Oh Yanky Yanky!
We try to be a bit different at Blackpool Vital. So, we thought that getting in touch with an American sports writer was a good idea, and so - twice a month, exclusive to us - Sean Grybos will write reviews on the best talent coming out of North America.
So, here he is...
I recently had the honor of interviewing Michael D'Agostino. A portion of the piece was devoted to his time playing men's soccer in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) at the University of Kentucky.
Michael D'Agostino, Andy Wright, and Jay DeMerit are three players signed to Championship clubs. While attending university, all three played at one of the highest amateur levels in the United States. This is men's college soccer and it is governed by the NCAA.
The goal here will be to routinely highlight players who are competing at the NCAA level over in the United States. Potentially, these players have the physical and technical abilities to compete in the English Leagues. I will attempt to offer up analysis, statiscal information, and player quotes for each profile.
I hope you find the player profiles to be informative yet enjoyable reading. Feel free to comment on the profiles or point me towards players that you would like to see highlighted from the NCAA player pool.
*Sean can be PM'd - as he is now signed up to the website*
Forward - Tosaint Ricketts
University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Phoenix
Senior (4th Year) in 2008
In the first season with the Phonenix, the Canadian born Ricketts made the starting eleven for 14 out of 17 matches. The Edmonton, Alberta native ended 2005 with four goals.
In Ricketts' second season, the Phoenix made a deep run in their Horizon League tournament ending with a loss in the final. Ricketts' performance played a large part in his team's success. He finished the season with eight goals and received several postseason awards. He gained notoriety from his collegiate play and with this new exposure came an invite to the Under-20 Canadian men's team in early 2007.
He had a sensational run during an exhibition tour leading up to the 2007 Under-20 World Cup where he scored five goals in two of the matches. A brace came against Scotland in his Under-20 debut and hat trick versus the United States on June 6, 2007. He became only the sixth Canadian youth player to record a hat trick with the last being Niall Thompson in 1991. Ricketts reflected on his brace against Scotland.
'I took from the experience that everybody gets their chance, and when you get in you just have to make the best of it. For example in the game against Scotland I came in the game in the 68th minute and scored 2 goals. Just go to work hard and the chances will come.'
During the U-20 World Cup, he played in all three matches but failed to score. After the tournament, there was a good amount of speculation regarding Ricketts and his professional opportunities abroad, but he returned for his junior year at UW-Green Bay.
He again led the team to the final of the Horizon League tournament. Once again, the Phoenix lost in the final. He ended the season with six goals including a brilliant game winner during the semi finals of the Horizon League tournament.
Ricketts is currently training for his fourth and final collegiate season. His main priorities are winning the Horizon League and the Horizon League tournament. By winning the league tournament the Phoenix will finally gain access to the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA Tournament is the national tournament where each conference sends at least one team to compete for the overall championship in what is known as the College Cup. Ricketts and his teammates are focused on this massive goal. He commented.
'Next year it's in everyone's mind that we have to win the Horizon League and the Horizon League tournament. We have been just short of it the last two years and we are going to do everything possible to achieve this goal.'
Attacking Midfielder - Collen Warner
University of Portland Pilots
Junior (3rd Year) in 2008
During his first two years playing collegiate soccer, Collen Warner has been widely regarded for his pace and playmaking abilities. Prior to his arrival in Portland, he trained at Liverpool's youth academy in 2002. He also trained at the youth academy of and received a trial with Italy's Atalanta B.C in 2005. He remarked about both experiences.
'I trained at Liverpool F.C. when I was fourteen and I learned of fundamental techniques for passing and dribbling. It also allowed me to compare my abilities to the kids coming up in the academies over there.'
'When I was on trial at Atalanta B.C., it was another chance to compare myself to guys who were now beginning to be brought up to the first team, but I was also focused on making the squad. Overall it was a good experience to be alone in a place where few people spoke English. It definitely helped me mature.'
Warner made an instant impression in his freshman season with the Pilots. He scored three goals and was named to the 2006 West Coast Conference's All-Freshman Team. In 2007, he helped lead the Pilots back to the NCAA Tournament. The Pilots had last participated in the tournament in 2004. In his second season, he scored four goals and had three assists; he was also named to the West Coast Conference First Team. Warner has two seasons of collegiate eligibility remaining. With his pace and technical skills apparent, he easily could be competing in England before the decade is over.