Chris Wingert: “Hopefully, I’m going to be helpful in a small way. I’m looking to help any way I can in terms of trying to bring the group together.” (Photo courtesy of MLS)
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Chris Wingert could not have asked for a better fit than Cosmos B.
After calling it a Major League Soccer career with Real Salt Lake, the former St. John’s University standout was looking for a team while he prepared to embark on the next chapter of his soccer career.
Then Cosmos B head coach Carlos Mendes made a phone call to his long-time friend about playing for the National Premier Soccer League team.
“Hey, look, this is the situation,” Wingert said Mendes told him. “We’re going to play in the NPSL. I’m going to be the coach. Would you be interested?”
To which Wingert replied: “Absolutely.”
“It’s perfect, honestly, it’s perfect,” he added after training at the Mitchel Athletic Complex recently. “I’m excited and looking forward to it.”
A Babylon, N.Y. native, Wingert has brought a wealth of experience and success to Cosmos B. As a 14-year veteran, he has played for four MLS teams, mostly with RSL, where he won the 2009 MLS Cup. He also performed for the Columbus Crew, Colorado Rapids, and New York City FC and made 16 appearances for the U.S. Under-23 national team.
“He’s going to be a massive piece, a massive leader on this team with a lot of experience, helping us and helping the younger guys,” Mendes said.
As teenagers, Wingert and Mendes played several years for the Dix Hills Soccer Club in the Long Island Junior Soccer League and became friends. After turning pro, they trained together and organized winter practice sessions for many metropolitan area players, including former pros Edson Buddle, Kyle Martino and Jordan Cila, among others.
“He’s played at every level,” Mendes said. “He’s won. He’s been a champion. He leads by example. He shows respect to every player on the field, whether it’s an opponent or whether it’s a teammate. He’s an honest player, a very smart player — tactically, very, very good. That’s why I’ve always been a fan of his even from a young age. He’s a great guy to have in the locker room and we’re lucky to have him.”
Wingert, 35, who has embraced being a team leader, can’t wait for the season to begin. Cosmos B will kick off its year against the Brooklyn Italians in a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play-in match at Long Island University Brooklyn on Sunday, May 6 at 8 p.m.
“Hopefully, I’m going to be helpful in a small way,” he said. “I’m looking to help any way I can in terms of trying to bring the group together. I do think we have a good mix of young guys and also some veteran pros — Johnny Borrajo and Danny Szetela — and a few other guys. We have a good mix of the two. It’s coming together pretty well. It’s not easy, either because we have only a few weeks to prepare and we’re only training a few times a week. We’re trying to get it together as much as we can and do a lot in a short amount of time.”
The 5-11, 170-lb. Wingert has played mostly center back and right back.
“I would prefer to play in the middle, just ahead of the back four in a No. 6 role or play center defender,” he said. “I would rather play there than on the outside. It’s totally up to Carlos. I’ll play wherever he wants.”
As for Wingert’s next step, he hasn’t made up his mind quite yet. There are a couple of options on the table, including becoming a player agent or a technical director of an MLS club.
“It’s going to take a little while for both of those things to pan out for different reasons,” he said. “Another reason why this is perfect because of the timing. I’ll play for a few months and hopefully let one of, if not a couple of these options play out and we’ll see if they’re actually job offers.
“I’d look forward to either one of those sides of professional soccer.”
Right now, Chris Wingert is looking forward to making an impact for Cosmos B.
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