Recently, New Jersey Copa FC announced Matty Berman as its first-ever signing. But while Berman may be new to the NPSL team, he is a familiar face within the FC Copa organization. After all, he has been with FC Copa in one way or another for nearly a decade and has a good case for being the FC Copa’s most famous alumnus.
“Where my journey with Copa began is in freshman year of high school,” says Berman. “I was playing with my West Orange team and with the Red Bull Academy in eighth grade, then came over to Copa freshman year and really never looked back.”
Berman had a lot of success with Copa FC, winning the state cup his senior year and attending the Dallas Cup on multiple occasions. He went on to play soccer at the college level, featuring for Rutgers University his freshman year and then transferring to Marist University, a Division I school.
At Marist University, Berman quickly became a starter and was later given the captain’s armband. He also received the Marist Men’s Soccer Coaches Award his senior year, a testament to his skill and dedication. During this time, Berman remained involved with FC Copa, featuring in the Academy’s U20 and U23 sides.
Yet, as remarkable as Berman’s youth and collegiate career is, it makes sense given his upbringing. The son of a soccer coach and a former player, Berman was exposed to soccer from a very early age.
“Family wise I was kind of tied into the game from day one. I grew up going to all of my dad’s games,” he says.
Berman’s father, Marty, has been the head coach at Seton Hall Prep High School since 1986 and currently serves as the Senior Staff Coach at FC Copa. Lori, Berman’s mother, played collegiate soccer at the University of Scranton and now serves as the Director of Academic Guidance and VP of Operations for FC Copa. In other words, Berman has soccer in his DNA.
Although he followed in his parents’ footsteps by joining FC Copa as a coach at the end of his collegiate career, Berman insists that there is more at the academy drawing him back in than just his family.
“It’s definitely a combination of things but whether my family is there or not, the way that I was treated here as an individual regardless of the personal ties, that’s really what keeps drawing me back,” he says.
One man partially responsible for Berman’s decision to continue with FC Copa is Roberto Aguas, President and Founder of FC Copa. Aguas played a large role in guiding Berman through his soccer career, something the player has not forgotten.
“He really mentored me throughout my high school club career. He worked on my game a lot on a personal level, we’d look at film, we’d attend professional games and idolize the way the masters
played,” says Berman. “So the personal attention and care that he’s shown both on and off the field has certainly drawn me back.”
Aguas’ opinion of Berman is equally high.
“We are incredibly proud to have Matty be the first player in the history of New Jersey Copa FC NPSL.
Matty has been a product of our FC Copa Academy since he was 14 years old and represents both on and off the field the type of player, character and person we want to be known for,” said Aguas. “I am extremely confident that with the leadership and talent Matty brings to our team we will find a way to be successful in our inaugural year.”
THE COPA WAY
If you think that the personal nature of FC Copa’s approach to coaching soccer sounds like the kind of stuff you hear at every academy, you’d be wrong. Berman says that the academy’s ideology is apparent even at a glance.
“If you go to a field you can identify a Copa team or a Copa session with four or five teams on the field with the way things are going smoothly, and [the] attention to detail by the players and the coaches. It’s a well-run organization,” says Berman. “From the top down they preach the Barcelona style of keeping the ball, attacking with possession, great technical skill.”
But while Berman knows the quality that FC Copa brings, he admits that it is a bit surprising to see how much the academy has grown from the time he joined as a youth player to now.
“It has grown tremendously, that certainly has to be said. There was probably four teams when I started and now – I can’t even count. Upwards of 30-plus teams in the club at this point, maybe more,” he says.
“Really the full spectrum of the soccer landscape in the United States is now covered through Copa. You can literally go through the junior academy at age 4 and 5 to playing professional for the club as an adult.”
As the New Jersey Copa FC’s first signee, Berman will get the chance to represent the club professionally, something that was not possible even just a few months ago. This isn’t lost in him, especially given that he has – on more than one occasion – mentally prepared himself for the prospect of no longer representing FC Copa as a player.
“I’ve prepared myself at almost every stage of the game to have a certain game be the last time I pulled the Copa shirt over my head and represented the club,” he says. “When I was 18 years old and we were on our last cup game I thought ‘maybe this is it’. When I went through the college system and played U20 and then U23 I kept thinking ‘maybe this is it’ and now with this opportunity it’s just another chance for me to continue my career.”
As Berman prepares to face the challenge that the NPSL will pose, he remains loyal and thankful to the club that shaped him in his youth.
“It’s great that every time that I have to prepare myself for it to maybe be the end of the road for [me with] the club, they keep finding new venues to open pathways and doors for me to stay representing FC Copa.”