By: Michelle Mockler
Player: Anthony Calvano
Team: Harrisburg City Islanders
USL Interview #1
When did soccer first become a part of your life? Were you influenced to play by anyone in particular?
I started playing when I was 4.5 yrs old. Yes that’s 4.5 years old as I recall it and I think my team was called the green dinosaurs! I started playing because my older siblings were doing it.
During your college career you played at Pennsylvania State University. What was it like transitioning from being on the sidelines your freshman and sophomore year to appearing in all 40 games during your junior and senior seasons?
It definitely was a step up, but I definitely wasn’t just on the sidelines my freshman and sophomore year. I was benefited greatly from playing on the Club Soccer team at Penn State for my first 2 years. A lot of people don’t know how good the club level is at many universities. There are many universities out there that don’t have a varsity program so they pick from their entire student body to create a club team. There is a regional and national tournament that you have to qualify for. In my 2 years with the club team I was fortunate to make it to the national tournament and win it my freshman year and then lose in the quarterfinals the next year. We went 53 games unbeaten which I think is pretty incredible at any level. Needless to say I was playing a lot of good soccer and keeping in shape. I also was able to train and play with the varsity team in the spring both years so I kept myself in front of the coach to let him know that I was there to make the varsity team. The biggest transition was my position I was playing. I went from playing a defensive midfielder, pretty much my whole life, to playing outside back for the varsity team. I had to kind of learn on the fly to play that type of role, but it was an open spot for me to get on the field and in the starting lineup, so I was excited to do that!
Take me back to your professional debut, playing for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds during their opening match, describe that game.
It was pretty awesome. I was excited to be in the starting line-up and I remember thinking that it was just great to be playing soccer again. I came really close, just 3 months earlier, to accepting a teaching position and hanging up my boots. Other things I remember: It was actually here in Harrisburg on City Island. We lost 1-0. My coach got ejected, which would come to be a theme that year. I loaned my studs, from Penn State which I still have, to a senior member on the team because I didn’t like wearing studs and it was a really rainy evening. I was playing against a college teammate of mine at Penn State, Chad Severs.
Transferring to the Harrisburg City Islanders and playing every minute of their 2007 championship season must have been a great accomplishment for you. What other emotions came into play during this transfer?
Initially it was a bit nerve racking especially before the season because I didn’t even know if I would make the team. I was trying out for quite a while before I was offered a contract. Then of course it was my goal to be a starter. I’ve always prided myself on wanting to play at all times so playing every minute was what I wanted and expected to be honest. I realize now, I guess that doesn’t happen that often, but I still always want to be out on the field helping out my team.
What were some of the differences you experienced when you transferred to the Harrisburg City Islanders from the Pittsburgh Riverhounds? Describe the difference in team identity.
There were some obvious differences. In Pittsburgh we practiced in the evening and then here in Harrisburg we practice in the morning. It was my 3rd different coach in my 3rd year of playing professionally so there are always differences in coaching styles. The ownership was much more inviting and soccer oriented. I know Pittsburgh is that way now, but when I played there it was different owners who also owned a baseball team as well. I think it was more of a business venture for them, than a love of soccer and that really showed different once I came to Harrisburg. Probably why there are new owners in Pittsburgh now! When I came to Harrisburg, the year before, they had a tough year so there were quite a few new players that 2007 season. We found our identity and more so our great team chemistry, as we went on that season. When I look back we didn’t have a stand out player and I think that was our identity. We knew someone within the TEAM was going to come through for us and ultimately we did winning the Championship that year.
With the Harrisburg City Islanders recently making the quarterfinals of the Open Cup, this must be a big accomplishment for you. How do you feel about making it this far?
Yes it’s always a great accomplishment to go this far, but it’s definitely a team accomplishment. I just read that Harrisburg City Islanders is the first USL-2 team to make it to the Quarterfinals of the tournament in back to back years so that’s pretty cool. We also made it to the Quarterfinals in 2007 so 3 years out of 4 isn’t bad. Call me greedy, but I’d really like to make it to the Semi’s this year…at least!
What was your most memorable moment in your career thus far?
That’s a tough one; I’ve had a lot of memorable ones. To be honest some of the best memories come off the field being one of the guys on the team! Those memories are for a whole other article though. I’d have to say winning the championship in my first year here with Harrisburg is my most memorable moment. Specifically the final penalty kick being blocked and then the bus ride home from Richmond.
What are you hopes for the rest of the season? How do you plan on achieving these goals?
My personal goals are to play the rest of the season and help wherever I’m needed and whenever I’m needed. I’m going to try to stay healthy and injury free, by making sure I take care of myself. Team goals are to make the playoffs and also beat D.C. United to make it to the Semi’s of the U.S. Open Cup. I plan to be a leader by example on the practice field and the game field to help show our team that I expect to meet both of those goals.
How have you grown as a player since beginning your senior career five years ago?
I think I have grown a lot. I’ve tried to soak up what the elders on the teams before have talked about. Things like being in the playoffs, getting to a championship game, making it to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open cup don’t always come around and you have to make the most of them. Injuries can happen at any time and you really never know. Now I realize that I’m one of the older guys (still can’t believe it!) and need to pass that knowledge on to the younger guys. I also try to remind myself to enjoy it as much as possible because I love what I’m doing. I think there is always room to improve your game, so I’m always trying to get better at things I might not do that much in games or practice to make myself more versatile and dynamic.
What do you work on during the off-season that helps you better prepare for the season ahead?
I mainly work on staying in shape. I don’t like to get out of shape period, but more importantly to not struggle a lot when pre-season comes around. I try to find some soccer to play in the area, and kick the ball around with guys that stay around, before January comes around and we start having some pickup games. I also keep a ball in my house that every now and then gets kicked around and juggled without my wife watching of course.