MSOC : Long time coming: Former Syracuse standout Vuolo fulfills dream playing professional soccer

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first_img Published on March 6, 2012 at 12:00 pm Contact Jacob: [email protected] | @Jacob_Klinger_ Comments It all started in front of a church.Jeremy Vuolo was 8 years old, playing soccer in front of the Reformed Baptist Church of Downingtown, Pa., when some neighborhood kids and their dad asked him to try out for Spirit United, a local travel team.Vuolo made the team the next weekend. When he was 12, Vuolo made up his mind — he wanted to be a pro.‘It’s all I wanted to do, never did anything else, never played any other sport, just wanted to play football or soccer all the time,’ Vuolo said.That decision set him on a globetrotting career path stretching from playing in the churchyard to starring in college at Syracuse and professionally in Finland and, finally, suiting up for the New York Red Bulls. Along the way, Vuolo underwent personal experiences that form the foundation for his career as he competes for a starting job in Major League Soccer.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textVuolo and the Red Bulls kick off the 2012 season Sunday against FC Dallas with a talent-packed roster expected to contend for its first MLS Cup.After four years under head coach Ian McIntyre at Hartwick College, Vuolo followed his coach to Syracuse in 2010. Though the Orange went 2-10-5, Vuolo made 79 saves in 16 appearances and was named the team’s MVP, garnering multiple professional offers.Vuolo was a three-year starter at Hartwick, where he was named Mid-American Conference Goalkeeper of the Year in 2009. But success did not come quickly for Vuolo.When Vuolo arrived at Hartwick in 2006, he admittedly had plenty of maturing to do. He competed for the starting spot his freshman year but ultimately redshirted. In his first player’s meeting with McIntyre, Vuolo pelted McIntyre with questions about the coach and the keeper starting ahead of him. Vuolo said he was blaming others for his lack of success.‘I remember Mac telling me to stop and just said, ‘Listen, we’re having a meeting about you, so we’re going to talk about you,” Vuolo said. ‘And that’s actually stuck with me for the years all the way leading up to now.’By the time Vuolo and McIntyre moved to Syracuse, the goalkeeper was a proven leader. Still, McIntyre told Vuolo he would have to earn the captain’s armband and prove himself to his new team. Vuolo quickly gained the trust of his teammates, hardly surprising McIntyre.‘His work ethic is second to none and so we knew that he’d have that right caliber personality in his ability to integrate with the other guys,’ McIntyre said.That work ethic made an impression on Jukka Masalin, an assistant at Hartwick before moving with McIntyre to Syracuse. The winter after Vuolo’s senior season, Masalin fished through his contacts in his native country of Finland.Masalin learned Juha Malinen, head coach of AC Oulu, needed a new starter between the posts. Vuolo arrived in Finland and quickly impressed Malinen enough to earn a contract offer.The goalkeeper also had offers from teams in the United Soccer League and MLS. It was a hard decision for Vuolo, so he sought some advice from former Hartwick and SU teammate Nick Roydhouse.‘(Vuolo) thought it was important to be going to a club and playing,’ Roydhouse said in an email to The Daily Orange. ‘It is difficult for such a young keeper to start straight away in the professional environment, and knew he would improve much quicker with solid minutes on the field, rather than sitting as a second keeper.’The everyday intensity of training for the long Finnish season meant that soccer was finally Vuolo’s job. Yet simply living in the Nordic country brought challenges of its own.When Vuolo took his first steps on Finnish soil it was minus 33 degrees Fahrenheit. During the team’s three-month preseason, the team trained inside twice a day while it was dark and freezing outside. There were days when Vuolo said he could not go outside with anything more than his eyes exposed.During the 2011 season, Vuolo turned in 11 shutouts in 24 of the team’s matches. AC Oulu exercised their option to bring Vuolo back for a second season.But Masalin recommended Vuolo to a former teammate, Juha Reini, who was working as a player representative in the United States. Reina began representing Vuolo and contacted Erik Solér, the general manager of the Red Bulls and Reina’s former agent.‘He picked him out as a client, and he had the connections here at Red Bulls already,’ Masalin said.In need of a goalkeeper, Solér asked Todd Hoffard, New York’s goalkeeper coach, about Vuolo. Hoffard called his former Hartwick teammate, McIntyre, to learn more about Vuolo’s day-to-day training habits.A long signing process ended with New York paying an undisclosed transfer fee to AC Oulu to sign Vuolo.In New York, Vuolo is shielded by Rafa Márquez, a former FC Barcelona defender who captained Mexico at the last three World Cups. And he faces shots from rising American talent such as Juan Agudelo.Facing top competition, Vuolo expects himself to be the hardest working player on the field. So far, he has lived up to that standard.Vuolo has impressed Hoffard with his drive and blue-collar work ethic, the same qualities that endeared him to his former coaches and teammates at Hartwick and Syracuse.‘(Vuolo) is the hardest working player I’ve ever been associated with,’ Roydhouse said. ‘He had a professional mentality well before he became a professional soccer player.’When the 12-year-old Vuolo made his decision to one day turn pro, he set off a career driven by constants in his mentality.That mentality carried him along every stop in his career. From his days as a disgruntled freshman at Hartwick to leading by example in Syracuse to Finland and back to New York, Vuolo was always working.With the Red Bulls, Vuolo is happy to be fighting for a starting spot with the league’s elite.‘It’s very professional, it’s very demanding and so I like it,’ Vuolo said. ‘I mean, I love it. I couldn’t be in a better environment.’[email protected]center_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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