Feb. 4, 2009
THE BIG JUMP
LIU's Mashriqi wants to go from being a fan to a Red Bulls player
By Michael Lewis
|LIU midfielder Mohammed Mashriqi is optimistic about his Red Bulls trial.
Photo by Joy Rubenstein
Bradenton, Fla. -- How much does Mohammed Mashriqi want to play for the Red Bulls?
Well, he has been a fan from way, way back.
"Ever since Giovanni Savarese scored a hat-trick back in the day," he said on Tuesday.
Come May 16, that was 13 years ago in 1996, when Mashriqi was all of eight-years-old when he watched the former Venezuelan international do his thing when the team was known as the MetroStars at Giants Stadium.
"I've been a fan of the team," the Flushing, Queens resident said after morning practice at IMG Academies. "I always wanted to play at home. That's the best. I love soccer. going away would be hard. I have a big family at home. but playing in the metro area would be the best."
Which is why Mashriqi has put off going back to Long Island University, at least for a while. He was one of several players who tried out at last week's mini-camp at the Giants Stadium bubble in East Rutherford, N.J. and impressed the coaching staff. He was one of five players from that tryout invited here.
"I was a bit surprised," he said. "I was actually on my winter vacation in college. It was bit of a surprise. But I am here. Things happen for a reason. I'm going to make the best of it.
"I want it bad. I want it bad. I have been thinking about it ever since I went into the first day of mini-camp. This is a mission for me to accomplish. It's all up to me. I have to put in the work to get it done and please the coach, Juan Carlos Osorio."
Osorio hasn't seen what Mashriqi can do outside because he was not at Monday or Tuesday training. Mashriqi got an invitation to the training camp through former LIU men's coach Arnie Ramirez, who coached his brother Sabir at the Brooklyn school, and Savarese, the team's all-tme leading goalscorer.
After a rather undistinguished senior season as at midfield, Mashriqi sees this as an opportunity of a lifetime.
"This opportunity doesn't come around every time, so I'm going to take advantage," Mashriqi said. "If things don't go well, I will go back to school."
That's where the 6-1, 175-lb. Mashriqi is a physical education major. But he is willing to put his education on hold, at least for the time being. He e-mailed his counselor, who is speaking to his professors.
"Things will be taken care of at school," said Mashriqi, who played his youth soccer for B.W. Gottschee and the Brooklyn Knights.
Mashriqi, 21, sees the tryout as a second chance after a senior season in which he felt he did not get nearly the playing time he had expected. A former member of the U.S. Under-14 National Team and a member of the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association ODP and Region I team, Mashriqi started 10 of 18 games. He scored four goals, including three game-winners, and helped to create two others.
"I had not played as much as I was supposed to play," he said. "That's what I feel. my minutes were being messed with.
"I don't know what it was. We had a new assistant coach. I didn't get the minutes I was looking for. Very, very few minutes."
Perhaps he will get some minutes Wednesday, when the Red Bulls take on the U.S. Under-17 National Team in a scrimmage in IMG.
Mashriqi said camp was "going well. I'm beginning to get my fitness up and get comfortable with the guys. Hopefully things will go well.
"Its just getting used to the level of play, being comfortable, not being nervous, getting relaxed. That's the most important thing -- being relaxed and knowing what your doing."
Mashriqi comes from a soccer family. His father, Tahir, played for the Afghanistan National Team.
"It's our life," he said. "Soccer is our life.
"We have a big family team. It goes way back to our country. We have a lot of great players."
Mashriqi hopes he will be able to add his name to the family list.