International Soccer Network

"Your Source for the Beautiful Game"

It’s Mellor Time

Playing in front of tens of thousands of fans, signing autographs, and traveling around the globe with one of the best teams in the world while being in the national team pool is the fantasy of almost every youth soccer player in the world. But for Notre Dame College’s 2010 First Team All-American, Tom Mellor, he experienced all of those things before leaving high school.

“I want to prove people right, and prove people what I’ve got,” declares Mellor as he spoke from his apartment in Harrisburg, Pa., with the confident air of a man at ease with himself having come through many trials and tribulations on his path to a professional soccer.

Indeed, the boy who started out learning his skills in England, and once sat in Manchester United’s Old Trafford dressing room dreaming of being a Red Devil, has come a long way …

Mellor who played two seasons for Michael “Mac” McBride at Notre Dame College is preparing to make his professional debut with the Harrisburg City Islanders of the United Soccer Leagues Pro division, joins Frank Jonke (SR Delemont in Switzerland) as current soccer professionals from Notre Dame College and the fifth player in the illustrious 11 years of the small South Euclid, Ohio, program.

“I always wanted just wanted to be a professional soccer player,” Mellor stated.

Ex-professional player and Tourbeau College Soccer Showcase president Chase Neidig believes the tall winger’s speed and tenacity could offer something different to the Harrisburg midfield.

“Tom was made to be a professional player and that shows in his work rate,” Neidig said. “He is one of the best one vs. one attacking players to come out of the college ranks in a very long time.”

Neidig concluded, “Tom has an exceptional high game IQ for his age, he will give fits to opposing teams when he comes flying down the left wing serving balls into the box.”

The Falcons have won an incredible 73 percent (160-of-227) since their inception in 2001. During that time under McBride NDC has gone 160-52-15 including back-to-back undefeated regular season campaigns and hasn’t lost a regular season contest since Oct. 27, 2009.

During Mellor’s two seasons with NDC, the tall lanky left footed winger made 45 appearances with 43 starts scoring 16 goals while providing a program best 30 assists as NDC went an impressive 39-5-2 including a dominating 23-1-0 campaign in his final season as the Falcons only loss came in the NAIA National Championship Final.

Tom Mellor was born in Shaw, England, on August 13, 1990 to Dave and Kath Mellor.

“My dad spent hours and hours on the field with me and my brother,” Mellor said. “In fact I’d say that I have no bigger critic than my dad to be honest, but I think its good because he knows what I can do and he has high expectations. It’s not like he’s criticizing me from the point of someone who knows nothing about soccer.”

Surrounded by a family with a passion for soccer also meant that the game became an integral part of his home life as well as his school and social life. Indeed, he gladly credits his father’s own persistence for his successes.

The 21-year olds abiding memory of his early coaches is one of fun and enjoyment.

“When you’re playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world under renowned coaches that developed the likes of (David) Beckham, (Paul) Scholes, and Giggsy (Ryan Giggs) it’s like living a dream,” said Mellor.

But it wasn’t just the coaches that provided great inspiration. While still very young Mellor enjoyed working with David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand on a skills video.

Then around the time Mellor was 11 he played in front of nearly 50,000 fans as Manchester United and Manchester City youth teams played directly before the first team’s game. That game featured the fierce rivalry between both Manchester senior teams, but it was also the last game for Manchester United legend, Dennis Irwin’s career for United.

Mellor remembered fondly during the game when he did a step over and the fans began cheering and applauding him. “It’s the best feeling,” Mellor sighed as he reminisced.

Mellor then reflected on the final result where fellow Notre Dame College and 2010 First Team All-American, Luke Holmes scored the winning goal for City, defeating Mellor and United.

“Luke likes to remind me about that goal from time to time,” Mellor laughed.

Despite the early success as a youth, it wasn’t always easy for Mellor.

After eight years with Manchester United, Mellor was called into the manager’s office when he was 16 and released.

“I broke down in tears,” Mellor recalls. “All I wanted was to play for Manchester United, but everyone has their own opinions and I was a late bloomer, so I can’t blame them.”

Soccer was rooted deeply in his family and with the persistence of a father who believed in both of his sons. Tom’s dad continued to remind his son of his abilities and the hard work and dedication he had already put into his dream.

“My brother and I spent around 20 hours a week with our dad working on extra things,” Mellor said.

Dave Mellor a firefighter would come home after a long night without sleep and take his sons to a field where they would work on their weaknesses while giving encouragement and advice.

David, Tom’s younger brother went through similar struggles after being released by Manchester United, but earned himself a professional contract with Oldham Athletic FC in the npower Football League in England where he has made 20 starts for the first team this season.

