Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tyler Lassiter, New York Red Bull

Tyler Lassiter’s life has changed quite a bit over the past year. He’s gone from collegiate athlete to professional athlete training with Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez. That is a big deal.

It was not so long ago that  Tyler Lassiter was bothered by what most college students would consider the norm. He had finals, made time to study, played video games and likely stayed up late watching TV. While some of these habits remain, Lassiter now has an entirely new set of responsibilities. Now he must fuel his body properly, study tactics and practice, practice, practice. That is because now Tyler finds himself no longer wearing the red and white of N.C. State, but the red and white of the New York Red Bulls. 

More after the jump. 

Tyler’s career began when he was very young.  His passion for the game has been evident to his family all his life. Tyler’s mother, Lisa, recalls “I still see Tyler as that little blond hair, blue eyed boy who just loves and wants to play soccer all day, every day!” She sees this in him because all his life he has played soccer by choice and passion. She continues “He has not lost that love, excitement and passion for the game that he had in the beginning. Even throughout all of his years of recreation, classic, ODP, high school and college!”

He grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina where the community is soccer rich. Raleigh is home to CASL, the Capital Area Soccer League and it was with this club that Tyler’s success began. As a member of the ’88 CASL Elite, he was on display around the country to various tournaments, camps and training sessions. His accomplishments with the team were numerous and perhaps highlighted most in the team’s victory in the U.S. Club Soccer Champions Cup in 2006. Not only did the team achieve national recognition but doors opened for them. Lassiter found himself competing overseas in both England and Italy. Reflecting on his experiences as a youth player and his youth teams he states:

“CASL will always be in my heart. So many good times were spent there. If I had to pick my best memories, I would say winning the National Championship and taking trips overseas to England and Italy. Going overseas was an awesome experience and opened my eyes to a level of youth soccer you can’t find that often in the U.S.”

The opportunities for exposure and development cannot be understated here. Lassiter’s skills honed and developed through the tutelage of multiple coaches before he found a home with the New York Red Bulls. Not only was Lassiter a standout in club and high school (where he went All-State in 2005), but he found success on the collegiate level as well. An impressive list of accomplishments paints Lassiter’s resume from N.C. State. In his freshman year he landed on the ACC’s All-Freshman team and by his senior year of college he had converted to a central defender, started 54 games in his Wolfpack career and found himself knocking on the door of the professional game.

Tyler eventually found himself on the U-23 roster of the Carolina Railhawks. The Railhawks of the NASL offered a unique stint of foreshadowing to the professional game.  Training habits, fitness tips and tactical approaches no doubt will prove useful as the young defender adapts to life as a full professional.

Drafted 30th overall in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft, Lassiter found himself moving to New York. Unclear of what the future held but determined nonetheless, Lassiter’s quest for playing time and a life in soccer began. What once was hobby, now is profession.

Agudelo, Henry... Lassiter
Lassiter went from sharing a locker room with college players to sharing one with players like Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez. He’s lives across the hall from Wayne Rooney’s brother and trains with U.S. Men’s National Team defender Tim Ream. He marks USMNT striker Juan Agudelo in training. When asked if he was ever star struck or had an moments of shock he responded “Yeah, it was shocking at first to be on the field with those guys. I wouldn’t really say I was star struck, but it was a pretty crazy feeling the first couple of days. Right after the draft was when I actually thought about how far I’ve made it.”

Composure is a must when you’re a rookie on a team like the Red Bulls. The New York squad boasts a powerful lineup in all positions, international stars and paychecks that would make any youth player envious. Amongst such talent, playing time will be hard to come by. However, Red Bull General Manager Erik Soler had this to say when Tyler was signed “We believe that Tyler has a bright future ahead of him and are excited to come to terms with him. He is a very smart and technical player who can add depth to our back line.”

Opportunities will likely be sparse in the early running… it might be that the league’s reinstitution of the Reserve League yields a chance for the defender to put himself on display. “I think it’s great to have the opportunity to still be able to get games in when you’re a rookie and not seeing much time during actual league games. It’s a great opportunity to get your name out; if you do well and earn a spot in the starting 11 with the full team."

It turns out, that Tyler Lassiter might be his own worst critic. He’s constantly looking to improve. This is a trait he’s carried with him since his early days.  Tyler’s mother, Lisa, recalls “I always felt that if I had to force him to play then he wasn’t having fun! He is self driven and has that ‘be the best he can be’ attitude with soccer. I never once had to make him go to practice or make him practice on his own.”  Not only that, but after training sessions he stays to practice…again, on his own. Lassiter: “In training I stay after and work on my first touch by having someone drive a ball into my feet, receiving it and then hitting a diagonal long ball to someone’s foot. I try everyday to play as fast as possible during the actual session to improve my speed of play because the game is so much faster than college.”

So what does the future hold for the young New York Red Bull? He’s certainly come a long way from the young, blond hair blue eyed boy his mother remembers. Now he trains in professional training gear, on professional grounds. The love for soccer though, remains. Tyler Lassiter may be tough on himself, but he’s now a role model for younger players who know his story. Many attest this to his humility. Others credit his work rate and dedication to the game.

Regardless of whether or not Tyler Lassiter ever steps on the field for the Red Bulls, one thing is clear: he’s certainly made a lot of people very proud.