because sometimes he cannot quite fathom what has happened to him.
"To have this coming from that, it's unbelievable," he said earlier before departing for England earlier this week. "To get to play a team like Manchester United, one of the top, one, two, three, four, five teams every year and knowing their history is incredible."
"It's weird," he said. "It's like all my stars are aligned is pretty special."
It seemed that the stars were aligned against Calderone eight years ago when he injured, not one, but both knees during a 7 v 7 match with friends. He was playing as an outside fullback. Calderone had the ball, but was tackled, getting hit above the right knee and below the left knee.
His right knee suffered tears in his ACL, MCL and PCL. Both of his menisci were tore.
The Baldwin, N.Y. native needed two surgeries and wound up going to Maryland to get a special shot to build collagen for soft tissue in his MCL.
Needless to say, doctors were not optimistic.
"It's like a movie story," Calderone said. "Doctors told me, 'It's not going to happen. It's not going to be the same.' "
But the 6-1, 180-lb. Calderone did not give up, although it would be two years before he could play again, although he admitted he feared he might not play again.
"It was in the back of my mind," he said.
But he perservered.
"It's no different than anybody who plays soccer," he said. "If you're good at something when you're young, you get a love for it."
That love, that passion helped keep Calderone focused on returning as a player.
"it's just being with your teammates, getting better over time," he said. "Just the people you meet. At the end of the day, you're playing a game and it's fun. The people around me. My mom, dad, and my girlfriend. They all supported me, which is important."
As for his knees, Calderone said that he is at 100 percent.
"It's not a problem at all," he said. "I have to do extra work to keep the leg in shape. It's been a blessing in disguise."
Until the injury, Calderone had known much success as a goalkeeper.
He played his youth soccer for Rockville Centre and Albertson in the Long Island Junior Soccer League and East Fishkill in the East Hudson Youth Soccer League. He helped Kellenberg High School to a Long Island championship and was named to an All-State and All-Region player. He was Patriot League rookie of the year in 1999 before he transferred to Old Dominion University.
During his comeback, Calderone played and trained with the Long Island Rough Riders with Paul Grafer, the former MetroStars goalkeeper who is the U.S Under-17 goalkeeping coach. He went to train with AC Colorno in northern Italy
After returning to the United States, former St. John's University standout Jeff Matteo convinced Calderone to play for the N.Y. Pancyprians, one of the top amateur teams in the metropolitan area. The Panpyprians won the U.S. Amateur Cup championship last year.
"That organization for me has just been awesome," Calderone said. "They have allowed me to get back into goalkeeping shape."
To pursue his dreams of playing professionally, the Astoria, N.Y. resident has remained in soccer at yet another level -- as a trainer for youth teams.
He trains three teams with the Plainview-Old Bethpage Soccer Club -- the Gunners (Boys Under-14), Panthers (Boys U-11) and New York (Boys U-10).
Matteo came calling again earlier this year and told Calderone about the Cosmos.
The Cosmos, who are trying to return to the big time as an expansion team in Major League Soccer, had create an Under-23 team to play exhibition games against Premier Development League teams along the east coast. Calderone jumped at the opportunity to play with them.
"I had no idea that type of opportunity was there," he said. "It's like a dream come true. It's so cheesy. It's unbelievable."
Calderone said he thanks Matteo "everyday for this and he tells me to stop."
Because the Cosmos played an exhibition schedule, they were able to use players over the age of 23.
Calderone admitted he did not know if he will play against United on Friday.
He said the coaches told him "just to expect to play and be prepared for that and deal with it if I don't."
But he got an opportunity to train with former U.S. international goalkeeper Brad Friedel, who was expected to start for the Cosmos.
"I don't try to put too much pressure on myself if I do get this chance. Just embrace it."
But there has been pressure. Calderone admitted he has had trouble sleeping with the excitement of the match.
"I don't have trouble sleeping normally, but I've had so much on my mind," he said. "I've never played at this level of the game. You wonder how fast the game is going to be like."
While Old Trafford will be a high point for Calderone, he doesn't expect it to be an end point. Goalkeepers reach their prime in their thirties and he still has aspirations of playing professionally.
"I love to play and I love playing at the highest level that I can," he said. "My aspirations when I was younger was to be the best around and I will keep playing until I don't.
"If I can catch on at the next level, whether it is USL PRO o, MLS, I would love to do that.""
All things considered, just getting a chance to possibly play at Old Trafford, that's certainly not too shabby for someone who was told he might not play again.