In addition to developing his technical and tactical skills, the late blooming Tom was undersized and other obstacles to overcome.

“My dad told me that we would make be bigger and stronger,” Mellor said. “He sent me to an ex-body builder and that worked.”

While slender, Mellor now stands 6-foot and has the build of a sleek and speedy middle distance runner.

But following his release from United, Mellor went on trials with different clubs around England but he kept hearing, “you’re not quite ready, you’re not quite big enough.” And it took the young Englishman several tryouts before Barnsley FC signed him to a youth contract in 2006.

Mellor while often told he was one of the most technical players at Barnsley found his confidence waning and sitting on the bench getting around five minutes a game.

“I wanted to quit,” Mellor said. “I kept thinking about all of my setbacks and that I use to be playing at Manchester United, but maybe I wasn’t good enough.”

But as his parents continued to remind him of his abilities and the sacrifices Mellor continued to chase his dream of playing professionally.

Eventually signing a youth contract in 2008 at Wrexham AFC, Mellor started to find his form and impress the staff and scouts.

His impressive performances finally earned him a contract offer from the North Wales club. Despite being one of the oldest clubs in Britain and the oldest in Wales, Wrexham participates in the Conference National, the fifth tier of English football, Mellor felt England might not be right for him and started to weight his options of pursuing a career in America.

That option had become available after conversations with Notre Dame College Associate Head Coach Carl Nolan, a year after Luke Holmes had made the same step.

Five weeks later Mellor was stepping onto campus at Notre Dame College.

“It happened so fast,” Mellor said. “It was a bit of a surreal moment; stepping off the plane I was like, ‘shit I’m in America for the next four years.”

The quick decision wasn’t made haphazardly, as the family sat down and figured out how they would make things work, but it kept the young Mellor from having time to think about the life changing decision.

Instead he began thinking back to the advice his coaches at Manchester United had given him when he was young as he looked forward to the unknown.

“I started writing down the little things the coaches use to tell us,” Mellor said.

He remembered what Eric Harrison and current Manchester United’s first team coach Rene Meulensteen had said. “Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy,” Mellor said. “The main essence was to enjoy my soccer and be confident.”

His youth coaches also stressed the importance of making every shot and pass as if it was his last. “You never know when it will be your last,” Mellor said.

Mellor also began thinking more and more about his accomplishments and who he had played with, and then he wrote them down.

“When you see it on paper,” Mellor said a little in awe. “Where I’ve been and what I’ve done, it’s pretty impressive.”

The once waned confidence began to resurface in Mellor but his first season for Notre Dame started a bit slow.

“I was playing forward and I wasn’t comfortable,” Mellor said. “Lucky for me someone got injured and I went to Mac and told him I’d played there before.”

McBride determined it was Mellor’s time and gave the rookie his fifth straight start but his first at the Oldham, England’s preferred position.

Mellor did well and earned the nod at his preferred position the next day. That game  his coming out party, Mellor dominated scoring two timely goals while providing an assist as the Falcons stormed to a 5-2 win over second-ranked Concordia College (Calif.) at the University of Mobile Kick-Off Classic.

“I felt comfortable out wide,” Mellor said. “It gave me the confidence to play and have fun.”

The comfort was evident as Mellor went on a seven game scoring streak between Sept. 12 and Oct. 14 as NDC rattled off six wins and a draw.

Mellor would conclude the season earning NSCAA/adidas All-Region IX Team and First Team All-American Mideast Conference honors with a team best 11 assists to go along with eight goals as Notre Dame finished the season with a 3-1 loss to The Masters College in the NAIA National Tournament quarterfinals.

Mellor’s second and final season at Notre Dame College came in the historic 2010 season. NDC rolled to seven consecutive shutouts to open the season outscoring its opponents 36-0. During the strong defensive run Mellor chipped in with a pair of goals and five assists.

It was truly Mellor Time in the Falcons 12th game of the year, both of his parents were in attendance when the second year attacking winger set up fellow Oldham, England, native Luke Holmes for the opening goal. Mellor would go onto record his first collegiate hat trick along to go along with a pair of assists in the Falcons dominating 7-1 win over Malone.

Mellor would go onto lead the nation with a program record 19 assists while scoring eight goals. A goal and six assists came during the Falcons historic run to the NAIA National Championship game. During that game Mellor hit a screaming free kick that brought NDC back within a goal (3-2) in the opening half. Notre Dame would fall 5-3 to Hastings (Neb.), ending its best season in school history just shy of the ultimate goal.

