This weekend former Stony Brook soccer star Leo Fernandes will be suiting up as a member of the home team for the first time at Hofstra University’s James M. Shuart Stadium.
Not to worry Seawolves fans, Fernandes will not be wearing the uniform of the rival Pride. He instead will be making his home debut as a member of the New York Cosmos.
This past January, Fernandes signed a one-year loan contract with the Cosmos, a team in the North American Soccer League that plays home games on the campus of Hofstra University.
The NASL is a second division-league of the United States soccer league system which contains three-divisions.
After getting two valuable years of experience as a member of Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union, Fernandes looks to keep his pro career moving in a positive direction in the 2015 season with New York
“I thought it would be a great opportunity for myself to get games in. I’m still young in my career, and I think I can help out the Cosmos a lot this year,” Fernandes said just prior to his first game with New York.
“[My personal goal] is to try and get better every day and try to impact the game as much as I can to help the team win.”
The 23-year-old midfielder did not wait long to make a positive impact with his new team. In the Cosmos’ spring season opener against Fort Lauderdale on April 4, Fernandes scored the game’s lone goal.
His score on a header from just outside the six-yard box in the 58th minute would be all his team would need to secure an opening night victory.
Scoring big goals is nothing new for Fernandes, who came up large time and time again while playing for the Seawolves.
During his four seasons with the Stony Brook soccer team, he became the program’s all-time leader in points and took home the America East Midfielder of the Year award three times.
“Those were amazing times,” Fernandes said when asked about his collegiate playing days. “We had a great team, and I had two great coaches. I thought the four years were really good, and I learned a lot at Stony Brook.”
During Fernandes’ senior season, during which he led the Seawolves with nine goals and seven assists in 18 matches played, he was selected in the fourth round of the 2013 MLS Supplemental Draft by the Union.
“It was an unforgettable experience,” Fernandes said. “Just to get drafted is a huge accomplishment. And when you get drafted it’s not a guarantee you make the team. So when I went into the preseason the focus was to perform every day in practice, and luckily I was able to get a contract out of it. So that was a very positive experience.”
After bring drafted, Fernandes briefly played for the Harrisburg City Islanders of the United Soccer League on a loan. But Fernandes quickly found his way back to Philadelphia, making his first MLS start on July 3, 2013.
Once he earned a regular spot on Philadelphia’s roster, Fernandes had to adjust to the grueling schedule that comes with participating at a professional level.
“It’s very tough, because the college season is only three months, and then you play the pro season, which is 10 months,” he said. “But, I thought I adjusted pretty well. It was a good rookie year for myself, and I was happy with the way it went.”
Fernandes’ playing time was limited during his rookie season, as he appeared in just seven games and logged only 281 minutes. But in his sophomore campaign, Fernandes saw a major increase in time on the field, as he appeared in 13 games, started seven and logged 697 minutes.
He also notched his first three career points, finishing the year with two goals and an assist. The assist took place in the Union’s home opener last season, and stands out as one of Fernandes’ most memorable moments so far as a pro.
“I got an unexpected start, and we happened to win the game 1-0,” he said. “I had the assist to win the game, so that was definitely my favorite moment.”
Fernandes hopes to create more memorable moments this season with the Cosmos, as he makes his return to Long Island.
With his new team slated to play four times at Hofstra during the NASL spring season, the North Babylon native will give his family and friends a much easier commute for when they come and watch him play.
“My family drove to Philly to come watch all the home games, so they should definitely be at every game now,” the midfielder said about playing here. “I’m happy that I can play in front of my friends and family again, which is gonna be really nice.”
The 23-year-old will make his return to Long Island on Saturday night when the Cosmos host Tampa Bay. The match with the Rowdies is set to begin at 7 p.m.