3 RI Soccer Stars Set to Play for MLS Cup
Saturday, December 08, 2018
The three players are Cranston’s Michael Parkhurst, PC alum Julian Gressel and Brown alum Jeff Larentowicz.
See Below Slideshow: Rhode Island’s All-Time Soccer Team
In his career, Parkhurst has been named to five all-star teams and was named the 2007 MLS Defender of the Year, a 2007 MLS Best XI selection and the MLS Fair Play award recipient three different seasons (2007, 2008, 2014).
He has played in four previous MLS Cup finals and lost them all, three with the New England Revolution and another with the Columbus Crew.
Parkhurst signed with Atlanta United in 2016 and was named the first captain in franchise history prior to the 2017 season.
This season with Atlanta he has started 32 of 33 regular season games and has two assists.
He has started all four of Atlanta’s postseason games.
He wears #3 for Atlanta United.
He helped lead the Friars to the NCAA Tournament in three of his four seasons, including the final four in 2014.
Gressel was picked 8th overall by Atlanta in 2017 and went on to win MLS Rookie of the Year.
In his rookie season, he scored five goals and recorded nine assists during his rookie season.
This season with Atlanta, he has played and started in all 33 games, scoring four goals and recording 14 assists.
This postseason, Gressel has played in and started all four playoff games, recording one assist.
He wears #24 for Atlanta.
He led the Bears to two Ivy League Championships while earning honors as a Second-Team NSCAA All-American and a four-time All-Ivy League selection.
After being drafted by the New England Revolution in 2005, Larentowicz is now in his second season with Atlanta United.
In 34 regular season games played this year, Larentowicz has one goal and two assists.
In the playoffs, he has played in and started three games, recording one assist.
He wears #18 for Atlanta.
Atlanta vs Portland
Atlanta United enters the game with a record of 21-7-6 overall and finished second to the New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference.
The Portland Timbers snuck into the playoffs over the last few weeks of the season with a record of 15-10-9 overall, good enough for a 5th place finish in the Western Conference.
The Timbers won the MLS Cup three years ago.
Game time is set for 8 p.m.
Related Slideshow: Rhode Island’s All-Time Soccer Team - 2018
Midfield: Andrew Williams
Andy Williams is the all-time leading scorer of URI, played ten years in the MLS, and made 97 appearances for the Jamaican National Team.
After growing up in Jamaica, Williams joined URI in 1994. Although excelling as a freshman, it was in his sophomore and junior year that Williams erupted, scoring 39 goals and adding 36 assists in that time. He was named all-American both years and led the country in scoring as a junior. In his senior year of 1997 a shoulder injury limited him to just three games, although he still notched three goals and four assists. Williams finished as URI’s all-time leading scorer with 52 goals and 44 assists in just 66 games. His exceptional career at URI led him to being named to Soccer America Men’s All-Decade Team, consisting of the best eleven college players of the decade.
In 1998, his first year out of college, Williams joined Jamaica for the World Cup, making one appearance as substitute. Over the subsequent 12 years he had 97 caps for the team, generally as the focal point of the offense, and scored 13 goals. His professional club career began in Jamaica before a 10-year stint in the MLS. Williams was Real Salt Lake’s first pick in the 2004 MLS Expansion Draft and he spent his final seven years there before retiring and coaching as an assistant for the team. In his career in the MLS, Williams scored 27 goals and had 78 assists.
Forward: Billy Gonsalves
Billy Gonsalves’ playing days were three-quarters of a century ago, but that doesn’t stop the man who has been dubbed the “Babe Ruth of Soccer” from making the list.
Born in Portsmouth, RI, Gonsalves spent most of his childhood in Fall River, MA, and played his youth career there as well. In 1927 he was 19-years-old and signed to his first team, Boston Soccer Club, where scored a goal in his first two minutes of action.
Over the next 25 years, Gonsalves had remarkable success playing for various teams, winning numerous national cups and leagues. Perhaps his most successful run came with the Fall River Marksmen, as he scored 69 goals in 116 appearances over four years.