Following that season Mellor went home for the holidays to see his family. His mother, Kath needed a bone marrow transplant, but delayed the transplant because of his visit.

“The way my mom is she didn’t want to be in the hospital when I was there.”

In February after Mellor returned to Notre Dame, his mother went in for the transplant but things went terribly wrong as she had multiple organ failures, went into a coma and had to be kept on life-support. Mellor flew home two months later as things appeared to be turning around.

“I sat in the car with my dad and the doctors said she wasn’t going to make it through the weekend.”

But against all odds, Kath shocked the doctors and came through to be an inspiration to Mellor each day.

“When I think I don’t want to go to training,” Mellor said. “You have those days when you don’t want to do sprints and I just think that my mom went through that. I think about it for 30 seconds and realize I can do sprints.”

Mellor returned to Notre Dame and enrolled in classes, but understandably his focus was off.

“I tried to focus on classes,” Mellor explained. “School was never really my thing, and then my mother fell ill, the priorities went a little bit.”

That distraction and his desire to play professional soccer came to a head prior to the 2012 spring semester.

“I didn’t withdraw from school because of a pro contract,” Mellor said. “They suspended me so that gave me extra motivation to find a team,” he explained. “Luckily for me it paid off for me and I made something of myself.”

“To see her in the situation she was,” Mellor said. “She was on her last leg I want to make it to the MLS and be able to fly her over and show her the lifestyle I have.”

The speedy winger made his first appearance for the Harrisburg City Islanders on Friday, May 04, 2012 in a 2-1 loss to the Charlotte Eagles in the Islanders home opener.

If it hadn’t been for a spectacular save by the Eagles keeper, Andrew Dykstra, Mellor was sure to bag the tying score with a brilliant strike towards the top corner. But Mellor made his next step towards his goal.

“I’m ready to prove those people wrong that didn’t believe in me,” Mellor said. “But I want to want to be the best I can be. I want to do it for my parents. I want to do it for my mum for obvious reasons. I want to do it for my coaches who believed in me. I want to play in the MLS.”

Niño Prodigio: Self-taught soccer star a true wonder

Polite and unassuming, yet oozing national pride and self-confidence Juan Coca laughs as he recalls the video he sent Notre Dame College’s Head Men’s Soccer Coach Michael “Mac” McBride.

“My video was so bad really, my video was so bad. I didn’t even like me as a player in the video; I was like what is this?” Coca said in his distinguishable Spanish accent.

McBride noticed the skills in the video despite what Coca recalls it being a last minute idea and the video quality being poor.

“His personality is simply infectious,” McBride said. “He’s energetic, loves the game and has a lot of potential.”

But even the keen eyes of McBride couldn’t imagine the potential or talent he was getting in the San Juan, Puerto Rico, native.

“Mac and I laughed about it after I got here,” Coca recalled. “He couldn’t see much in the video, I scored a really bad goal.”

For over an hour the 5-foot-7 speedy attacker dressed in his Notre Dame College Men’s Soccer travel top with a neatly combed faux hawk reminisced inside Notre Dame College’s Keller Center about his early career playing in small gymnasiums and humble soccer fields.

His is a fascinating story, a bilingual, dual citizen, with deep family roots and an even deeper rooted love for his native Puerto Rico, it’s clear that he is still somewhat in awe of his own achievement and of the fact that he is now playing for the Puerto Rico national team.

Juan Antonio Coca was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on May 31, 1993 to Ana Maria Nogueres and Jose Coca and his bond with the city and the island was a motivating factor in his early establishment to his soccer loyalty.

“I learned futbol mostly by myself and with my friends,” recalls Coca as his Spanish intertwines his English. “I remember when I was really young I use to wake up at 8 a.m. and go to the basketball court in front of my apartment. I would look up Ronaldinho, Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Alexis Sanchez videos and learn from them,” Coca said smiling as he thought back. “I use to imitate what they would do in the fields and gyms, everything from shots, to tricks, and crossing. This is where I really grew as a player.”

Coca began growing through his own personal training, but it wasn’t till the summer after his sophomore year that he started playing competitively more often. What Coca failed to mention was it was at that point that he twice led Colegio Adianez High School to back-to-back Sub Championships.

What he did recall was how he spent nearly every waking moment playing where ever he could.

“I use to call friends up and set up some ‘futsal’ as we called it in Puerto Rico,” Coca said with a hint of laughter. “We use to go to basketball courts, set up small goals and kill each other. This is where it went down and I developed much of my skills.”

“There is nothing better than meggin a stranger,” he said with a gleam in his eyes. “But better than that was meggin or scoring against your best friend.”

