OPINION: Why Carlo Acquista might be the man for the job!
The recent firing of Dan Donigan as Rutgers men’s soccer head coach is an opportunity for athletic director Pat Hobbs to usher the team in a new direction and perhaps tap into a pipeline for potential talent. And it is why an unconventional candidate for the vacant men’s soccer job might be the most intriguing.
Soccer has evolved in recent years in terms of player development due in large part to the growth of academy programs affiliated with professional teams. These academies, largely affiliated with MLS clubs, provide a pipeline of young talent to the senior team. No academy in all of MLS is better than the New York Red Bulls, whose graduates include United States national team players Matt Miazga and Tyler Adams among others.
But not every player goes directly from the academy to the MLS level like Miazga or Adams. Some go on to play for powerhouse NCAA programs such as Georgetown, St. John’s, North Carolina and Wake Forest.
It is a reason why Carlo Acquista might be the most qualified candidate to replace Donigan.
Sources tell The Knight Report that Acquista interviewed for the position earlier this week. A former head coach at Adelphi with numerous NCAA Tournament appearances to his name, Acquista has been a scout for the Red Bulls for the past year.
It is a role that sees him not just looking for international players, but scouting youth players for this academy system.
One of the great knocks on the last coaching staff was their inability or lack of interest in recruiting the Red Bulls Academy, which was shocking since the organization routinely sends players not only to top college programs but also the youth national teams. Acquista, with a proven track record as a college coach, also would have an in to this program.
With a couple of top players from the academy each year, Rutgers could easily contend for the Big Ten title. Donigan inexplicably ignored this talent level. It would be like if Chris Ash suddenly stopped paying visits to Don Bosco Prep for his football team.
A former college standout at St. John’s, Acquista has the local ties to recruit outside the Red Bulls academy system. He also has a strong track record at Adelphi that could make him an intriguing candidate in his own right.
But it is the tie to the Red Bulls' system that is most unusual and makes him a fascinating candidate for this job.
If Acquista can replicate the Red Bulls' unique pressing style, it is a selling point for his candidacy. He can offer college prospects the chance to play a similar style as the MLS team, an organization that has won the league’s regular season three times over the past six seasons. Given the team's development of players in recent years who have gone off to Europe, such as Jozy Atlidore, Tim Howard and Miazga, it is a selling point to recruits and families.
The hiring of Acquista would certainly be outside the box. He's not a big name college coach, but he's had success. He’s not a former alum or a Jersey guy, but what he offers is a chance to tap into the most fascinating network of talent.
Something that perhaps can’t be ignored.