There are a lot of traditional powers in NCAA soccer. Those teams that crank out national championships and professional talent like it’s routine.
Davidson College in North Carolina is not one of those schools.
Now, that’s not to say that it isn’t a good soccer program. Head coach Matt Spear – a product of Davidson soccer himself – has pieced together a team strong enough to play against the ACC powers on a consistent basis and played to a 2-2 draw with a highly successful UC-Santa Barbara program on the road in 2010.
However, when Spears added Alex Caskey to his recruiting class for the 2007 season, he brought in a talent that had not yet been seen at Davidson.
“We’ve had a pretty successful program and Alex was the pinnacle of the team,” Spear said. “He’s an ACC-level talent and we were very fortunate to have him at Davidson for four years.”
Earlier this month, the Sounders FC made Caskey their third round selection in the MLS SuperDraft and now he’s testing his mettle at the professional level, vying for the opportunity to play in Seattle.
But coming in as a third-round pick to Seattle on a deep team with several established professionals, Caskey may appear to be a longshot, but it is not unfamiliar territory.
As a high school player in Dunwoody, Georgia, Caskey wasn’t highly recruited and opted for Davidson (“The Princeton of the South”) because of its sterling academic reputation. It also gave him the opportunity to play each year against Duke and Wake Forest and other top soccer school in the southeast.
He went on to start every match at Davidson in his four years, notching 19 goals and 15 assists.
It was in those matches against the likes of Duke and Wake Forest that Caskey shined brightest, according to Spear.
“He plays well when he plays with good players,” Spear said. “He’s a bit of a magician. He’s got great touch and a cleverness with the ball. He’s fun to watch and very challenging to stop. He’s got a bit of a sixth sense when it comes to getting out of pressure.”
While the jump isn’t unprecedented – plenty of players go from late-round unknowns from smaller schools to become stars in MLS – it is still going to take some adjusting from the History major.
“For him the jump is a little bit bigger because he’s coming from a middle-of-the-road Division 1 program to MLS, so the speed is a bit more of a jump,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “He’s quick, he has a good head on his shoulders, there’s definitely something there. He definitely has the capabilities to do more if given the right opportunity.”
If Caskey knows MLS history the way he knows the World Wars and Huey Long (whom he wrote his thesis about), he knows that with some hard work and patience he could not just survive, but flourish.