He thought back to his many memories of his times on the basketball courts playing against his peers, remembering his biggest influences.

“My friends and coaches and my family always was there influencing me,” he said as almost reverted to Spanish.

His father once a manager of operations for the United Parcel Service in the Caribbean lost his job when UPS downsized. The new found time allowed him to focus on Juan’s soccer career and aspirations of attending college in the U.S.

“When my dad lost his job he dedicated himself to make sure I improved in what I loved since he never had that opportunity,” Coca said.

“My mom was a great source of support for me emotionally and economically,” he said. “She was always there for me and made me feel comfortable and secure. That’s why I love her. She took me to a lot of my early national team practices.”

“The joke in Puerto Rico is because everything is 10 or 15 minutes drive that a two hour drive is like flying, those were the trips my mom took with me,” he said.

“Other than helping in transporting and support his family wasn’t much of an influence on his game. “They really didn’t know much about the sport,” Coca said. “My dad always knew about sports, but he was more of a basketball kind of guy.”

Coca’s family roots run deep and he carries a sign of his connection to his two brothers, Joey and Danny Coca on his right forearm. The tattoo of three stars signifies his love and always having his brothers with him.

“I miss home and my family,” he explained. “It reminds me to never forget where I came from or who I am.”

Coca came from a life where he ate and slept soccer in Puerto Rico. “There was a moment I realized that I wanted to keep playing my passion for a long time, and even though everything doesn’t go as planned I will still live soccer because futbol isn’t a sport, it’s a lifestyle,” Coca explained.

While he lived the life, he also credited Sergio Castro, Erick Cespedes, Santiago Morel, Gatinho, and Roberto Gotay as coaches who were a big part in his development.

“I really appreciate everything they did for me and all those hard and long practice they made me go through,” Coca said. “It really paid off and I learned so much from them and others.”

The payoff he said started to show when he was invited to a tryout for a Puerto Rico youth national team. With the dream of playing for Puerto Rico he went and was subsequently hooked.

“When I arrived there was over a 100 players all over the field, attackers in one area, defenders in another, and midfielders another all running around,” Coca said. “The sport completely changed and the coaches were more serious and didn’t give as much feedback. That made me grow and realize I had to impress them every time I got in the field.”

That moment, one of his most memorable ones started the long path to his first career appearance in the Red, White, and Blue for The Blue Hurricanes.

“It’s all about hard work, sacrifice, and dedication,” Coca said.

While he always wanted to attend college in the U.S., Coca wasn’t sure it would happen. Then one day after a national team training session someone approached him and said there would be schools interested.

“After that I got invited to a showcase in the U.S. and got offered a scholarship,” Coca said.

That scholarship wasn’t with Notre Dame College, but due to a few missed emails the offer expired.

Eventually signing with Notre Dame a dream come true for the young Coca, but he explains it was tinged with sadness as the rules of the NCAA meant that he could not play in his first season. “The NCAA has a lot of rules, and because I failed a few classes when I was younger I wasn’t able to play this year,” he says. “I was able to train with the team so it helped prepare me for next fall when I will be able to play.”

That signing made Coca the fifth player in the 11 years of the Notre Dame College Men’s Soccer program with national team experience. He joined an exclusive list of some of the best players to dawn the Blue & White for Notre Dame College under Head Coach Michael “Mac” McBride.

“We’re all really thrilled that ‘Juany’ (Juan) has been called up to represent Puerto Rico this summer,” stated McBride. “He has yet to kick a ball, in anger for us, but we are already very proud of him.”

The young wonder boy from Puerto Rico will however have four years of eligibility to play for the Falcons while he continues to build his resume both with the national team and for the highly successful program at Notre Dame College.

The Falcons have won an incredible 73 percent (160-of-227) since their inception in 2001. During that time under McBride NDC has gone 160-52-15 including back-to-back undefeated regular season campaigns.

“I am really happy to be here and represent Notre Dame College,” Coca said. “There is a lot of hard work yet to do.”

That hard work will include pressure that comes with being a member of a very exclusive group of players in the illustrious history of Notre Dame College Men’s Soccer.

McBride first brought William Poveda to College Road in 2002 in just the second year of the program after the Guayaquil, Ecuador, native earned caps with Ecuador’s U17 National Team. Poveda still ranks ninth in program history (9).

Five years later in 2007 McBride secured the services of Surry, England, native Jacob Child. The 6-foot-1 left back represented England’s U16 National Team prior to going onto become the Falcons all-time leader in starts and appearances (85). A year after Child’s arrival Abergele, Wales, native Dan Knight joined Child after making 25 starts and 26 appearances for the Welsh U16, U17, and U19 National Teams. Knight served as a three-year captain and led the Falcons to 32 clean sheets in 84 appearances ranking him only behind Child for appearances in the Blue & White.  Jacob Sheppard continued the tradition in 2009 after three years in the Canadian National Team pool.

