Brian Conlon (center), with his former coach, Alfonso Mondelo (left) and ex-teammate Marjan Maksuti. (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
By Michael Lewis
FRANKLIN SQUARE, N.Y. — Back in the day when the American soccer landscape did not have professional outdoor leagues, there were still players who could play this game.
Brian Conlon was one of them. He played for the N.Y. Hota Bavarians and seemingly could score at will on the soccer field, whether it was in the Cosmopolitan Soccer League or the Northeastern Super Soccer League.
Whatever league he toiled in, Conlon found a way to lead it in goal-scoring — for 12 consecutive years.
“There has been no greater goal-scorer,” said Alfonso Mondelo, who coached Conlon during his glory days with the club. “I was very fortunate to have worked in professional soccer and have seen great scorers from all over the world and I have not seen a scorer like Brian Conlon in the United States.”
Strong words by someone who has worked in and for Major League Soccer for the past 22 years. Mondelo is the MLS technical director of competition.
Hota recently honored Conlon at its Christmas Party at the Plattduetsche Park Restaurant.
“I appreciate the honor,” Conlon told the club members at the holiday party. “But it wasn’t just about me. I didn’t score the goals without my teammates. A lot of them are here tonight. I won’t go through all their names. It would be too long.”
He did thank Hota president Dieter Emmerling, who he said was a like a father to him, Donato Cellucci, long-time Hota leader, whom he said was like a brother to him, and Mondelo, whom he said was his mentor.
“A lot the friends of mine are family,” he added.
No one has the exact amount of goals that Conlon scored for Hota and then for the N.Y. Pancyprian Freedoms, but given his usual scoring output of at least 20 goals a season it would be safe to say that he tallied at 250. Perhaps it was 300 or even 400 if you count exhibition and cup play that was not counted in the league goal-scoring totals.
“Brian could score goals from distance, he could score goals from his right, from his left, being on the end of combination plays, with his head, bicycles, goals from the kickoff from midfield. Brian scored them all,” Mondelo said. “We built the team around Brian. Everywhere Brian has played he has been the leading goal-scorer. Brian only stopped from scoring goals by a heart attack and having a quadruple by-pass.”
Mondelo remembered when he first saw Conlon as a teenager when the Hota first team training on Tuesday and Thursday night and the youth team on Wednesday and Friday. He was told there was an exceptional youth player who was scoring goals left and right and that he had to take a look.
“I don’t know if he was trying out for Hota or if he was trying out to be a lumberjack,” Mondelo said. “He came out with long orange pants from Carey High School. He had a plaid shirt like a lumber jack. He scored a goal here or there. He was pretty good.
“So, he came back for a few weeks and played with the youth team. On a certain week we were short of players. Let us bring him up to the first team. We brought him up to the first team, sat him on the bench. He was not happy sitting on the bench. Ten, 15 minutes towards the end of the game, he went in and he had a couple of opportunities he didn’t score.
“The following week he came on. I gave hm 30 minutes and this time he scored. There was long, looping ball into the area and somehow this kid gets up over everybody and knocks the ball into the back of the net. That was just the start. From then on, Brian Conlon got more and more playing time. One thing that impressed me was that he was not the most savvy soccer player I’ve seen, but he was tremendous in the box. If you gave anything in the box, he would put his face in front of a boot to score a goal.”
Mondelo wasn’t finished.
“Brian became a big-time player in Eastern New York and everywhere he played. For the next 12 years he was the leading scorer for every league we played. You want to see an array of goals? Well, I know he has them all up here.”
Mondelo then pointed to his head.
“We call him the kid, we call him the con man,” he said. “He is also known as the white rabbit. There has been no greater goal-scorer.”