Giovanni Savarese, once upon a time a star forward on LIU Brooklyn’s soccer team, has scored again.
Savarese has just been named the manager of the Portland Timbers, which play in Major League Soccer’s Western Conference. And so, in barely half a dozen years of his managerial career, he’s risen to the top tier of professional men’s soccer in the United States and Canada.
Before he became a coach, Savarese made a name for himself as a ferocious player. After he graduated from LIU in 1994, Gio joined the Long Island Rough Riders before being drafted by the New York/New Jersey MetroStars (now the New York Red Bulls), where, soccer writer Dave Martinez writes, he was “the dynamic attacking marauder who won the hearts of MetroStars fans in the founding years of the league.”
Since then, Savarese has become “one of the hottest coaching commodities” on the continent, adds Martinez.
After Savarese joined the Cosmos in the USL Premier Development League, he led the team to the North American Soccer League title in 2013. He didn’t stop there. In 2016 his team, nicknamed the “Cardiac Cosmos” because of their heart-stopping tenacity on the field, won the third club title since he took over as their manager.
Born in Caracas in 1971, Savarese came to the U.S. with his parents from Italy and demonstrated his soccer prowess with the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds. As a senior in 1993, he earned All-American honors, having scored 50 goals in four years. During his 18-year professional playing career, he racked up 52 goals in 121 MLS regular-season and playoff appearances, according to MLSsoccer.com.
Merrit Paulson, owner of the Timbers, couldn’t be happier that he’s brought Savarese to Oregon. “Gio is an intelligent, attack-minded coach,” said Paulson in a statement provided by the team, “and is a driven individual who is both a great fit with us on and off the field. We are extremely pleased to welcome Gio and his family to Portland.”
Savarese called the move “ideal.”
“The passion, ambition and support surrounding this club is truly inspiring,” he said in a statement. “I am sincerely honored and grateful for this opportunity to lead it on the pitch and to build on the club’s history of success for the community and the incredible supporters of the Portland Timbers.”
He is their third full-time head coach since they entered the MLS.
Savarese likes to credit the trajectory of his success to his own coach at LIU, Arnold Ramirez.
“He was someone who was there all the time for all the players he coached,” Savarese recalled last summer when he was still involved with the Cosmos. “For me, that was a great lesson from a young age, to see how much he cared for us, not only from the standpoint of doing well in soccer, but that we advanced with our studies and in our lives—and that we developed as people.”
He enjoyed coaching the Cosmos but now he’s gone west to show what he can do at another level. Brooklyn’s loss is now Portland’s gain. But he’ll always be remembered here as a Blackbird who learned how to fly above the rest.