But on April 1, 2012 Coca set himself apart from the group when he made his first appearance and start in a World Cup preparation tournament for the Puerto Rico U20 National Team at the Dallas Cup in Dallas, Texas. In that game, a 2-0 win over the Houston Dynamo STX Academy Coca scored the second his first goal for his country. That moment marked the first time any Notre Dame College player had ever earned a cap while a member of the NDC program.

“There really is nothing like it,” he said beaming with pride. “Wearing your nation’s color, sweating that jersey, scoring that goal after all the hard work was probably one of the best feelings ever.”

Coca would go onto score three goals in four starts for the U20 National Team, as he led Puerto Rico to the quarterfinal of the oldest international youth soccer tournament in the U.S.

“All I ever wanted was to represent my country and everything that it stands for. It was indescribable really,” exclaimed Coca.

“I know it’s a huge honor for him to play for his country,” said McBride. “Simply put, it’s the pinnacle of any player’s career.”

But for Coca he sees that now is the time to prove himself with the NDC squad. “I’m ready to show what I can do,” he said. “Even though it’s been a tough year with all my ineligibility, next year I’m coming more ready than ever. I’m going to have a very productive summer and I’m coming ready to prove myself as an athlete and a student.”

“We look forward to him making his debut for NDC when he returns from international duty,” McBride responded.

Clearly happy in his present surroundings and having already secured his first four caps and three goals for the U20 National Team he has affectionately grown up aspiring to represent, Coca – whose personal favorite player is Alexis Sanchez – is content to go about creating his own legacy with an element of quiet dignity. His drive is a simple one, “As for NDC, our goal is to be national champions,” Coca said. “My hope as a freshman is to get some good minutes in and be a good contribution to the team and our college.”

Coca who is studying sports management at Notre Dame College hopes to one day be a sports agent but, only after his playing career ends, will continue training and preparing for  finals. Once his finals conclude he will return to Puerto Rico and rejoin the national team for a summer of training.

“There is a long way to go and things have to work just right,” he explains, “but I hope to play professionally one day.”

If Coca does move onto play professionally he would join two current Falcons playing professional soccer. Frank Jonke scored 25 goals for NDC in 2004 went onto make his professional debut for AC Oulu in Finland on April 25, 2009 where he scored the goal that tied the match 1-1 against FC Hämeenlinna. Jonke dominated the season by recording nine goals, and helped lead Oulu win promotion to the Veikkausliiga by finishing first in the standings. Jonke currently plays for SR Delemont in Switzerland and the Falcons 2010 First Team All-American Tom Mellor signed this year with the Harrisburg City Islanders in the USL-Pro division. Mellor led NDC with 19 assists in 2010 as the Falcons went 23-1-0, losing their only game in the National Championship. Jonke and Mellor are rumored to have the 2010 National Player of the Year, Luke Holmes join them in the professional ranks later this year, were preceded by three other Falcons, including two captains.

But until that day Coca will stay focused on his current goals.

“This is just the beginning and I am ready for what awaits,” Coca said. “It’s an honor to represent my nation and everything it represents.”

Opting to play for the United States as opposed to his nation of birth would be a tough choice. “I want to see Puerto Rico make a World Cup, it’s my dream, and our dream as a country,” he says. “It’s a long way off, but it would be a tough choice,” he explains. “I’m Puerto Rican and I want to keep seeing them grow, but the U.S. is a well respected nation and as far as exposure it would be a tough choice.”

Whether he gets that tough choice or not will be an exciting but humble journey for Coca.

“This is just the beginning and I am ready for what awaits,” Coca said. “It’s an honor to represent my nation and everything it represents. I want to thank all my friends and family, you are the ones that got me where I am now and will keep pushing me on.”

He concluded breaking midway into Spanish as he stressed his appreciation for where he is.

“I appreciate everyone that have influence on my development. Mami, Papi, Joey, Danny los quiero mucho, un saludo y abrazo a todos mis amigos,” (Mom, dad, Joey and Danny love you very much, and a hug for all my friends).

