By Keith Mills
Ever since Giuliano Celenza was old enough to remember, he had a soccer ball on his foot.
"I started playing when I was 3," said Celenza. "They told my mom I had to play Under-10 because I couldn't play clinic. So when I was 5, I was playing U-10. It was a little scary at first because the kids were so big. But I got used to it."
|Come September, Giuliano Celenza will begin his second decade with the Blast. (Sabina Moran/PressBox)|
When coach Danny Kelly assembles his team in late September for training camp, Celenza will be beginning his second decade with the Baltimore Blast. To no one's surprise it has been a career loaded with success. The Blast won five indoor soccer championships with Celenza scoring goals and making big plays, exactly what he's been doing since a soccer ball first landed on his right foot more than 30 years ago.
Maria and Anselmo Celenza didn't come to America so their sons Anthony and Giuliano could play soccer -- but that's what happened. The Celenza boys played every day around their Highlandtown row house. Anthony was good, but Giuliano was exceptional.
"My brother helped me a lot," said Anthony Celenza. "As a matter of fact, if you're going to talk about the coaches that helped me out, you have to put him on the list."
And what a list it is.
In fact, Giuliano Celenza (or Giuls as he's called) may have set a record for most teams played for and most games played in as a young player. He was born in December 1978 and has played for no less than a dozen amateur, club, high school and college teams before finding a fitting home with the Blast:
• The Curley Inn: Coach Rich Cuomo, a graduate of Dulaney and member of the Maryland Soccer Hall of Fame, played at the University of Baltimore and was a member of Dick Edell's coaching staff when the Bees won the 1975 Division II NCAA championship.
• St. Elizabeth's: Denny Woodward, a former player with both the Washington Diplomats and Baltimore Bays.
• Pompei: Dominic Mastroianni
• Little Flower CYO: Nick Comadori
• UN Club: Emil Shott
• Baltimore Football Club: Cuomo and Maurice Boylen. Boylen spent 18 years as the girls’ soccer coach at McDonogh before joining the staff at McDaniel College two years ago.
• Soccer Club of Baltimore - Post 38: John Becker
• Columbia United Soccer Club: John Ellinger. Celenza helped Columbia win the 1997 Under-19 national club championship. Ellinger once coached at UMBC and is a former coach of the Under-17 national team and Real Salt Lake of the MLS.
• Archbishop Curley: Pep Perella. Perella won three A Conference championships at Curley and helped produce two of Baltimore's finest players ever in Celenza and Santino Quaranta.
• Essex Community College: Tom Wall and Joe Sperato. Wall is also a member of the Maryland Soccer Hall of Fame while Essex won the National Junior College championship under coach Ed Wren in 1974. Celenza was a two-time junior college All-American at Essex.
• UMBC: Pete Caringi. Along with Charlie Myers, Dale Rothe and Gino Pennacchia, Caringi helped the University of Baltimore win the 1975 national championship. He is also a member of the UB and Maryland Soccer Halls of Fame. Celenza is a member of the UMBC Hall of Fame, inducted four years ago. He's a two-time Northeast Conference Player of the Year, also was named a 2000 All-American, scoring 41 goals in his two years at the school.
At Curley, Celenza was a scoring machine for Perella, a 1970 Curley graduate and also a member of the Maryland Soccer Hall of Fame.
The first was in 1993 when the Friars went unbeaten. The second was in 1995 when Celenza was a junior. The third was in 1998, when Quaranta was a freshman. Celenza; Quaranta, who has played on the U.S. National team and in the MLS for the last 10 years; and Quaranta's cousin Brandon are three of the school's best players. Curley grads Tom Giordano, Jim Loftus, Paul Tamberino, Mario Scilipoti, Jason Dieter and Barry Stitz are all in the Maryland Soccer Hall of Fame.
Celenza will be one day, thanks to his sensational amateur career and his equally impressive 10 years with the Blast. Stitz, Dieter and Celenza are just three of the many young Baltimore players owner Ed Hale and president Kevin Healey have drafted and developed over the years.
When Stitz retired five years ago, he returned to his alma mater as Curley's coach while Dieter and Celenza both work for Hale's 1st Mariner Bank mortgage department.
Celenza is still playing. He will turn 32 in December, yet still plays at a high level with the same skill, precision and explosiveness that were his trademarks in high school and college. He has scored over 170 goals in his career and is one of only 10 players in Blast history to score over 300 points. He has scored over 30 goals four times and has been named All-MISL three times.
He remains a huge part of the Baltimore soccer community. A wonderful ambassador for the sport over the years, Celenza always volunteers his time in support of numerous youth groups and charitable causes, while being a regular at the many Blast soccer camps throughout the year.
On July 24 he will put on his fourth annual 3v3 soccer tournament to benefit Pro Soccer Kicks, a youth soccer program he runs with Blast teammate Robbie Aristodemo. The tournament will be played at Perry Hall Park, 9650 Honeygo Blvd., and will feature boys and girls in age groups from U-9 to U-16 with a Men's Open Division.
"It's a one day tournament for all age groups," said Celenza, "and it should be a lot of fun. The 3-on-3 game is really a great way to learn how to play soccer and actually play the game. There are no goalies and everybody plays both ends. It's outdoors and it's always competitive."
He is also following the World Cup closely and will be watching when Manchester City and Inter Milan play at M&T Bank Stadium July 31 in the city's second international soccer game in the last two years.
"The atmosphere around here was great last year for any soccer fan," said Celenza of the A.C. Milan-Chelsea game played last year. "You don't have to have played to be able to appreciate world-class soccer. Usually you're on your sofa watching it on TV, thinking how awesome it would be to go to England or go to Italy to watch a game. Now, you can go to the stadium and watch it live here. It's great."
Posted July 6, 2010