UMBC’s Men’s Soccer has had a pretty strong season. With 7 games left in the regular season, the team holds a 6-2-2 record, one game behind second place in the American East Conference and are ranked #16th in the nation. The team’s success includes games against ranked teams, West Virginia and New Hampshire while tying with third-ranked UMD.
Much of the team’s success comes from the majority of the upperclassmen starters. Players like Cormack Noel, Sammy Kahsai, and Gregg Hauck may be the current clear stars of the team but freshman Matt Bailey has potential to be the future of the team.
Matt Bailey, a freshman midfielder from Stevensville, MD attended Saints Peters and Paul High School. Bailey has been playing soccer for 14 years but played only 2 out of his four years at Saints Peters and Paul.
Instead, he was heavily involved with Baltimore Armour, Baltimore Bays Academy, and Pipeline Soccer club.
He credits some of his success and current position to his Baltimore Bays coach of four years, Frank Assaro. “[Assaro]really got me to where I’m at,” Bailey says.
Bailey also has had some training with the U23 D.C. United program. In this program, he trained with players from powerhouse teams like Maryland and Duke. Bailey was recruited through one of his old coaches Nate Kish, U18-U19 coach for D.C. United. The program included 5 days a week, games against other U23 league teams and teams from the professional league, United Soccer League(USL).
“It was a real good experience… and it really got me ready for coming here and playing.”
Bailey’s experience and talent didn’t go unnoticed as he racked up offers from schools like Ohio State, Maryland, Loyola, Lehigh and George Washington. Out of these schools, he chose UMBC.
When I asked him why he chose to come to UMBC he told me, “I felt like I was valued here. I really like the coaching staff and program we got here. I felt like I could have an immediate impact and provide for the team.”
And he did exactly that. Besides freshman starting goalkeeper Ciaran O’ Loughlin, out of the 7 other freshmen on the team Bailey has seen the most playing time. He is the only other freshman to play in all 10 games.
When I asked why Coach Peter Caringi trusts him so much he told me, “I bring lots of energy… I work for the time that I’m on.When I come in some guys might be dead and I try to give them a little bit of a boost.”
His biggest wave of energy came in his best game this season against West Virginia University which ended in a 3-1 win for the Retrievers. Bailey assisted two of UMBC’s three that night, one off a beautiful corner kick delivery.
— DMVSoccer.com ⚽️ (@DMVSoccerDotCom) September 27, 2017
Seeing him in that game and throughout the season, I couldn’t help but compare Bailey’s style of play to Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez, for two reasons: his presence all around the field and his passing ability.
Although he did appreciate and understand the comparison he had a bigger player in mind.
“I try to emulate Messi and a guy named Shaqiri,” Bailey said.
Both players are similar in size and specialty in some aspects. Both are 5’7”, left-footed and display exquisite touch and incredible passing ability.
— George Danny Murphy (@george_murphy) August 29, 2017
“He’s a small guy like me and he just moves in the same way as I do,” Bailey said comparing himself to Swiss star Xherdan Shaqiri. While Bailey is an inch shorter, he does emulate the style of play of both these stars.
As a fan of the Retrievers, I would love and hope that Bailey continued to emulate these incredible stars for the next four years and for the rest of Bailey’s soccer career.
When I asked him what he hoped to bring to the team these next four years, he replied:
“I just wanna really impact the game in any way I can, in any way possible. And really just kind of build on what we’re doing now. We got a lot of big-time seniors leaving, really impactful guys so I kind of want to fill their spots and avoid a drop-off.”
And that is exactly why Coach Caringi trusts him on the pitch. As he gains more and more experience playing with the top guys on the team against the top guys across the nation, we can for sure expect him to develop into the leader of this team over the next four years.
Bailey has been impactful for the team through nail-biting finishes ranked wins and tough losses. Every minute in, you see his contribution through his vision, awareness, exquisite touch and play creating ability.
So, expect Coach Caringi to mold Bailey into one of the future leaders of this team.