Rasmus Hansen: “We’re probably underdogs going into the game. We play with our hearts. We play for the club.” (Photo courtesy of LIU Athletics Communications)
By Michael Lewis
BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Four years ago, Rasmus Hansen journeyed from his native Denmark to get an education in the United States.
As a senior who is a triple major at Long Island University Brooklyn — in finance, management and marketing — he also has given an education to opposing defenders in college and the National Premier Soccer League on how to defend speedy midfielders and forwards.
On Sunday night, it was Cosmos B’s turn to learn more about Hansen, who connected twice within a 28th-minute span in the second half, including the game-winner in the 85th minute to boost the Brooklyn Italians to a 3-2 triumph in a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play-in match at LIU.
The win was a big deal for Brooklyn, which is composed of college players mostly from St. Francis Brooklyn, St. John’s University and some New Jersey schools. The Cosmos had several players with Major League Soccer experience.
“We’re probably underdogs going into the game,” Hansen said. “We play with our hearts. We play for the club. We’re all here for the summer. We want to develop as much as possible, just make it as far. So, beating a big deal like the Cosmos is makes a great deal to us.”
That Hansen was able to a vital factor in the Italians’ victory wasn’t lost on LIU Brooklyn head coach TJ Kostecky, who watched the game with several hundred spectators at the LIU Athletic complex.
The 5-11, 160-lb. Hansen, who has tallied 28 goals in his first three seasons with the Blackbirds, was the 2017 Northeast Conference player of the year. He worked on his finishing during the spring season, scoring four times.
“Rasmus had a particularly good match,” Kostecky said. “He’s had a very strong spring season for us. He finished off where he left off. He was NEC player of the year in the fall and is very committed to improving his game … which was one of his objectives to finish goals. And today, he had perhaps three chances, and finished two good ones. Especially the game-winner. Creating that on his own was pretty interesting and special.”
While Hansen will get the glory and the headlines for his goal-scoring heroics, Kostecky was just as impressed of his forward for his work behind the ball.
“I’m proud, very proud, certainly and not just for the scoring part, but for the defensive work load and the effort he put him on the defensive side,” he said. “That’s the other part of his game, that he has been committed to growing, not only being an offensive threat, but being an asset on the defensive side. You can see how much they had to absorb [from] the Cosmos. He was worked as hard as he could on the defensive side to making sure he can prevent opportunities for their backs to move forward.”
Of course, Hansen is at his best at going forward.
With the game tied at 1-1 Hansen scored off a breakaway in the 58th minute to lift Brooklyn into a 2-1 advantage.
“In games like this, you get one, maybe two chances,” Hansen said. “Today, I was lucky to get two. I’m fortunate that I scored on both of them. We’ve been looking at video all week. We wanted to target the space behind their backs because they’re very offensive, but we saw there were opportunities to get in behind them. I just tried my best to get into these pockets and it worked for us today.”
After the Cosmos equalized, Hansen saved his best for last, latching onto a pass on the right flank, racing down the side before cutting in and beating goalkeeper Macklin Robinson.
“I was just trying to get into position,” he said. “I felt great today. I felt fit and I felt I could run with them, so I wanted the ball over the top, try to stay as composed as possible and get the shot off as soon as possible so they goalie wouldn’t have expected it. It went through a couple of legs and in the goal. It was beautiful. It was a good moment.”
Hansen is quite familiar with the Italians’ storied history, having captured the Open Cup in 1979 and 1991.
“Obviously, I am foreign, but I feel like I’m part of the club,” he said. “I give all I have for the club and they give everything back as players. I know it’s a proud club. If you go to the clubhouse, there’s no space for trophies. So that shows how rich a club it is and the culture. We’re such a diverse team, but we come together, and we really play for the Italian spirit.”
The NPSL team can thank LIU and Kostecky for Hansen.
Four years ago. Kostecky was looking for some attacking players and he felt Hansen would be a great addition. He sold the Danish Under-18 national team and Brondby youth player on LIU for several reasons — the soccer, the education, the possibility of interning on Wall Street and playing with the Italians.
“He was very attracted to studying in New York and specifically in Brooklyn,” Kostecky said. “We talked to him about the opportunity of playing here for the Brooklyn Italians, actually and internship opportunities. One of the things that appealed to him was having a plan for him in the summer.”
This is the third summer Hansen will remain in Brooklyn and not return home.
“He has a tremendous internship in Manhattan with a Wall Street company also,” Kostecky said. “So, those were appealing to him and it’s come through.”
And Kostecky and the Blackbirds will have Hansen for one more season this fall before graduating in December with a grade-point average of more than 3.6.
But before Hansen can focus on LIU, he and his Brooklyn teammates must worry about Lansdowne Bhoys in the Open Cup first round there at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday.
The Italians have little time to catch their collective breath.
“That’s how the summer is, but you get used to it,” Hansen said. “College is like that as well. We’ll be ready, we’ll be ready.”
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