By Joe Pantorno, Assistant Sports Editor
It takes a crazy man to be a goalkeeper. That's what the Hofstra men's soccer team's newest net minder Roberto Pellegrini thinks.
After helping lead the Pride to an improbable comeback in the Colonial Athletic Association standings and a playoff berth on the last day of the season with a clean sheet in a 2-0 win over James Madison, the "cookie monster," as he is known, has found his new home in front of goal in Hempstead.
Cookie Monster? How can a 6'4" Italian/Czech 19 year-old have such a nickname?
After a cookie purchasing fiasco with fellow teammate, redshirt freshman Anton Maksuti, during preseason in the student center cafeteria, Pellegrini decided to associate cookies with women from now on. His teammates gave him the nickname because he uses the term so much.
"There are chocolate chip cookies, brown cookies, vanilla cookies, expired cookies [older women] and I have a cookie of my own which is the homemade cookie [his girlfriend] and I love my homemade cookie," Pelligrini said.
Like his non-traditional way to view the ladies, Pellegrini comes from an untraditional background when it comes to soccer.
Hailing from Rome, Italy, Pellegrini grew up as a fan of the Italian soccer club AS Roma. He grew a fierce hate for cross-town rivals Lazio.
"If my cookie [girlfriend] cheated on me, I would hate any Lazio fan more than the man that my girlfriend cheated on me with," explained Pellegrini.
The freshman started his soccer playing days as a defender at the age of seven. "All I wanted to do was tackle the forwards," said Pellegrini. "After two months, my coaches told me to go in the goal and I stayed there."
When he was 11, scouts from AS Roma saw him play for his town's team and signed him onto their youth system.
After he was loaned to another Italian team due to lack of playing time, Pellegrini visited the Czech Republic.
"Because my mom is Czech, we went every summer and in 2006, there was a stage for goalkeepers by Petr Cech, Chelsea goalkeeper," Pelligrini said, "and since we were at Sparta Prague's training center, the people from Sparta Prague noticed me so they offered me a tryout."
At AC Sparta Prague (2008-2010), Roberto led the club to the under-19 national championship in the 2008-2009 season and also played for the U-19 Czech Republic national team from 2009-2010.
Goalkeeping is no easy job though, especially at some of the highest youth levels in Europe, hence why it takes a crazy man.
"When things are going well, nobody will say anything about the goalkeeper," said Pellegrini. "When things start getting difficult, it is always the goalkeeper's fault."
It was off to America for Pellegrini after his time in the Czech Republic where he signed on with the Pride. "I could have stayed in Europe, but I just wanted the challenge," said Pellegrini.
Pellegrini got his wish for a challenge when he made his debut at Northeastern University, when the Huskies put up four goals on him. After the shaky debut, Pellegrini held a clean sheet in his next start against Delaware and only gave up one goal in his next four starts. He has given up only one goal as he has gone 4-0-1 since the Northeastern game and now leads the team in wins.
It is safe to say that Pellegrini has travelled the less beaten path on his way to Hofstra University, but the quirky, outspoken goalkeeper has found a new home as he looks to lead the Pride throughout the CAA playoffs.