Eight games into the new college soccer season, Maryland forward Casey Townsend has scored eight goals in the Terrapins’ undefeated start (7-0-1). But that story almost didn’t happen.
After a solid junior year last fall, the Michigan native nearly left school a year early to sign a Generation adidas deal with MLS.
“It was very close,” the forward told MLSsoccer.com over the phone. “I was right on the fence on whether or not I wanted to stay or go. The opportunity was there, but ultimately after I sat down with my family, I valued the education a little more, and I wanted to stay and get my degree and help this team.”
Help the team he has done in plenty, particularly as the Terps cope with the loss of Ethan White (D.C. United), Zac MacMath (Philadelphia Union) and Matt Kassel (New York Red Bulls) to the pro ranks.
And beyond his play, Townsend has transformed himself into a leader of a young, yet also extremely talented group, and he’ll certainly a pivotal role as Maryland looks to avenge last year’s quarterfinal loss in the NCAA Tournament.
“There’s been a tremendous maturation and growth every year with Casey, but right now he looks like he’s fully tuned in,” head coach Sasho Cirovski told MLSsoccer.com. “He’s more connected to his teammates than probably ever before.”
While not the biggest target up front (5-foot-11, 160 pounds), Townsend holds the ball up extremely well, linking with his fellow attackers – forward Patrick Mullins and midfielder John Stertzer – and tends to pop up in the right place at the right time in the opposing penalty box.
And while Cirovski – who compared Townsend to former Terp great Taylor Twellman – enjoys the offensive spark the senior provides, it’s the defensive work that stands out to him as well.
“In the tradition of Maryland forwards, he does a lot of work and puts a lot of pressure on backs when they have the ball,” Cirovski said. “He’s a great pressing forward.”
Of course, turning down a GA deal comes with an element of risk. An injury could hamper his pro prospects, and he’ll have to earn a spot wherever he winds up next year.
However, Townsend draws confidence by observing the former Terps now dotting the pros.
“When you come here, you expect to be a professional soccer player,” Townsend said. “You see all the players who have come before us, and how successful they’ve been. That makes you want to put in the work because you know all eyes are on you when you’re here, and if you do the right things and play well you know you’re going to have the opportunity to move on to the next level.”
But first things first for Townsend. In 2008, the striker won the national championship on a team that included Omar Gonzalez, A.J. DeLaGarza, Graham Zusi and Rodney Wallace. With senior year upon him, he’s looking to seal his college career with another title.
“That would be amazing,” Townsend said. “That kind of weighed heavily on my mind when I was deciding [to stay]. I had so much unfinished business – hadn’t scored as many goals as I wanted to here, knew I could be better and that the team could do better.”
Travis Clark covers D.C. United, college and youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com.