Rio Hope-Gund and Jack Beer credit their time in EDP League & Tournament play with New York Soccer Club as vital preparation for playing at the NCAA Division I level. And did they ever—both playing big roles this season, helping Georgetown University to claim its first Division I men's championship.
Both players were moved to different positions during their tenure with a successful NYSC team, which went a long way in helping them integrate into the Hoyas' system.
"It was amazing," said Hope-Gund, who competed for the club during his high school years. "New York Soccer Club prepared me to the best of my ability and I'm sure Jack will say the same thing. Playing with some great players definitely prepared us, playing in some national championships. We had experience playing in big games, national championships, Dallas Cup championship. That really prepared us for what we've seen in college."
Beer, who performed for NYSC since he was 10, felt the club was a natural for him. "I knew from the first second when I joined it was the right club for me," he said. "It was a special one. Our playing style was the right one, the coaching was fantastic and EDP was a good, competitive league to play in. It's a really good league for talented young guys to showcase what they have and get recruited by big colleges. My development in EDP is something that is very special to me."
So was winning a national championship. Georgetown prevailed over the University of Virginia, prevailing in penalty kicks, 7-6, after playing to a 3-3 tie in regulation and overtime in Cary, N.C. on Dec. 15.
Beer and Hope-Gund were not the only NYSC players on the Hoyas as forward Will Sands and midfielder Dante Polvara also contributed. The Georgetown roster had four other players with EDP backgrounds -- goalkeepers Tomas Romero (Real Jersey) and Ethan Koehler (SDFC), midfielder-forward Ethan Lochner (Manhattan SC) and midfielder Jacob Montes (FC Florida).
It should come as no surprise that Georgetown Head Coach Brian Wiese has recruited from many EDP clubs like NYSC. These clubs are right in his backyard and he and his staff obviously have years of experience recruiting college soccer stars. "Wherever good players happen to be hiding, we'll hunt for them," he said. "The level of competition is important. When you look at the teams that play EDP and the environment they are in, it's competitive and it has to be competitive to develop players. The first red flag of any college coach when you're going to watch players, if the environment is not good, if the competition isn't there to grow players, those players aren't going to develop enough. We've found the players we've gotten from EDP teams are every bit ready for our environment. And what more can you ask for?" Of Beer and Hope-Gund, several years ago Wiese was alerted to several talented NYSC players by then assistant coach Brian Gill. "You saw two different players. One was Jack who was very polished, very technical, highly impactful and the other was this kid Rio who looked like he could become something very mobile. Wasn't totally sure what position he would play but had a great way to him. Looked like a good teammate, a good worker, good feet, still not quite the finished product. Both of these kids are different, but they're going to be good. They seem to have a good chemistry and in Rio's case he's going to be good. It was just a question of when for us." As a youth player, Hope-Gund started off as a left back, but was switched to center midfield by his coach Christian Gonzalez, the NYSC president. The 6-foot, 170-lb. New York City native played there in his final three seasons with the club. As a center mid, Hope-Gund ran the NYSC show. "He controlled the tempo of the game," Gonzalez said. "Super athletic kid. He was a ball winner, a leader, well respected amongst his teammates. Towards the end of his career with us, he went back to center back. We planted a seed with him, and he ended up transitioning from center midfielder to a center back for Georgetown."
"I don't think you sometimes appreciate what players do for you until they're gone," Wiese said. "While we always appreciated Rio, I don't think we really understood how important he was to the consistency of our backline. He's grown into a really great defender. He's improved his game in the air to be able to play the position well. He's a midfielder at heart, so he's a wonderful passer. That's just what we like in our players. He's becoming an all-around player.
"I would predict his trajectory will land him into a pro environment in a year or two. He has a fifth year [at Georgetown] if he wants to take it."
In a rarity, Hope-Gund's twin brother Kofi, a goalkeeper, was on the Amherst College team that reached the Division III final against Tufts University (read the story). Amherst lost.
In contrast to Hope-Gund, Beer began as a center back, but Gonzalez and his staff moved him to an attacking role. Gonzalez called the Thornwood, N.Y. native a "very skillful player, silky smooth around the box. He can shoot with both feet and has always been a guy that has come through for us with big goals." As a 14-year-old, Beer was invited to the U.S. Under-14 national team, the same year he tallied 28 goals for NYSC, "which is pretty impressive," Gonzalez said.
Needless to say, Wiese has been impressed with Beer as well. The 5-9, 160-lb. forward started a handful of games, but was a vital contributor off the bench (three goals, four assists), connecting for the game-winning goal on a "fantastic" free kick, Wiese said, in a 3-1 victory over Providence College in the Big East final.
It should come as no surprise that Wiese has recruited from many EDP clubs. They're right in his backyard and he and his staff have experience recruiting the next college soccer stars.
"Wherever good players happen to be hiding, we'll hunt for them," he said. "The level of competition is important. When you look at the teams that play EDP and the environment they are in, it's competitive and it has to be competitive to develop players. The first red flag of any college coach when you're going to watch players, if the environment is not good, if the competition isn't there to grow players, those players aren't going to develop enough. We've found the players we've gotten from EDP teams are every bit ready for our environment. And what more can you ask for?"