Eighteen goals during any soccer season, on any level -recreational, amateur, or pro- is impressive. It was certainly impressive enough for Jeffrey Gonsalves to earn NCAA Third Team All- American honors in 2006, after leading the University of Rhode Island men's team to the NCAA tournament last fall.
After his remarkable year, the native of Markham, Ontario was rated by MLS SuperDraft guru, Buzz Carrick, as one of the best collegiate forwards in the country. Toronto FC, the expansion MLS team located in his home country, took notice and drafted the Rhody Ram with the 40th overall pick in this winter's SuperDraft.“When I first got drafted, it was exciting because it was the hometown team and it was a chance to play as a professional,” said Gonsalves.
But, before he could even sport the Toronto kit before a true home crowd, it all came to a screeching halt.
Gonsalves pulled his hamstring early on in Toronto's preseason camp, and due to his prolonged convalescence, was never truly given the opportunity to flash the raw ability that aided him in his goal-scoring adventures in 2006.
“I went down there and got injured, and things didn’t work out,” said Gonsalves. Toronto subsequently released him without ever being to gauge the hometown prospect's true MLS potential. “Now I’m back with RI.”
Today, Gonsalves plays mere minutes away from his alma mater as a forward for Rhode Island Stingrays (PDL), a club he honed his skills with last year, prior to his breakthrough colleague campaign. He played in seven matches for the Rays in 2006, and tallied a team-leading four assists, as well as a goal, for the blue and gold. Through four games this season, he has already recorded a goal, but more importantly, he has played in every minute of every Rays’ match thus far.
Although one would think that the former All-American is better served playing in a more competitive league, Gonsalves has benefited from playing with a familiar group of players from last year in his attempt to get back to MLS.
“Yeah, as well as playing with some of the players with at URI (who also play for the Stingrays). It’s almost like being back at school (playing) with most of these guys. It’s really not much of a change, it’s almost like a homecoming almost. So it’s been pretty good.”
Additionally, Gonsalves came back to Rhode Island to earn something more valuable than just minutes on the pitch: earlier this month, he graduated from URI.
Nevertheless, the goal for Gonsalves is to find his way back into MLS - a goal he is hoping to achieve by refining his goal-scoring skills with the Rays in the meantime. The close geographical proximity of the Stingrays to the New England Revolution - a mere 25 miles- has Gonsalves hoping to catch the eye of Revolution manager Steve Nicol.Working in Gonsalves favor is that the system which Rays manager Mario Pereira employs - the 3-5-2 – is the same system used by Nicol with his Revs.
Although the MLS squad already has a plethora of young talent on its developmental roster, a strong performance during a reserve match guest appearance or tryout could certainly open some eyes among a coaching squad that has a proven track record of developing talented young players.
Yet, the former All-American is ready to showcase his talents on any professional stage, and hopes that his play for the Rays this season attracts the attention of scouts and opens the door to some playing opportunities, stateside or abroad.
“Hopefully (there will be opportunities) either in North America or overseas. I’m not entirely sure. I’ll see what happens.”