Injured, isolated and broke, Guenzatti struggles in post-Cosmos world

IMAGE, NYCOSMOS.COM

by DAVE MARTINEZ

Sebastian Guenzatti gave everything to the New York Cosmos — and now, he has been left with nothing.

A local Queens product who left his home at the age of 18 to pursue his dreams of a soccer career, Guenzatti is a natural born risk taker; a tenacious give-it-your-all bomber that instantly won the hearts of Cosmos fans. Over four seasons, the former Francis Lewis High School standout appeared in 81 matches for the team, scoring 10 goals and adding six assists en route to three NASL Soccer Bowl trophies.

Four years later, he is broke, injured and once again living with his parents.

Guenzatti bared his soul in a tearful 20 minute interview with EoS, candidly speaking about what the Cosmos closure has meant to him — and his career.

“I cry because of the rage I have inside of me,” he said. “To be left without work and pay, it’s so difficult.”

When the team learned of ownership’s plans to shutter operations, no one was more affected than Guenzatti. The young midfielder burst into uncontrollable tears, forcing teammates to console him at the very moment they were processing the news themselves.

His pain was warranted and understood by all. While all the Cosmos players were left without a club, Guenzatti was now in danger of losing a career entirely. The former Huracan player picked up a devastating injury against the Ottawa Fury on October 9, just three matches short of the postseason. A ruptured ACL and invasive surgery not only forced him out of the team’s 2016 NASL Championship match — his first Soccer Bowl as a non-starter — but it has also left his career in a state of limbo.

“They promised me something that they never did, which was to help me through [my injury],” Guenzatti said, fighting back tears — and often losing the battle. “Honestly, they have completely abandoned me. It’s been a while now and they have helped me in nothing, in absolutely nothing, and it hurts to even mention [head coach] Gio [Savarese], but nobody has called me about my injury.

“It’s ugly,” he continued. “Especially after I have given everything to this club, winning titles as a starter, working hard. And at the end … to be re-paid like this …”

Guenzatti was one of several Cosmos players and staff to be laid off by the team in early December. At just 25 years of age, “Seba” is father to a young child and the bread winner for his family. He earned $3,500 dollars a month with the club in 2016 — a modest sum by any means. That amount is padded by his wife’s salary as a house cleaner as well — which is also modest, at best. And while the couple struggled to make ends meet before, they did just enough to keep their family afloat.

Now, their efforts to provide have been all but dashed, forcing Guenzatti to return to his parents home — with a wife and child in tow.

“I didn’t make the kind of money to say ‘OK, I will live off of my savings.’ Absolutely not. What I earned there was for my family and my son,” he said. “I am a family man. Living with my family won’t change me. I love being with family. But I have been living alone since I was 18 so its hard to move back in with your parents. But they understand what is happening and they are there for me — in the good times and the bad.

“Now we are just in a difficult moment.”

The Cosmos closure was a total surprise for the young midfielder. While he admits some problems, like continuous issues with backpay, caught his attention this season, he never envisioned a moment where the Cosmos would outright fold.

“They told us that there would be some changes and weeks went by where we were waiting and waiting and waiting — until ultimately the owner decided he was going to end the Cosmos,” he recalled. “Honestly, I am not sure why it happened, whether it was bankruptcy or something else. I mean, it would be better for us to see a new owner than to see it go bankrupt so we can actually get paid.”

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCERAlong with his wages for the month of November, Guenzatti is also owed a $1,000 Fall season bonus, $1,500 for the Championship victory and a bonus for reaching his games-played quota for 2016.

Until that money comes along, Guenzatti is drowning in uncertainty. While his ACL surgery was successful and his rehab, positive, the Uruguayan playmaker has been hobbled by the ailment, prohibiting him from not only continuing his playing career — but even from getting a normal job.

“I got injured on October 9 in Canada. At that time, the club gave me their backing, from the coaches to the owners, everyone. I feel horrible now because I feel like they abandoned me,” he manages to express through tears. “What hurts me the most is I haven’t received a phone call [from the front office]. Not a single phone call. Not even when it was time for me to move. I had to move all my stuff, with a bad knee, and on top of that without work or money … I can’t even get a regular job because of my injury. I can’t walk normally. I am totally limited for the next six months. And if I want to continue with my career, I have to watch my knee.

“It’s difficult. And the money won’t be there.”

One member of the Cosmos family that has come to bat for Guenzatti are the people at Peak Performance. The team’s preferred medical outlet, PP has promised to help the young winger through his rehab process.

“The owner of Peak told me not to worry. He knows what has been happening and told me he would help take care of it,” he said. “I am not sure who is paying, whether it was Cosmos or Peak, but there is no one in the offices so I don’t know.”

Even with his injury, teams have shown interest in the young midfielder. In fact, Marc Dos Santos of the San Francisco Deltas reached out over a month ago about his services. However, with the state of the league and his own injury concerns, Guenzatti isn’t holding out hope for another call.

Despite that, Seba continues to stay positive. His love for the sport has not diminished and his desire to return is still there. And while providing for his family is certainly the main motivator, he has also found another source of inspiration — the New York Cosmos fans.

“The fans, they leave me speechless,” he said, once again overcome with emotion. “They send me more messages than the Cosmos themselves. That says it all. In all the big games, where we showed more than what we truly were, in the Finals, against international teams. We were hard to play against. We were warriors. And [the fans] drove us forward. They motivated us, every game. They loved us, respected us. They are incredible.”

For now, the young midfielder is left to do two things: rehab his knee and make sense of this entire situation. Unfortunately, the latter has been more taxing on him than any physical ailment ever could be.

“It’s a rage that drives me to tears. I gave everything to this team. I don’t even have to say what I have done for this team in four years,” Guenzatti said, trying to find some way to describe his state of helplessness. “Honestly, I feel deceived by the club and how they treated me. They always did everything right by me. Then I got injured and they promised me a lot about helping me through recovery, but as of now, I haven’t received a call from anyone except from teammates.

“I am going through therapy everyday, trying to see what may come, for my future and my career. And if it isn’t a career in football for me, I will find a different path. It’s not what I want. I have dedicated my life to football. But I will figure that out with time as I recover.”