With the NASL title game fast approaching this weekend, the NASL held a press conference call on Wednesday afternoon, bringing together players and coaches from the two teams that will battle for the right to hoist the Soccer Bowl.
And while it may be the first time the two coaches will directly compete with each other in a match with hardware implications, this season has hardly been the first time Giovanni Savarese and Tim Hankinson have crossed paths.
Hankinson shared that his awareness of Savarese and his playing ability dated back to the early days of MLS and his role in the league, a stint that ran from 1995 to 1998.
“I remember Gio playing at Long Island University and then Long Island Rough Riders and I was Director of Player Development in the first years of Major League Soccer, running the combines and Gio was on our list,” said Hankinson.” So, I’ve admired his game and his success and it’s great to see him translate that into his coaching style and have success as a head coach, as well.”
“It was great to be with him in the combine and know him from before,” shared Savarese when asked for his thoughts on the head coach of the Eleven.
Savarese later joined the Metrostars and spent time in MLS playing for them, the New England Revolution, and the San Jose Earthquakes between 1996 and 2000.
In 1998, Hankinson’s role changed as he became head coach of the Tampa Bay Mutiny before joining the Colorado Rapids in late 2000, remaining there until 2004.
“But, it was always difficult to play against Coach because Tim always made sure his groups were very much together; difficult to play against. So, we always had a hard time playing against his teams and it’s nothing different than what he’s doing right now with Indy. It’s a compact group that is able to get the best out of each player and that’s what he does best: to make sure he has a very good communication with the players and is able to get the best from them.”
Hankinson took over Indy in December last year and the effects of his changes were immediate. An undefeated Spring Season saw them claim their first piece of hardware after two straight seasons of 9th place finishes.
Savarese was complimentary of what Hankinson has built in his first year at Indy as he shared with TICCPod earlier this week.
“I think he brought good players. I think he united the group. I think at the moment they have a very good locker room and Tim has been able to get things together there and get his guys motivated, so big credit to him, big credit to what he has been able to create. He’s done it before with San Antonio in the past and now he’s done it with Indy so, you know, well done for him.”
The change was also apparent in the play between Indy and New York. After six straight draws in 2014 and 2015, none would be had this year. Indy claimed the spring leg with a stoppage time winner at home and both sides split the fall with a pair of 3-0 wins in their respective grounds.
This year was also not the first time that the two coaches crossed paths in the NASL. Tim Hankinson ran the San Antonio Scorpions in 2012 and 2013 before a rough start brought about dismissal from the club shortly after the start of the 2013 Fall Season.
The breaking point for his tenure there? A 2-1 loss to Savarese’s Cosmos.
Sunday will tell whether the Cosmos stay unbeaten at home against Indy or if Hankinson can get some retribution for his 2013 knockout.