Photo courtesy of Long Island Rough Riders
Since the Long Island Rough Riders formalized their partnership with Major League Soccer’s New York City FC in the spring of 2016, Flavio Ferri has raised the bar for the Premier Development League franchise.
Ferri has been a part of the Rough Riders organization since 2004, previously serving as a technical director for the youth side before taking over as General Manager in 2007 – when the club officially became a PDL franchise.
He maintained that role as the club won the Mid Atlantic Division title and Eastern Conference title in 2011, but when the PDL team announced its affiliation with NYCFC last year, Ferri took control of the head coaching position.
“We are able to carry college players NYCFC may be interested in,” Ferri told USLPDL.com. “I then update NYCFC on their progress. When NYCFC Academy players age out of the U.S. Development Academy, they have a local PDL club to play for connected to NYCFC.”
The affiliation has helped mold Ferri’s strategy when it comes to leading the Rough Riders in the PDL. He wants his team to have more of the possession and be sharp and clean on the ball – similar to how he sees New York City FC training and playing week in, week out in MLS.
“Generally, at higher levels, players have less time on the ball so rapid and precise decision-making and speed of play are crucial,” Ferri said.
“From attending NYCFC’s first-team sessions and meeting with their scouting and technical departments, I have been given access to what they are looking for as far as players go. The coaching philosophy we try to implement has to do with possessing the ball but always looking to be positive and penetrate. Defensively, the idea is to apply immediate pressure on the ball in order to win it back as quickly as possible.”
The relationship between the PDL franchise and MLS club extends off the field as well.
“They provide us with technical know-how and support,” Ferri added. “The affiliation also further legitimizes our program as far as a pathway to pro. Having had two of our former players drafted in this year’s MLS SuperDraft, the partnership should help ensure we attract quality players who eventually make it to MLS.”
Houston Dynamo and Rio Grande Valley FC midfielder Joe Holland and Swope Park Rangers midfielder Dakota Barnathan previously played for the Rough Riders and were each selected in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft. The club has had multiple players reach the professional level over the years, including Ryan Meara (New York Red Bulls II), Tim Melia (Sporting Kansas City), Mike Grella (New York Red Bulls) and Tim Parker (Vancouver Whitecaps FC).
Now in his second season in charge since New York City FC officially partnered with the Rough Riders, Ferri expects more and more Rough Riders to make their way to the next level in the near future. University of Hartford center back Andre Morrison, who has shined in the America East Conference during 2016 and previously trained for the Jamaica Under-23 Men’s National Team, is just one of many talented players on Ferri’s roster this season.
“The PDL has established itself as the league to play in for young players aspiring to become professionals,” Ferri said. “The PDL is a highly competitive league with tremendous diversity as far as players and coaches are concerned. This makes for exciting and unpredictable soccer.
“There is great comradery and respect amongst franchises, coaches and players,” he added. “This is very enjoyable for me to be a part of. Off the field, the PDL has great structure with a large footprint but is still has very much a personal feel as far the league staff goes.”