In just a few weeks, Maryland men’s soccer coach Sasho Cirovski will welcome the No. 1 ranked recruiting class to College Park, Md., according to collegesoccernews.com, headlined by formidable striker Sebastian Elney. The 6-foot-2 Elney is considered the fourth-best player in the nation and anchors an 11-player crop that includes seven top-100 talents, a group so formidable Cirovski declared it “the biggest and deepest class in the history of Maryland soccer.”
“I’m really, really excited to get in with the team, meet all my new teammates and start preparing to win a championship at Maryland,” said Elney, a Boca Raton, Fla., native who is currently at Philadelphia Union Academy. “I know a few of the other [recruits] already like Jorge [Calix]. Aaron [Franco], D.J. [Reeves], Connor [Smith], Dayne [St. Clair] and some others just from playing last year in Florida and from the national teams. I feel like we already have a chemistry going, and combined with what [Maryland] already has there, I think we can do great things.
“Definitely the trio of winning a regular season conference championship, a Big Ten championship and a national championship is the goal. With this group, we have that kind of potential.”
Elney said not only has he stayed in touch with his future teammates, but he’s in constant communication with Cirovski, recruiter Brian Rowland and other staff members as well. He said the expectations are high and “there’s definitely a buzz around Maryland right now.”
“Coach Cirovski is just really excited and he’s excited to get me in the program,” Elney said. “He thinks we can really help take Maryland soccer to another level.”
The fact Elney is even heading to College Park is a victory in and of itself. A member of the U-18 U.S. national team, he trained with Tottenham Hotspur last December and had a chance to turn pro. But Elney elected to stick with his verbal commitment to Maryland, signing with the Terps in March.
“It just seemed like the right choice; it really wasn’t that tough of a decision,” Elney said. “My parents are really big on academics, and it’s a great opportunity to develop and become a better player. The training is perfect for what I’m looking for. It’s a very professional system, it’s a winning mentality and a lot of high quality of players around there. It’s an unreal atmosphere for college soccer, and I think it’s going to benefit me greatly.”
Elney also held offers from UCLA, Clemson, UNC, UVA, Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State, but said choosing UMD was a “no brainer.”
“I was telling someone the other day, Maryland is to college soccer what Alabama is to college football,” Elney said. “I made the right choice.”
The Boca Raton native, who has lived in Florida his entire life, considers himself a finisher who excels in the box. He said he still has plenty to learn in order to realize his potential, but believes Cirovski and Co. can help take him to another level.
“Seba is a special attacking talent. He is extremely skillful and crafty around the goal,” Cirovski said. “His physical gifts and engaging personality combine to ooze the confidence necessary for a top striker.”
Elney -- who models his game after star striker Jozy Altidore, a Haitian who was also raised in Boca Raton -- has been developing that confidence since about the time he learned to walk. His father, Milher Elney, was apparently a standout amateur and semi-pro player in Haiti, and when the latter migrated to the United States he sought to rear his soon-to-be-born son in the art of futbol.
Seba Elney said his dad practiced with him on a daily basis, so by the time he was five and running roughshod through the rec leagues his skills were practically polished.
Indeed, Elney dominated the youth-league competition in Boca Raton, and when he was 11 he was starring for a Florida travel program. The ferocious striker had already proven himself against kids thee and four years his senior, but Elney’s eye-opening moment came at 14. That’s when he was called up to the U-17 residency program in Bradenton, Fla.
“My third national team callup, I get a tryout with the residency program and I’m just hoping to compete,” said Elney, who began his high school career at American Heritage (Fla.). “I’m a 1997 kid, and just blessed to be there and just looking to get some experience against kids three years older than me. But I ended up making the team, and from there I was like, ‘Whoa, OK, maybe I can do this for a living.’”
After a year in the Bradenton residency program, Elney moved on to Boca United (his junior year of high school), further developing his skills. Then this past season he left the Sunshine State for Philadelphia and the renowned Philadelphia Union Academy.
Along the way, Elney had a chance to compete for the U-18 national team in the Czech Republic, helping the squad win a championship, an accomplishment he’s particularly proud of. Elney also considers his time spent with Tottenham an “eye opening experience,” while he thoroughly enjoyed learning from U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann as well.
“I had a chance to train under Coach Klinsmann and that was really cool and really humbling,” Elney said. “There’s so much to take from him being a champion in Europe and the U.S. men’s national team coach. He really knows his stuff and I learned a lot just about the finer points of the game.
“Some of these experiences are just very humbling, and I’m just trying to take advantage of every opportunity I’ve been given. I’m just grateful and blessed, and hopefully I’ll have more opportunities in the future.”
One day, Elney would love to play in the Premier League and compete in the World Cup. He said it’s always been a dream to play on soccer’s grandest stage, but for the moment he’s more concerned with his immediate future.
“Whether I stay one year or more, my goal is to go into Maryland and help them win a championship,” Elney said. “I can’t wait and I’m excited to get started in the program.”
Star Striker Elney Ready To Shine At Maryland
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