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Nick Raspanti gets rare soccer opportunity – Asbury Park Press – Published December 31, 2003
December 31, 2003

Nick Raspanti gets rare soccer opportunity

Published in the Asbury Park Press 12/31/03

Staff Writer

Middletown North senior Nick Raspanti doesn’t believe his appointment to the Super Y-League Mid-Atlantic Olympic Development Program Regional Player Pool will eventually lead him to a spot on the United States national soccer team.

But it’s still a terrific opportunity.

Raspanti was one of eight members of the Jersey Shore Boca’s 2003 Super Y-League teams to get appointed to the regional player pool. Together with teammate Darren Rutherford from the 2003 under-17 team, four members of the U16 team and two from from the U14 team will travel to Cocoa Beach, Fla., Jan. 23-25.

In Florida Raspanti and his fellow Boca members will be evaluated by Super Y-League scouts and United States Soccer Federation staff coaches. The best players will be placed in the national player pool, which feeds into the United States national teams.

Raspanti said he benefited from a change in the way the regional player pools were chosen. In the past, players were invited to try out for an area ODP pool, then a state pool, and finally the regional pool. That changed, Raspanti said, when the ODP wasn’t producing enough players.

“Now they’re sending scouts out to everyone’s games,” Raspanti said. “At the end of the season, each coach is supposed to pick three to five players from opposing teams who stood out. It’s a way they get to see the players in their natural environments.”

The fact that Raspanti knows so much about the process is a testament to his anticipantion for next month’s evaluations. He was told after the season by Boca U17 coach Bill Carroll that he had been selected to the regional player pool.

Raspanti was shocked, having never realized the process was ongoing while he was simply trying to put the ball in the net. But Carroll said his selection wasn’t surprising.

“He’s a hard-working player,” Carroll said. “He’s an excellent teammate and he’s wonderful at applying what we’re trying to do.”

Raspanti doesn’t expect to be one of the lucky players to get selected to the next level. However, he sees next month’s evaluations as an opportunity to better his game.

He’ll be working with some of the best talent in the Mid-Atlantic Region, and hopes to learn a few new things from them. In addition, he’ll receive his evaluation from the scouts, giving him a third-party glimpse at his strengths and weaknesses.

“It’s a great opportunity to see where I need to improve,” he said.

Raspanti’s path to the regional player pool began four years ago when he started playing for Boca. Prior to that, he was a member of the Middletown Celtics club and played separately for Carroll in a winter indoor league. But when he entered high school, he and his teammates on the winter league team agreed to leave their respective club teams and join Boca.

The U17 Boca team finished 6-6-1 last season, taking fourth place in the Mid-Atlantic Division.

Prior to the season, the U17s got the chance of a lifetime, going to Buenos Aires, Argentina in April to train with the team’s namesake, the Boca Juniors.

The 11-day trip included training sessions and a 40-minute scrimmage with the Boca Juniors.

“That was tough,” Raspanti said of the scrimmage. “Those guys are amazing. They’re all 18- to 20-year-olds who are on the verge of being professionals. We were just star struck.”

Raspanti and his teammates also played against three teams more on their level, going 1-1-1. One of the more memorable moments of the trip was the interactions with the Boca Junior players and the culture shock that awaited them in Argentina.

“It was a great experience when you get away from the soccer field, because with the culture there, you can’t get away from soccer,” Raspanti said. “The first day, a few of us took a walk after practice. We saw some teen-agers playing a pickup soccer game in the parking lot. We still had our uniforms on, and the kids called us over. We got to play a game of street soccer. It was like a dream.”

Since Raspanti isn’t expecting next month’s evaluation to lead him to the U.S. national team, he’s focusing on playing soccer in college. He’s looking at various schools at the moment, including Monmouth University, Ramapo College, Montclair State University and Richard Stockton College.

He said Montclair is his first choice, and is waiting for news on his application. Monmouth is a backup, he said. Both schools’ coaching staffs have been in contact with Raspanti.

Published 12/31/03
Asbury Park Press