ISN Editorial: National Soccer Media at Fault … Not at Fault

2012 MLS SuperDraft exposes the stretched coverage of college soccer

It’s no wonder the national media was hard on Luke Holmes surrounding the 2012 Major League Soccer SuperDraft. They look at his stats from Notre Dame College and wonder how bad the competition must be … lets be serious he scored 24 goals as a junior and an NAIA best 29 as a sophomore. When you compare those stats to “only scoring” five goals in 16 games for the University of Akron as a senior one can understand why Holmes endured such criticism from national media leading up to the 2012 Major League Soccer SuperDraft in Kansas City.

The sarcasm is deep because if the media compares the stats as though he played out wide at Notre Dame they should be talking about him as though he is not an MLS caliber player … how could they imagine a player who scored 70 goals in three seasons at a small school in Ohio to be a world-class player, let alone an MLS player if the positions were the same?

Simply they should not, nor would they have any reason to.

But the position he played at Notre Dame was strikingly different than what he played at Akron.

After spending two weeks working on the Mock SuperDraft and then spending four days and nights at the NSCAA Convention and SuperDraft I have found the national media is just that … national. Their knowledge about the college players even at a national prominent Akron are more than lacking.

The issue is at the regional and local levels that players are not getting the exposure with video or commentary about the players outside of school website game reports.

There is a true lack of knowledge about individual players and what their strengths and weaknesses and how those will translate at the MLS level.

I don’t knock the major networks for not having a show dedicated to college soccer, however there is no such show, and there are not nearly enough games broadcasted to allow broadcasters and media to understand players.

So regardless of each media member’s ability to evaluate talent, it’s not their fault they do not understand how a player will translate at the MLS level.

This being said, they still do not understand and have little or perhaps no understanding that Holmes is not a winger. Ives Galarcep, one of the best in the soccer journalism business, listed the three-year standout at Notre Dame College and senior at Akron as a winger … not because that is the best position for Holmes at the MLS level but rather that is where he played his one season for the Zips as he supported and supplied the second overall pick forward Darren Mattocks with eight assists as the sophomore talisman scored 21 goals for the Zips before earning a Generation adidas contract with MLS.

In his three years under Head Coach Michael “Mac” McBride at Notre Dame Holmes scored a program best 70 goals playing in the middle of the pitch. He played up front as a striker for the first two seasons earning American Mideast Conference Freshman and Player of the Year and AMC Player of the Year. As a junior he moved to center mid where he scored 24 goals and led the Falcons to their first National Championship Final with a 23-1-0 record.

Holmes was best when he was in front of goal. His goal total shows his ability to score at the NAIA level, but what does that mean to a national media that has probably never watched the level of the NAIA and many of them would have to Google the acronym to know what it is? To them it means nothing.

This was Holmes’s struggle before the MLS SuperDraft and Supplemental Draft with the national media who said he was not athletic enough, was too small, and always tried to cut-in from his wide position at the MLS Player Combine. Sadly for the Oldham, England, native he was forced to play out of position once again … did the scouts and technical staff with the combine even know his strengths as a forward and goal scorer?

Now Holmes played a season at Akron and had the exposure of playing in the MLS Player Combine, think about the lack of knowledge the media has about Dan Knight and Travis Wall, two other players who also went undrafted in the in the SuperDraft and Supplemental Draft.

Wall, the Division III National Player of the Year, led Ohio Wesleyan to their second National Championship with 19 goals and 15 assists. His 2.12 points per game was good for 13th best in the nation. Wall also played four seasons for Dr. Jay Martin, whose 608-115-49 record make him the winningest college soccer coach in the history of the NCAA, regardless of division.

Knight, a center back and three-year captain for Notre Dame was a surprise inclusion to the official MLS Draft Eligible list provided to the media at the SuperDraft in Kansas City. It made people wonder how a player who didn’t know they were eligible for the draft would be just that.

The morning before the Supplemental Draft, Susan Marschall the Coordinator for New Media for the MLS stated, “A player can be named to the draft eligible list by having an MLS team request that player to be added.”

So both players were on the radar of at least one club if not several and when looking at the players selected in the Supplemental Draft it strikes me as shocking that these players, along with the aforementioned Holmes, would go through 114 picks without being selected. It leaves plenty of room for questioning the MLS scouting departments, but also with the national media knowing nothing about their abilities and the level of competition that each player succeeded at makes one question how they are “experts”?

Knight led the Falcons to an outstanding 77-7-3 record over his four year career. That record also includes a program best 36 game regular-season unbeaten streak that began after dropping a 2-1 decision to Roberts Wesleyan on Oct. 27, 2009. As a junior in the program’s final season as a member of the NAIA he led them, along with Holmes to their first NAIA National Championship final appearance in 2010. Knight was instrumental in a program-best 32 shutouts in 84 matches while leading NDC to back-to-back undefeated regular seasons. Prior to his arrival on College Road, Knight earned 26 caps with the Welsh U16, U17, and U19 national teams.

