Monday, November 16, 2015
Some days, New York Red Bulls II midfielder Speedy Williams has to pinch himself.
“This is a dream, you know?” the young Jamaican said by phone on Monday. “Actually, this morning I was here with the first team practicing, and I had to stop for a couple of seconds and take everything in. This is my dream, right in front of me, right here at this facility, learning high-quality soccer. I’m just loving it, man, I’ve got to give thanks.”
After all, it wasn’t so long ago that Williams was waiting to sign his first professional contract with the Red Bulls II. Now, the former Robert Morris standout is getting the chance to learn from the Red Bulls’ midfield tandem of Sacha Kljestan and Dax McCarty, a fine finishing school for any young pro.
- RELATED: Red Bulls II Announce Five Returnees For 2016
Williams’ path to Harrison, N.J. went through Pittsburgh, and the Colonials. Recruited by long-time Coach Bill Denniston when he was on a recruiting trip to Kingston, Williams grabbed the opportunity to both continue his soccer career and earn a degree with both hands.
There was, of course, a small learning curve when it came to NCAA soccer.
“I can remember my first game, after the 90 minutes I thought the game was over, but you know in college it goes to overtime,” Williams said. “I was there taking my cleats off, and they said, ‘Hey, Speedy, you know we’ve got overtime.’ It was really different here, my first year.”
Williams adapted to the more physical style of play, and finished his NCAA career with 15 assists and six goals in 71 appearances for RMU. Williams began training with the Red Bulls II in the spring, but when it came to signing, barriers kept popping up. Encouraged by Red Bulls II Coach John Wolyniec, Williams stuck at it, and in early July he was added to the Red Bulls II roster.
“I was here, I was learning and enjoying it a lot and practicing, and things weren’t working out,” Williams said. “It was something that was out of [Wolyniec’s] control, but I had been here for a while and was still fighting and pushing through. I told coach until I got signed I was going to move, I was going to find somewhere else to go, and then – thank God – things worked out here.”
Williams made a big impact upon his arrival. He made 10 appearances, all starts, in the regular season and had a goal and three assists to help NYRB II push into the USL Playoffs. He also appeared in both of the club’s postseason contests, a 4-2 overtime win against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds – for whose organization he had suited up for in the PDL in 2014 – and a 2-0 defeat to the Rochester Rhinos.
The loss to Rochester, and the experience of playing professionally for the first time, gave Williams the chance to evaluate what he would have to work on to take the next step in his career.
“They were cohesive, and you can tell those guys were seasoned pros, and I learned a lot about professionalism,” Williams said. “They were a lot tougher than us, and now I’m in the weight room a little bit more, trying to get tougher.”
As it was to Wolyniec and the Red Bulls, though, Williams’ potential started to become apparent in his home country. The 23-year-old was initially called up by Jamaica for its recent trip to South Korea, only for a late change of plans to see him excluded for a more veteran lineup. Despite that, simply to be on the radar for the Reggae Boyz again after making his debut for the side as an 18-year-old in 2010 gives Williams a lot of pride, and motivation to raise his level higher.
“Playing for your country at the level, it would be a really, really big thing,” Williams said. “I’m just keeping my fingers crossed, keep working and try to make the best career possible just in case that day comes.”
For now, though, Williams will keep working, and living out his dream.
“Like I said before, everything that has happened has been a blessing,” he said. “I’m just thankful for everything, and there’s a lot more work to do, a lot more learning, a lot more improving.”