BURNABY — For a goalkeeper who has already played for his country and spent time in residency with Whitecaps FC, the so-called yellow brick road to a collegiate soccer career seemed pre-paved for Luciano Trasolini.
Grab a coffee at his local Kensington Square Starbucks, located at the base of Burnaby Mountain, then head up the hill to back-stop the same Simon Fraser Clan soccer team which had played host to the all the camps and the dreams of his football youth.
Well, beginning this coming 2018-19 season, that will indeed be the script for the Burnaby native, yet in a twist from the original fable, the one were Dorothy and Toto were swept from their Kansas home to find their chosen path, Trasolini actually had to head to the U.S. heartland state just to get his dream started.
“The school I am at is super isolated,” Trasolini said by phone on Wednesday from Barton Community College in the tiny town of Great Bend, situated right in very heart of Kansas.
“There isn’t always a lot to do here, but the reason I came here is because it’s isolated,” he continued. “My grades weren’t good enough and so the isolation has let me focus on school and soccer.”
Trasolini, a former Canadian Under-17 international, posted a 1.09 goals-against-average over 17 starts for his NJCAA Cougars this past season, proving his ability to jump straight into a college program as a rookie.
And in the classroom?
He re-invented himself as a student-athlete.
Posting a 4.0 grade point average over his first semester, he convinced himself that he would indeed be able to return to his Burnaby home base and make that short trip up Burnaby Mountain to play for a Clan team which so needed a starting keeper to continue its reign as perennial Great Northwest Athletic Conference favourites.
“I took four classes last semester and I got all A’s,” Trasolini proudly reports. “That was a very big thing for me because school was never a big thing for me. I am the first in my family to go to college and I just wanted to prove to everyone, including myself, that I could hit those kinds of grades.”
AN ANCHOR FOR THE FUTURE
From the time he first arrived on the Burnaby Mountain campus as freshman back in the fall of 2013 and back-stopped the Clan all the way to the NCAA Div. 2 national Final Four, Brandon Watson was an unassailable presence for the Clan.
And when he left the school after its 2016-17 academic year as both the GNAC’s Male Scholar of the Year, and as the conference’s all-time leader in shutouts with 31, he cemented his stature as one of the most influential players in the entire history of the Clan program.
Alas, SFU would still enjoy great overall success this past season with a talented senior transfer named Miguel Hof.
Yet ask Clan head coach Clint Schneider about the overall importance of having an enduring, team-leading fixture in net, and there is little doubt left by his answer.
“We knew that when we recruited him, he was going to be our starting keeper from Day 1,” remembered Schneider of Watson, a Victoria native who had spent a redshirt freshman season at NCAA D-1 Coastal Carolina. “Brandon was someone who could compete and play at this level from the very start, and it was a credit to him that he kept getting better within the program. He wound up as a captain and as a leader among our players.”
Pre-written scripts are dangerous to follow, and in that regard, Trasolini’s homecoming and subsequent placing on the team’s depth chart is still subject to the competition that training camp will bring.
In fact, he’ll be one of four goalkeepers set to show their form and focus in training on Terry Fox Field in the weeks leading up to non-conference tests in the middle-to-latter stages of August.
Fellow rising sophomore Dylan Defer, redshirt freshman Aidan Bain and rising freshman Sam Boppart will join Trasolini in the competition.
Hof has graduated, however, and that means more eyes are apt to be trained on the Clan’s situation at goalkeeper than perhaps anywhere else on the pitch.
“We had a veteran come in and start for us this past season,” Schneider said of Hof, “but this year is a great unknown and it feels like that for the first time in a while. And that is why we are making sure we have lots of competition.”
If you look at the resumes, Trasolini would certainly look to have the edge, his Whitecaps background and stint with the national Under-17s, including a good run at the CONCACAF stage in Honduras in February of 2015, recommending him as the favourite.
Yet nothing is written in stone.
“Anyone can win this,” Schneider said of the starting keeper chores. “I said to Luciano that he has the pedigree to be a starting goalkeeper, and we are recruiting him to do that. But there’s going to be three other guys there ready to compete. But can he do it? Absolutely.”
The qualities all seem to be there.
“He is extremely confident and that’s a big quality in a keeper, to not get bogged down by mistakes, to have a short memory span,” Schneider informs. “And this is what makes him go. The technical ability he has with his feet, to distribute the ball from the back, is excellent, the best we’ve ever recruited.
“Of course he has areas where he can improve and polish, but he is a pretty complete goalkeeper. He has no glaring weaknesses and it’s hard to find players like that.”
HIS OWN YELLOW BRICK ROAD
From Burnaby to Kansas and back.
It’s a road less travelled to be sure, yet every one of its turns has helped Luciano Trasolini realize more and more that it has all been worth fighting for.
Like many high school-aged players, he trained his post-secondary sights on the Div. 1 level of NCAA play, and even got an offer from Cal Poly of the Big West Conference.
“I was supposed to go to Cal Poly but my SATs and my high school GPA weren’t good enough,” admits Trasolini, whose older second-cousin Marc, is a former Vancouver College and Santa Clara basketball star currently playing professionally in Japan. “So in my gap year (2016-17), I decided to take a few months off soccer, work a bit, and re-evaluate my life.”
He wound up playing for Croatia in Vancouver Metro Soccer League, before heading off to Barton CC in the fall.
“High school is supposed to be the best tine of your life and I had a good time, but I missed a lot of school because of soccer,” he admits. “I can remember a big thing was a chemistry course where I had to learn 14 chapters in two weeks and there was no leeway. Luckily I passed, but my marks weren’t good enough.”
The one thing that was?
His desire to play top-tier collegiate soccer and pursue the life of a student-athlete.
“I didn’t know if I had it in me,” he says of attempting to prove his quality as both a scholar and athlete by leaving home for life in a tiny Kansas town of under 10,000 people. “But being in the middle of Kansas, and not having anything else to do, I hit the books and I trained. Now, it’s like a dream come true and I am so excited.”
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