cover photo belongs to Max Petrosky
Last year I spoke with Alex Bono, Spencer Richey, Pat Wall, and Adam Grinwis about their time in school and their plans after graduating. This year we have four seniors trying to make the jump to the professional game. Penn State's Matt Bersano just finished his final year of eligibility after playing three years at Oregon State, as well as time with PDL side Lane United and the Real Salt Lake academy team. Ashkan Khosravi is an Iranian-American at UC Riverside who I spoke with earlier in the year about his journey to the US. Ohio State goalkeeper Chris Froschauer had some national exposure after topping his previous school, Dayton, in penalty kicks and reaching the Sweet 16. Lastly there is Michael Breslin from UC Irvine, who was named Honorable Mention in the Big West for his senior year.
Entering college, were you dead set on going to your school from the start or were you close to signing with another school?
Ashkan Khosravi, UC Riverside: Although I talked to many other colleges, I verbally committed to UCR early, around December of my senior year in high school. So I made my decision early and stuck to it.
Chris Froschauer, Ohio State: I was not dead set on attending a certain school whereas I came from a smaller club and had to look around a lot more. I visited around 8 different schools that were interested in me and made my decision from there.
Michael Breslin, UC Irvine: I was in contact with several schools before making my final decision to attend UCI. UCI would provide me with a top-level education and is nationally recognized and awarded University. The men's soccer team had competed every year as a top ranked Division I level team. And my twin brother and I both received interest by the coaching staff at UCI, and therefore could continue to play on the same team together throughout both of our collegiate careers.
Matt Bersano, Penn State: I committed very early in the process, before being a member of RSL's academy team my senior year of high school. While I was confident in my own abilities, playing for only a club team made me feel as if not many programs better than Oregon State or Marquette would get a chance to watch me play so I committed to OSU. During my senior season I received a number of scholarship offers from big time schools but wanted to be a man of my word and play out my fours years at the place I verbally committed to from the start. I liked the path OSU had for me and enjoyed the idea of playing for the team sooner than some of the other schools promised in the recruiting new process.
Bersano played with Oregon State for three years before starting his masters program at Penn State.
Sell us on the advantages of going to college, staying for four years, and then trying to enter the professional scene. Why not leave early and try to get plugged into a professional team somewhere?
Bersano: Minutes. Apart from the obvious training every day with your school, playing games is what makes college so great for goalkeepers trying to play professionally. Anywhere from 18-24 games in the fall, 4-8 spring games, then 7-10 with a PDL club in the summer gets you minutes that are a necessity for the development of a young goalkeeper. If you're in the position where a professional club wants you to come in and make an immediate impact on the field, then by all means go for it. In my five years, I've played 66 full division one matches, 12 spring games, and 15 PDL matches. I've seen way too many young goalkeepers not touch the field in the first three years of their professional career as a homegrown.
Khosravi: Staying in college opens up many other doors to new opportunities, and teaches you many life lessons that you won’t be able to learn anywhere else. There is always a chance of injuries in any sport. Having a college degree offers back of plans.
Froschauer: I believe the advantages of staying in college for four years are that you gain experience. If you are to enter a pro scene earlier than that unless you gain the starting role there is a good chance that you will not see game experience which as a keeper is critical to development.
Breslin: I redshirted my first year in college and ended up staying a total of five years overall to finish my soccer career and also to complete my degree in electrical engineering. The biggest advantage in staying for the full four years is having a college degree when you exit college. An injury could sideline any player’s career and having a technical degree from college is always something positive to have.
Most top collegiate goalkeepers play in the PDL in the spring to complement their season. How did you spend your off-season and what kept you prepared for the fall collegiate season?
Froschauer: I spent my off-season and summers playing every year. My first summer after freshman year I played for the Columbus Crew U19/U20 team and lived in Columbus. My second summer I played for Reading United PDL and we had a very good team with seven or eight kids getting drafted from that team. And this past summer, due to my transfer to Ohio State, I had to take summer classes but still was able to play at a local team in the area. Playing over the summer is a blast. You get to meet a ton of new guys and it’s something I would definitely recommend.
Khosravi: I never got a chance to play PDL during my off-seasons due to some injuries and some school stuff. But I mostly spent my summers training with my old academy goalkeeper coach in Dallas and this past summer (before my senior year) I got a chance to train with the Seattle Sounders for a week.
Breslin: I spent some of my time in the off-season training with a few of the local PDL teams but I spent the majority of my time at UCI training with my teammates. I focused on building and strengthening relationships with my teammates for the upcoming season. The majority of this training time consisted of taking hours of shots from my teammates and also playing extremely competitive small sided games. I also dedicated my time in the off-season to getting into peak physical shape because, in my opinion, this helps prevent injuries for any player for the upcoming fall season.
