BRIAN SCIARETTA - Thursday, September 9, 2010
As the summer transfer window came to a close last week, Finnish club IFK Mariehamn acquired Italian-born American fullback Giuseppe Funicello from Icelandic club Thor Akureyri with only six rounds left in the Veikkausliiga.
Funicello, 23, is the third American Mariehamn have acquired in the past week as the club looks to add key players in their relegation battle.
With a favorable schedule down the stretch, the club currently sits in 13th place in the 14 team league.
The bottom half of the standings is tight, however, with just three points separating Mariehamn from 10th place and five points from sixth place.
"I have come toward the end of the season," Funicello told YA from Finland. "My goal is to finish the season strong and earn a starting spot. The table is very close. IFK and I will be working to get good results in our upcoming [matches] to maintain their position in the top division [in Finland].The club finished very high in the table last season and I think the goal will be to work back to that status."
Funicello will join fellow Americans Mason Trafford and Lamar Neagle on the team after he signed a contract through the end of the season with an option for two years.
"Having Lamar and Mason here has been great," Funicello explained. "It's always good to have teammates who are from the same country as you and are very similar in culture. We have grown very close in the last week and it adds a level of comfort to me having them here."
"The team and the club have taken very well to all of us," he continued. "The team is very close and has welcomed us with open arms. They know we are now part of the team and have been nothing but positive towards us. It has helped me settle in very fast."
Despite having been at IFK Mariehamn for only a brief time, Funicello is happy with what he has seen so far from the quality on the field and the life in the Aland Islands where the club is located.
"IFK has been great so far," Funicello assessed. "The [soccer] standard has been very good and training is always at a high tempo and very competitive. The club has very good intensions and I'm happy to be part of them."
Funicello arrived at IFK Mariehamn after spending most of the year at Thor Akureyri in the second division in Iceland. He enjoyed his experience there and the decision to leave was difficult.
"My experience in Iceland was great," Funicello recalled. "I was having a great season with Thor before IFK came in for me. Thor never lost a game that I played in. The season is still not over and the club is in third place and two points away from first and second place. The top two teams will be promoted to the Premier League [in Iceland]."
"They also didn't stand in my way when IFK came in for me," he continued. "I want to thank them for their generosity and understanding. I wish them nothing but the best and hope they will clinch promotion."
Funicello will look to bring versatility to the backline for Mariehamn where he can play both right and left back.
Despite being only 5'8", the Connecticut-raised Funicello likes to defend and attack and he hopes to bring this to Mariehamn.
"I hope to bring to IFK my work ethic at training and in the games," Funicello concluded. "I have a ‘never say die attitude'. I also hope to solidify the backline into a strong and respected defense in the league."
With the international break now over, Funicello and IFK Mariehamn will resume play Veikkausliiga on Sunday when they host third place TPS Turku.