College soccer was all about winning, especially in the ACC conference [where] the fans make the games “real”.
In an exclusive for English Players Abroad, Jack Metcalf of USL side Charlotte Independence talks about the move to America and what it’s been like playing in the Independence’s inaugural season.
Metcalf began his career closer to home with Liverpool before joining Wolverhampton Wanderers. After leaving the Midlands club at the age of 18, he accepted the chance to study across the Atlantic, joining Clemson University.
After four years of combining study with college soccer, the 23-year-old signed for newly formed third-tier American side Charlotte Independence.
Equally comfortable at fullback or in midfield, Metcalf has just completed his first season with the Independence, with his side narrowly missing out on the USL post-season playoffs.
Here’s what he had to say about life in the US.
English Players Abroad: How did the move to study in America come about? Did you have any other options to stay and play in England?
Jack Metcalf: After I was released by Wolverhampton Wanderers in May 2010, I had several options to go and join lower league clubs in England but something about moving away from home with the guarantee of four years of football really excited me and when I spoke to the staff at Clemson University I understood that it was the perfect place for me to develop as a player.
EPA: What were your initial impressions of US college soccer? Was it easy to balance studying and playing?
JM: My first impressions of college soccer was that it was very, very different. First of all, playing for Liverpool and Wolves reserves and youth teams was a very high standard but it was all development based and not at all about results. College soccer was all about winning, especially in the ACC conference [where] the fans make the games “real”. Trying to balance full time playing and studying was very challenging, but you are provided with more that enough help to be successful at Clemson University.
EPA: After graduating and returning to England, did you always have it in mind that you could return to the States to play professionally one day?
JM: Yes. I returned from the States to start my professional career in England but after a couple of months it was clear to me that I had better opportunities to play and [to] gain experience in the United States. A couple opportunities came to me in the USL and NASL but Charlotte was the team that gave me the most interest and excitement.
EPA: 2015 was Charlotte Independence’s inaugural season, how do you think this year has gone for you and the club?
JM: As a club we had a lot to overcome in our first year as we bounced around home stadiums and had a tough start to the season. But as a team and organization we came back from those disadvantages and had many positives to take from our first season; [we were the] only team to beat Rochester Rhinos, the furthest USL team in the US Open Cup and had a 12 game unbeaten streak, finishing just 1 point outside of the playoffs.
EPA: There are several other Englishmen who play in the USL, have you had the chance to meet many of them?
JM: I’ve had a chance to speak to a couple guys like (Charlie) Adams from Louisville City and also had a good tussle late in the game with (Rob) Vincent from Pittsburgh!
EPA: Tell us a bit about your style of play? Would you compare yourself to any Premier League player?
JM: I’d say I was more of a technical player than a physical presence but I have a good engine and I’m not afraid to put myself about when I can. I wouldn’t say I have a similar style to any Premier League player but my idol was always Steven Gerrard growing up. Two other plays I have great respect for are David Beckham and Gianluca Zambrotta.
EPA: Who is the best player you have ever played with or against?
JM: I’d have to say the best player I have ever played with was (current Crystal Palace defender) Martin Kelly during my time at Liverpool in the youth team. The best player I have ever played against is Samir Nasri in a Premier League Reserve game for Wolves vs Arsenal.
EPA: Finally, what are your ambitions for the future? Would you like to play in any other countries?
JM: I have goals to play at the highest level, be that in the USA in the MLS, England or anywhere in the world. I have a re-occurring dream of me walking [onto the pitch] at Anfield whether that be with the home or the away dressing room but hopefully one day I can make that happen.
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