Missing was Josep Gombau, the club’s head coach, who will take over the senior team when they debut in 2022. Gombau arrives from Barcelona at the start of March, so technical director Luis Gutierrez is taking the lead the first few weeks of training.
Gutierrez believes it will be a challenge for some players to adjust to the incoming coach’s tactics.
“I think it’s going to be a real challenge for the players,” he said. “Josep is a coach with a method and clear ideas that players have to learn and understand before they perform it on the field.
“Sometimes you find coaches who give freedom, but Josep has a clear methodology and it’s been proven to work,” Gutierez added. “He’s been successful in places like Australia, India, and China, and that’s something that’s not going to change.”
Early in February, QBFC announced their first three signings: Leo Guarino of East Rockaway, Maspeth native Piero Elias, and Spanish goalkeeper Pol Rodriguez Subirats. The trio were the first officially named to the academy’s 23-player roster, and the coaching staff are thrilled to get working.
Guarino spent time with multiple US Soccer Development Academy teams, playing for the NY Red Bulls and NYCFC. After NYC discontinued some of their academy teams, the attacking midfielder joined the NY Cosmos, who were forced to make a tough decision to indefinitely suspend play.
“I saw a talented player in a special situation,” said Gutierrez. “There were many players who couldn’t find a team, and we want to put him in a good spot because we think he’s a player for the future.”
Defensive midfielder Piero Elias was the second signee, and the first to come from the club’s home borough. A native of Peru, the defensive midfielder found a home in Queens, spending time with the Met Oval Academy, with a brief stint with NYCFC.
For Gutierrez, Elias marks an important first step in bringing out the brightest in local talent.
“We are very focused on the community here, we believe there is a lot of talent in Queens we have to discover.,” he said. “The local academies and clubs will play a big role for us.”
The club’s first foreign signing is goalkeeper Pol Rodriguez Subirats, who joins from Spanish third-division side Gimnástic de Tarragona. In the club’s first attempt to fuse international and local talent, coaches have faith in the young keeper’s ability to play Gombau’s game.
“The role of the goalkeeper is very different depending on the coach. We think they now have a bigger role, it’s not just what happens inside the box,” said Gutierrez. “From the beginning we wanted someone who understands the style and philosophy that Josep wants to implement.”
With time ticking down before they take the field for the first time, players and coaches alike recognize that there is plenty of work to be done.
“The players are dying for it,” said Juan Cruz, a former Bayside High School goalkeeper who tried out for the club. “The coaches bring a lot of intensity and the players bring a lot of emotion. “Everybody goes 1000 percent for every ball and they know that nobody’s places are there.”
“I think the hardest part right now is building a roster and bringing in players during the season,” said Gutierrez. “It’s a new team so it will be difficult, but it will be a great experience. For most of the players, I think it’ll be a privilege.”
For Gutierrez, the hard and endless work still rewards him and his fellow coaches. QBFC’s short history has had its fair share of setbacks, and in the face of adversity, the young club has set strong goals for community involvement and the creation of a truly great Queens soccer club.
“We’re creating everything from scratch and the process is amazing,” said Gutierrez. “Every day you have to find a new solution and you’re learning every day. That’s the beautiful part of creating a new club.”