Jeff Caldwell: “I know where I stand right now and that’s at the bottom of the rung, not just in this team, but in this league. I hope to just to get in there every day, claw my way up, step by step.”(FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
By Michael Lewis
PHILADELPHIA — Jeff Caldwell has plenty of confidence in his ability but is also humble enough to realize he is just starting at the bottom as he embarks on a professional soccer career.
Selected by New York City FC as the 19th overall pick in the opening round of the Major League Soccer SuperDraft last week, the University of Virginia goalkeeper knows he probably won’t see any action with the big club any time soon, not with veteran Sean Johnson and Brad Stuver ahead of him in the pecking order.
“It’s unbelievable to have that realization that this journey is about to start,” Caldwell said at the Pennsylvania Convention Center Friday. “You always feel that you’re kind of close, kind of close with the youth national teams and school. This is just a beginning. This is just a draft and I’m thrilled, and I can’t describe how excited I am. The amount of work in front of me is an immense amount.”
Caldwell, 21, will be around a couple of World Cup champions — head coach Patrick Vieira and team captain and striker David Villa.
“I don’t think that one has kind of set in yet,” he said. “Both of them are obviously are legends, heroes and guys that I’ve seen countless times on TV at the highest levels. I’m sure David Villa is going to be a bit of a learning curve compared to some college strikers and I can’t wait to embrace that challenge every day in training. But mostly for the next couple of years is to soak everything in.”
Even if he doesn’t play that much.
“Right now my main focus is finding my way to training camp, and then doing my first day of training camp, my first rep in training camp,” Caldwell said. “Listen, I am a competitor. I want to be on that field, just like anyone who has ever played the game and I will give my best every day to be on that field. I am not going to be unrealistic. Sean’s another one i hope get to know really well and learn from every day, the whole goalkeeping core. So, I know where I stand right now and that’s at the bottom of the rung, not just in this team, but in this league. I hope to just to get in there every day, claw my way up, step by step.”
The 6-2, 190-lb. Caldwell fits into NYCFC’s style quite well. He is good with his feet and Vieira likes to build up from the back.
“I’m pretty sure there will be a pretty sharp learning curve there as well as there is in any aspect of jumping to the next level,” Caldwell said. “But I would like to think that would fit really well on how the team plays.”
Vieira said the team had planned to take a goalkeeper in the opening round.
“You always have a plan coming into the draft and seeing where you are and try to make the best pick that you can,” Vieira said. “Having a goalkeeper was in our plan and we took the best goalkeeper in the draft.”
Sporting director Claudio Reyna said that “goalkeepers [were] … a premium and not something you want to use an international spot on.”
“It was a pretty good class this year,” he added. “There were some pretty good, interesting goalkeepers.
Reyna, a UVA graduate, scouted Caldwell during the year, stating that the keeper had “not even hit his peak hit, has a lot to learn. This year Virginia played real good soccer playing out of the back. That will help him joining our club.”