Virginia Tech’s move into the ACC lined up just as American soccer leagues were beginning to take hold across the country. The Hokies joined the ACC in 2004 and made their first College Cup appearance in 2007. Since then Tech has been a staple in the NCAA Tournament.
During that stretch MLS has grown from 10 teams to 26 for the 2020 season, while the USL has grown into two leagues that now has nearly 50 clubs across the country. One of the latest Hokies to make the jump from Blacksburg to the pro ranks, is Collin Verfurth. We got a chance to catch up with him to discuss his path from choosing Virginia Tech to turning pro to signing a new MLS contract just a few weeks ago.
GC: Thanks for taking some time to talk with us. Before we jump into where you are now, can you tell us about your recruiting process coming out of high school and how you selected Virginia Tech?
CV: Virginia Tech first saw me play when they came to a practice of mine when I was playing for Loudoun Soccer Club. They showed further interest in me by scouting me at tournaments throughout my sophomore and junior year. They invited me to come on campus for an unofficial visit, and that was when I fell in love with the school and campus. The culture that VT soccer wanted to restore was clear and it was something that I wanted to be apart of. These were some of the key factors that made me choose VT. (Didn’t hurt that the food was amazing and top in the country.)
GC: How was your time at Virginia Tech, both on and off the pitch? And was your favorite place in Blacksburg?
CV: My four years at Virginia Tech was unforgettable through all the memories made with new friendships, achieving personal and team goals, and exploring what VT and Blacksburg has to offer. On the pitch, my teammates and I achieved many of our goals: getting Virginia Tech back in the Top 25 and making the NCAA tournament in 2017 and 2018, first time since 2007. Off the pitch, I was able to further my education and receive a Finance degree from The Pamplin Business School. My favorite place in Blacksburg would have to be Sake House on Sushi Monday’s with the boys.
GC: Are you still able to keep up with the players from your years at Tech and follow the results of the program?
CV: I still keep in touch with the guys, especially the guys in the 2018 class. We started doing Bible Study’s again recently like we did in college. EL Smiling leads them and its great being able to see their faces and hear EL’s words a couple times a week. I still watch as many games as possible for Virginia Tech Men’s Soccer and follow them through social media.
GC: Now playing as a center back, how long has that been the case, and what was your evolution on the pitch to find your best position?
CV: Throughout my youth career and college, I played the holding midfielder position. I transferred to a center back at the professional level for Loudoun United last season. It was definitely a learning curve, but I am getting more and more comfortable at the position each day.
GC: You signed your first pro deal with Loudoun United in the USL in 2019, which was part of the DC United system. How was the jump from college to a professional setup in year one?
CV: The difference between college ball and the professional level was a big jump. The game is faster paced, players are more athletic, and position is key at the next level. Quick adaptation to this level is important to get confidence and comfortable playing at a higher game.
GC: How was it joining a brand new club that was trying to compete in the Championship, while also develop talent for the MLS side?
CV: It was definitely a learning curve last season having so much young talent and competing against experienced Championship teams. I thought our squad had some great veteran leaders who guided us young players very well. It definitely matured us rookies quick as soccer players and developing that short learning curve.
GC: In the off-season what led to the opportunity with the New England Revolution II side that was forming a new club in USL League One?
CV: Head coach Clint Peay gave me a call in the off-season and showed interest in signing me for Revolution II. After seeing the resume Clint has and the new facilities New England made, it was hard for me to say no to this opportunity.
GC: Once again you were joining a new team, but and this time in a young league still finding its foundation, what seemed the most intriguing about that to you?
CV: The most intriguing thing to me about playing with a young team in a young league is how teams are gonna battle through diversity through the professional level. The professional calendar is much different than college and academy schedules so adapting to this is something new for young professionals.
GC: Before you even got to play for NEII, the MLS side signed you to a new deal, that must have felt great seeing your work in training lead to that opportunity. Was that something you had expected might be an option this quickly after joining the League One side?
CV: I did not think I was going to get signed this early into the season; I always thought it was a realistic goal for me but didn’t think it would happen as soon as it did. When I got called up to train with the first team, I just wanted to make the most of the opportunity and I did.
GC: Will you join up with the MLS team after the MLS is Back Cup, if another portion of the 2020 MLS season is organized, or do you anticipate playing in USL League One mostly this year?
CV: Now that the team is back in New England, I will be training with the first team. I will develop my game and adapt to the MLS level and look to build chemistry with the guys. I expect to continue getting games in with the Revolution II team.
GC: The team had their inaugural match getting a clean sheet at home, in which you were the captain, how do you think the team did in their first match after such a long delay?
CV: I think this team has a high ceiling and we look to make a name for ourselves in this league. Due to the COVID circumstance, we will have to adapt to the odd schedule throughout the season. The way we will look at it is just take it day by day, one game at a time.
GC: You had eight clearances, won five of six aerial duels, and nearly got an early goal. How do you think the club can fare this year, knowing it’s an odd schedule, situation, and that only the top two teams make the final.
CV: In our inaugural match, I thought the guys played real well. We had about 8 players have their professional debut and I thought they all showed character and confidence. We have some great positives from the game, but of course we have room for improvement.
Thanks to Collin for taking some to talk with Gobbler Country and best of luck in the USL League One and MLS seasons ahead this year.