Growing up loving the game, every kid dreams of one day representing their favorite club at the highest level. For youth soccer players in the footballing hotbed of New Jersey, that dream is becoming a tangible reality. Jared Stroud is one name in a growing list of local soccer talents who are receiving opportunities with the New York Red Bulls.
Is MLS next for Jared Stroud?
Jared, one of four sons to parents Stephen and Karen Stroud, recalls rowdy 2v2 soccer matches in his parents’ basement. He credits those early moments of competition with his brothers as the groundwork that shaped him into the player he is today. “My brothers are my best friends for sure, and they definitely had a huge amount to do with my career, my parents have always been super supportive pushing us forward…they opened up a lot of avenues”.
The Chester, NJ resident was once cut by the Red Bulls Academy at a try-out, he instead continued to play for PDA. Years later though, Stroud played his first of three seasons with the Red Bulls U-23 side after a successful freshman year at Colgate University. In 2017, Stroud helped lead the Raiders to their first-ever Sweet 16 appearance earning his selection by the New York Red Bulls in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft. “Definitely a super emotional and special moment for me to get drafted by my home team, there is no other team I would have wanted to be drafted by for sure.”
The Trials and Tribulations of Year One
Just a year shy of that special day for Stroud, he is eyeing a promotion from New York Red Bulls II to the first team. “I think I’m going to go into first-team preseason to start the year and just prove myself everyday. And prove to Chris (Armas), Brad (Carnell), and C.J (Brown) and all those guys, why I deserve to be on the team everyday.”
Knocking on the door for a first team look after a stellar rookie year, things are coming full circle for Stroud. The midfielder recalls his first experience as a New York Red Bulls player, “It was so special going into that first camp in Arizona last year, definitely was a little shell-shocked. Cause at first, you’re like ‘wow I’m actually here’. The team I’ve been supporting for years and seeing all the players was really special for me.”
After the initial shock wore off, the reality of NYRBII’s roster dynamic set in. “The first game I played against Atlanta, I got an assist, I thought it went really well.” Stroud adds, “then after that, I remember it was six games in a row I didn’t start and there were some games I didn’t even get rostered so it was a really frustrating time for me.”
He eventually received more looks, playing the full 90 minutes against Indy Eleven, notching an assist in the process. Weeks later, a hat-trick followed and so did an appearance on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays. From that moment on, the NJ native felt rejuvenated, “The pressure was just taken off me.” He never looked back, adding a goal or assist in 13 of NYRBII’s last 24 games. The team went through highs and lows throughout the season, but one constant was Stroud’s dangerous play from wide positions.
Opportunities on the Horizon
Come season’s end, Stroud netted an impressive 7 goals and 11 assists. Those 11 assists put the first year pro in sixth place on USL’s assist leaderboard behind talented league veterans. A campaign that many feel warrants a first-team opportunity, including Stroud, “I think I’m definitely really close.” Stroud goes onto add, “I really think I can help the first team a lot right now, but it just depends if they give me the chance and I’m hoping that they will. I think it’s real close and we’ll see what happens. Either way, I ‘m just going to do my absolute best next year and just prove everyday why I belong on the first team.”
In the meantime, Stroud is working on improving his game and becoming a more dynamic player. Finishing is a big point of emphasis for the wide player, he wishes to be more aggressive in his turns and runs at the backline. Assists have always been a staple of Stroud’s career, but it’s the goals that he believes will push him over the edge.
From the kid who had Robles’ and Royer’s game-day posters plastered in his room growing up, to a guy who could someday play alongside them. 2018 was a great first year, but in 2019 Stroud is hungry for more.
Photo by Bill Twomey Photography