By Matt Ratajczak
As I sat with Paul Buckle overlooking the Metropolitan Oval and New York's skyline, Met Oval's newly-appointed Technical Director answered my questions about his decorated resume that includes FA Cup wins over English Premier League sides and playoff final wins at Wembley Stadium. The next question then seemed obvious: why the Metropolitan Oval?
As Paul explained in an interview about his appointment as Met Oval’s new Technical Director, “the challenge appeals to me. I had wanted to come to the U.S. for some time and the history and heritage of Met Oval captured my interest.” Buckle was quick to acknowledge his high regard for Met Oval’s Board of Directors when he said, “They just seemed like really good, smart people when I first met them; the kind of people that I want to work with.”
The challenge, as Buckle sees it, is to grow the Met Oval into a professional academy. If his first few months as Technical Director are any sign of what’s to come, the Metropolitan Oval is in store for tremendous growth in years to come. Said one parent while watching a weeknight training session, “The transformation of the club’s environment since before Paul arrived in the summer is unbelievable. He has instilled a level of soccer-specific professionalism that I’ve never seen in this country. I hope these young players know just how lucky they are to have him as a coach.”
When asked what type of environment he envisions creating and how he plans to achieve it, Buckle was blunt. He explained he will work to create a professional environment that will become a center of soccer excellence. He will implement high standards and instill an “us” and “family” environment in order to attract the best players in the NYC area. In so doing, Buckle wants to foster and develop elite players, which he described as players that are capable of playing for NCAA Division 1 colleges and universities, playing professionally, and playing for the U.S. national team.
Given the newly renovated office and locker room that overlook the field, and the high-quality soccer equipment readily available for every Met Oval team, Buckle’s plans are on their way to fruition. However, Buckle showed that he is by no means satisfied when he said, “I’m very eager to continue to improve the club, and I have a fantastic coaching staff to help.” He has recently named Hugo Guzman as Met Oval’s Assistant Technical Director to help him with operational tasks in addition to coaching. “Hugo has been a great asset for Met Oval since my arrival and is deserving of this position. I’m very happy he is on board,” said Buckle. According to Buckle, the Met Oval coaching staff has and will continue to work tirelessly in pursuit of his vision.
Aside from the obvious soccer-specific development, players will be able to take many valuable life skills away from their Met Oval experience during the Paul Buckle era. “Players will learn good manners, and the importance of respect, time-management, hard work, dedication, and honesty while playing for this club,” explained Buckle. He has claimed that players will be coached and encouraged to play with freedom and with expression, qualities he believes are most important for development.
Interestingly enough, Buckle did not identify many problems with soccer in the United States. Instead, he said that soccer is the same in every country and that it just needs to be approached in the right fashion. Buckle believes that all coaches are responsible for creating a safe, healthy, and challenging environment for the players. What’s more, clubs and coaches alike should be working together to get the best results, which, in Buckle’s eyes, include “players with smiles on their faces, strong disciplines, and warm hearts.”
When asked to describe himself as a coach, Buckle said the following: “Honest. Hard-working. Experienced.” And his arrival to the the Metropolitan Oval has coincided with a revamping of the club that has integrated the Board members who helped save and rebuild the Oval with a new generation of leadership in newly-appointed board members such as Alex Maffeo, Jeff Saunders, Michelle MacKay, Chris Welch, and Charlie Jacob.