By Ben Tetelman

Spotlight: NYC Ukraine
For one local community in New York City, a connection to the current standoff in Eastern Europe between the Ukraine and Russia is deeply personal. Having represented Russia last year, Alex Zarester and the rest of his team will be representing the Ukraine in this year’s Cosmos Copa tournament.
“Our team is trying to stay away from politics but its really hard since a lot of kids families are still living in Ukraine,” said Zarester.
Formerly known as NYC Russia, NYC Ukraine is based in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. Like many of the teams participating, much of their young talent has been derived from New York City’s amateur leagues. United FC, who play in the Cosmopolitan Soccer League, have provided a number of players for the European side.
“I think its will be great challenge for us but I feel very positive about my team and I think that we will be very big surprise for other teams,” added Zarester.
Zarester and NYC Ukraine will know what to expect when they enter the qualifying round this Saturday. The team has been preparing for the Copa tournament since May, and has played a number of friendlies in the lead up to the 2014 kickoff.
NYC Russia failed to make it into the knockout stages in 2013. Now under a new flag, NYC Ukraine will look to cement their unique style of play in New York City’s premier competition.
“This tournament means a lot not only because representing our country but also that we are representing our local community,” added Zarester.
NYC Ukraine will face off against Guyana in their first game of qualifying, and will be paired with Guinea and Haiti in Group H.
NYC Guyana
If America is the land of opportunity, then New York City is the melting pot where any sort of dream or desire can become reality. For NYC Guyana, it would be a dream come true to win the Cosmos Copa 2014.
“The COPA means allot to us because we know for sure the level of play is quite competitive and many of the players are current players with high aspirations, pride and represent countries that have made a significant impact on the world stage,” said NYC Guyana president, Rawle Hensford.
With one of the fastest growing West Indies populations in the City, NYC Guyana will look to seize the moment and put their country and heritage on the map.
“The COPA can be the launching ground to showcase Guyanese soccer talent,” said an optimistic Hensford.
NYC Guinea
As a nation that has never made an appearance in the FIFA World Cup finals, the Cosmos Copa provides a unique opportunity for Guinea to showcase their talent to an international football community. Led by team president Amadou Barry, NYC Guinea will be making their first ever Copa appearance in 2014. The small African nation will be looking to capture one of eight spots in the group stage, and may be paired against their geographical neighbors, Gambia who has prequalified.
NYC Haiti
NYC Haiti will return to New York City in search of their second Cosmos Copa Championship. Les Grenadiers have had one of the most successful campaigns in Copa history with quarterfinal appearances in 2010 and 2011, and a first ever Copa Championship in 2012. Being drawn into a group that contains a lot of new faces, NYC Haiti will be favorites to capture one of eight remaining spots in the Group Stage.