Bersano: When I was younger and battling with injuries, I didn't like the idea of PDL. I wanted the break for my body and a time to go home. In my last two off-seasons, I've spent the summers playing PDL and have had such a good time. The off-season is a good time to bounce around some MLS clubs while still trying to get some minutes in a decent league. This last off-season, I spent a month in Spain training with a few pro sides over there before heading back to Oregon to play with Lane United FC. I've had good experiences on and off the field during these summers and would recommend playing PDL for any goalkeeper trying to stay sharp for an incoming fall. Make sure to take a break at some point though, the body and the mind will both need it.
Talk about the your team and the season. Where did your team succeed and where did they struggle?
Breslin: Our team dealt with a lot of adversity throughout the season. We succeeded in several games in scoring goals and staying strong defensively, and also fought our way into the Big West Conference Tournament. We struggled in the fact that we were never truly one hundred percent healthy. Many players, including myself, battled injuries throughout the entire season and we lost several key players to injuries throughout the year.
Bersano: The season didn't go the way we wanted it to during my final season at Penn State. We were a very possession oriented team and at times played the most beautiful kind of soccer but we struggled to gel in the backline. The entire backline and goalkeeper situation, myself included, were completely new players compared to last year’s team. We played some great soccer going forward but failed to be attentive in some of the basics, like marking on a corner or hitting away a clearance high and wide. That caught up to us nearly every game as the season continued.
Khosravi: My last season at UCR was by far the worst season out of all four. Nothing went our way this year. We started the year with high expectations because of the many talented and experienced individuals on our team, but we never found a way to play well as a team. As much as I was disappointed about my last season and the way I ended my college career, I can look back and see myself, and these past four years as a big part of UCR soccer history. We won the first ever trophy in UCR soccer history, got ranked nationally for the first time (19th in the nation), won ten games in a season for the first time in our program, and many other records that were broken individually by me and as a team.
Froschauer: We wound up having a very good year at Ohio State. We got off to a slow start whereas we didn't really have an identity and I think we were a little overconfident. We thought we were going to be able to take the field and beat teams easily. We quickly found out that was not the case and had to figure out our identity which was to defend strongly for 90 minutes and control the game the way we wanted to and beat teams 1-0 or 2-0. The back four and I took a lot of pride in keeping a clean sheet. We then turned things around and made a great run winning the Big Ten and advancing in the NCAA.
What’s the last goal scored on you and what do you take from it moving forward?
Khosravi: The last goal I got scored on was on my senior night against Cal State Fullerton. That game meant nothing to our team, as we had no chance of advancing to the playoffs going into that game. It was a sad night. I guess what I learn from it is to try and make sure I never experience a night like that again.
Froschauer: The last goal scored on me was against Stanford in the Sweet 16. We were losing 2-1 in the 88th minute and we were going for it, and they wound up getting a goal on the counter with a minute left.
Bersano: The last goal scored on me was an 88th minute game winner at Michigan State in a 2-1 Big Ten match. This goal means a lot to me because essentially it was the end of our season and any chance of making the NCAA tournament, apart from some heroic performance in the Big Ten tournament. Looking at this goal from a technical side, I was able to work with my goalkeeper coach before leaving Penn State about improving my footwork and overall approach to these 1v1 situations that require more bravery than anything else.
Breslin: The last goal scored on me was a penalty kick at UC Riverside. Unfortunately, that game would be the last of my UCI career, due to an ankle injury I suffered later in that same game. Being injured for the final games of my fifth season at UCI was extremely difficult to deal with. I take from the last goal that was scored on me, and that game at Riverside itself, that players and goalkeepers alike should appreciate the game and the college soccer experience.
Is playing professionally abroad a goal of yours or are you more interested in staying stateside? What’s a dream club scenario for you in five years?
Bersano: Playing professionally abroad is definitely a goal of mine, but it is not a necessity. I'd like to play anywhere that wants me. If that means an opportunity to join an MLS side and ride that out that's great. If I'm getting more interest from a European club, then getting on a plane is a move I am very prepared to make. Five years down the line, I want to be an established veteran in the MLS with significant minutes under my belt. I don't have any allegiance in the states when it comes to a club because I am just happy to even be able to communicate with these teams in the pursuit of making my dreams my reality. But I'd hope five years down the line I'm pushing down the door for being a Captain of an MLS side.
Khosravi: Playing professionally is still a goal, in the US or anywhere else. I believe a dream club scenario, for me and any other soccer player, would be to play for a top club in Europe. But we all know that doesn’t happen often especially to players growing up in the US. So I guess a realistic dream scenario would be playing for a MLS side or a first division club in any other country.
Breslin: I'm interested in both the possibility of playing stateside and the possibility of playing overseas. I have been in contact with several USL teams lately and look forward to the possibility of continuing my goalkeeping career beyond college. A dream club scenario would be to become a starting goalkeeper for one of the MLS teams in five years time.
Froschauer: Playing abroad would not be something I am opposed to after college. I would love to have the opportunity to play after college whether it be in the states or overseas, it's an opportunity to continue to play the game you love. In five years I would say a dream club or opportunity would be having the opportunity to start for a team in MLS.