Did the media check to see that Holmes finished second in the PDL scoring in 2010 with 32 points (14 goals, 4 assists) while leading Forest City London to the Central Conference Semifinals?

Why you might ask is the PDL relevant to comparing a player to his MLS readiness?

Over the last three years the PDL has produced 111 alumni, equal to 70 percent of the draft selections from the MLS SuperDraft. This year 26 of the 38 players selected in the SuperDraft – more than two-thirds, with six of the top 10 including the first overall selection, having PDL experience.

The Chicago Fire Premier had a record 11 alumni selected and Holmes’s 2011 PDL team, Michigan Bucks had a duo with Lucky Mkosana and Babayele Sodade were both taken in the second round, going to the Chicago Fire and Seattle Sounders respectively.

The USL’s PDL continues to offer the opportunity for growth and development during the summer as players work toward their goals of turning professional. For those players coming from the 70 teams spread through nine divisions that cover North America the PDL paid dividends. So why has the national media not discovered this connection to players like Holmes.

Holmes’s ability and skills didn’t go unnoticed by everyone. One team media member who coved both the MLS and Premier Development League said Holmes’s performances in the PDL reminded him of another Ohio-based player, Chris Rolfe. Rolfe a Kettering, Ohio, native made 123 appearances for the Chicago Fire scoring 36 goals.

If Holmes can go onto have a career similar to the two-time Chicago Fire Golden Boot winner then the team that picks him up at this juncture, after he was skipped on the 114 picks that made up the 2012 MLS SuperDraft and subsequent Supplemental Draft, will be getting a true steal.

That steal could be in line with Steven Lenhart who totaled 38 goals and 12 assists in 61 collegiate games at NAIA Azusa Pacific University (Calif.). Lenhart  was named to the was honored as the NAIA National Tournament’s Outstanding Offensive Player in 2006 and 2007 helping lead Azusa Pacific to the 2007 NAIA national title. Lenhart has gone onto make 83 appearances in the MLS scoring 19 goals for Columbus Crew and San Jose Earthquakes.

Holmes was named the NAIA National Tournament’s Most Valuable Player in 2010 along with the NAIA National Player of the Year while leading the Falcons to National Runners-up.

The media is at fault even though it’s not their fault. People go to the news sources for just that, news. If the information provided by broadcasters and writers covering the coming presidential election, NFL draft or Super Bowl were inaccurate, they would certainly lose their jobs.

The national soccer media should look to add measures of “credibility” to their reporters and add to the pool or people reporting on the college game. It is impossible for the media to know every player, but they should have a much better understanding than they displayed this year when they spoke about players as if they had watched countless hours of match tape or sat in the stand taking notes.

It seems to me that the media went off the hype surrounding a player or the lack there of. For Holmes, Knight, Walls, and countless others there was little to no hype surrounding them.

Who do we blame their respective local media, their coaches, or the national media for the lack of hype that kept them from being players the media could speak intelligently about?

The truth of the matter is the soccer media in the U.S. is stretched. As much as it pains soccer fans to say it, the game while growing is not a heavy hitter with sponsorship and advertising money. Thomas O’Toole, wrote an article that appeared in USA Today on April 22, 2010 the NCAA reached an 14-year $11 billion contract with CBS and Turner Sports. Roger Pielke Jr. wrote a New York Times article on Nov. 24, 2011 that pointed out the NCAA’s sale of football television rights soared from $50 million to nearly $11 billion in 30 years when they signed with the most recent contract.

Those staggering figures allow networks to hire individuals who focus on the college game. For soccer it’s different.

The soccer media in the U.S. are responsible for not only covering the MLS, but also the English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A, German Bundesliga, UEFA Champions League, the U.S. men’s and women’s national teams, international tournaments, and then there is college soccer.

So it’s not media’s fault for having a lack of expertise in the area where there is the least amount of sponsorship and advertising revenue … figures on Major League Soccer’s television contract are a reported $10 million. That’s over $10 billion less than the NCAA contracts for football and basketball respectively or over $21 billion less than the two contracts combined.

It’s not the fault of the media who passionately covers a game they love. Some of that passion needs to be turned over to some new knowledgeable reporters to assist the prominent national reporters and writers.

It will be exciting to see Holmes, Knight, and Wall make the move to the professional game. There is no doubt they each have the ability on the field to do just that, regardless what the media writes or says.

Notre Dame College (OH) Finishes First Perfect Season with ECAC Title

Junior Christian Earnest continued his scoring binge with his 14th of the season to lead Notre Dame to a 4-0 victory over Lake Erie in the Eastern College Athletic Conference Division II Championship Sunday night at Korb Field.

With the win, the Falcons (19-0-0) secured their first undefeated season in program history and their first ECAC crown in their first appearance.

Earnest, who recorded 14 goals and four assists in 19 matches, broke a scoreless tie in the seventh minute, assisted by Carlo Manna. The goal would stand as the Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, native’s third game winner of the season.

The Falcons also extended a pair of historic streaks Sunday, pushing their record scoring streak to 82 matches and their home unbeaten streak to 17 matches (17-0-0).

Notre Dame dominated possession in the first half, out-shooting Lake Erie 16-3 in the first 45 minutes. That domination led to Earnest’s opener followed up by Tom Owens’ 10th goal of the season in the 32nd minute.

Those goals gave Notre Dame Head Coach Michael “Mac” McBride’s squad a comfortable lead.

But NDC didn’t waste time after the break, finding the net in the first 10 minutes. Sophomore Carlo Manna smashed home a left-footed volley from outside the penalty area for his second of the season in the 55th minute.

LEC keeper Ricky Carreira, who finished with nine saves, dove to his right but Manna’s strike was well placed giving NDC a three goal lead.

The Storm (8-9-3), who advanced to face Notre Dame by beating Salem International 3-1 in PK’s, responded with a dangerous sequence to try to get the goal back minutes later. But Falcons’ defensive line of Dan Knight, Jacob Sheppard, Philip Cutler, and substitute Chris Fairly was up to the task.

That backline kept the Storm in check, limiting them to just one second half shot that challenged goalkeeper Alex Kline. The program’s all-time leader in shutouts dove to his right ensuring his 20th career clean sheet.

Junior Dean Miller gave the Falcons a 4-0 lead in the 85th minute on a well-executed finish from the top of the box. It was the 10th goal of the year for Miller, who is one of six players to enjoy a breakout season.

For the game, Notre Dame, which has now scored 75 goals through its 19 contests, out-shot Lake Earie Green 31-4, including a 13-2 margin on frame.

The Falcons concluded their season with a perfect season for the first time in program history, after finishing undefeated in the regular season for the second straight year. NDC has not lost a regular season match since Oct. 27, 2009. During that stretch the Blue & White have won 36 regular season contests.

Notre Dame College to Host ECAC Men’s Soccer Tourney

Junior Forward Christian Earnest (Cuyahoga Falls, OH) is NDC's second leading goal scorer.

The Eastern College Athletic Conference Men’s Soccer Committee announced the field and host for the 2011 ECAC Division II Men’s Soccer Championship today.

The field will feature three teams: the Storm of Lake Erie College (Ohio), the Falcons of Notre Dame College (Ohio) and the Tigers of Salem International University (W.Va.).

The competition will be played over two days, Nov. 12-13, at Korb Field in Lyndhurst, Ohio. Notre Dame — the 2010 NAIA Men’s Soccer National Runner-up and current NCAA-II provisional member  was announced as the tournament host, reviving the event after a five-year hiatus.

“It is an honor to be given the opportunity to host the 2011 ECAC Division II Championship,” Notre Dame Head Coach Michael “Mac” McBride said.  “We are very excited to showcase how we do things here at Notre Dame College.”

Undefeated in its last 34 regular season games, Notre Dame (18-0-0) was announced as the top-seeded team and will receive a pass to the final game, a 7 p.m. kickoff on Sunday.

Second-seeded Lake Erie (8-8-2) will take on No. 3-seed Salem International (7-6-2) on Saturday.  That match is slated for a 5 p.m. kickoff and is a reprise of an earlier meeting this season (Oct. 19) when the Storm defeated the Tigers 4-0.  The winner of the LEC-SIU game will advance to face NDC on Sunday.

The ECAC sponsors nearly 100 championships in 27 sports. The organization includes over 320 member institutions in NCAA Divisions I, II, and III, ranging in location from Maine to North Carolina and west to Illinois.

Through 2010, the ECAC has sponsored 20 Division II Men’s Soccer title events.  Bridgeport (N.Y.), Long Island-Southampton (N.Y.), Keene State (N.H.), and St. Anselm (N.H.) have each captured two ECAC titles over that time.

This year’s tournament will be the first the ECAC has held in D-II men’s soccer since 2005, when American International (Mass.) defeated C.W. Post (N.Y.), 1-0, to win the title.

“We will work industriously to rally the Notre Dame College campus and its surrounding community to ensure this is the best-supported soccer championship the ECAC has ever had,” McBride said.