Despite the Great Depression leading to the disbandment of many teams, soccer was still growing in popularity, thanks in part to Gonsalves. Gonsalves was part of both the U.S. National Team that played in the first-ever World Cup in 1930 and earned third place and the1934 World Cup team. Gonsalves was voted into the United States National Soccer Hall of Fame in 1950, part of the inaugural class.
Goalkeeper: Chris Konopka
Chris Konopka, a graduate of Providence College, currently plays goalkeeper for Cardiff City, his twelfth professional club in his senior career.
Konopka grew up in New Jersey and played for PC from 2003-06, where he led the school to two NCAA appearances. He played every minute in goal for PC in 2005 in which he posted a .94 goal against average. In the 2007 MLS Supplemental Draft, Konopka was taken in the third round by the Kansas City Wizards.
In 2008 Konopka signed a one-year contract with Bohemian FC of Ireland and won the league as well as the FAI Cup, making him the first American to ever win the Irish Double. Over the next two years he played for two other Irish teams before returning to the MLS. From 2011 through 2017 he was signed by four different MLS teams, a Scottish team and a Canadian team. He recently signed a short-term deal with Cardiff City FC, a team that will be joining the EPL this upcoming season.
Defender: Cory Gibbs
Cory Gibbs was an all-American defender from Brown who enjoyed success for his clubs and on the National Team.
After growing up in Florida, Gibbs played for Brown University from 1997-2000. He was part of a Brown squad that made four straight NCAA Tournament appearances, reaching the Elite 8 in 2000. That same year he was voted Ivy League Player of the Year and earned first-team All-American honors.
In the 2001 MLS SuperDraft Gibbs was selected in the fourth round but elected to play for FC St. Pauli of the Bundesliga, the top league in Germany. He became the youngest American to score in the Bundesliga when he netted against FC Cologne. After a short stint in the MLS, Gibbs returned to Europe where he played in England and the Netherlands before finally returning to the MLS for good. In his senior career, Gibbs made 184 appearances and scored nine goals.
Gibbs made 19 appearances on the U.S. National Team and was on the roster for the 2006 World Cup but missed it due to a knee injury.
Forward: Fred Pereira
Fred Pereira was one of the all-time greats at Brown, breaking and still holding the career goals and assists records, and was selected at number two overall in the professional draft.
Pereira was born in Portugal but moved to the United States when he was 12. In 1973 Pereira joined Brown University where he would lead Brown to two Final Four appearances and four straight Ivy League titles. In 1974 Pereira set a Brown record with 24 goals and seven assists. In both 1974 and 1976 Pereira was selected as an All-American. Pereira finished as Brown’s all-time leader in goals (47), assists (30) and points (124).
Pereira was drafted number two overall in the NASL College Draft -- the NASL of 1976 is the equivalent of today’s MLS-- by the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Pereira bounced around teams for four years while also playing for a stint in the Major Indoor Soccer League before injuries finally forced him to retire. During that time, Pereira appeared on the U.S. National Team and scored the gamer winner against China in a 1-0 victory in 1977.
Defender: Geoff Cameron
Geoff Cameron, a graduate of URI, has been a star on the national stage for years, finishing third in a vote for 2016 U.S. Soccer Male Player of the Year.
Cameron was born in Attleboro, Massachusetts but played on Bayside United, a club in Rhode Island, at the youth level. In high school he attended first Attleboro High and then Providence Country Day. West Virginia was Cameron’s first choice for college where he made 28 starts in two years. However, he transferred to URI and was an immediate starter, leading URI to a win in the 2006 NCAA tournament. The next year as a senior Cameron was named Midfielder of the Year for the Atlantic 10 Conference in addition to being an all-Mid-Atlantic Region selection. In his four years of college Cameron netted 10 goals.
In the 2008 MLS SuperDraft Cameron was selected 42nd overall by the Houston Dynamo. He left in the summer of 2012 for Europe, but with the Dynamo he was a finalist for 2008 Rookie of the Year and a 2009 and 2011 MLS All-Stars. The new destination for Cameron was English Premier League side Stoke City. Since 2012 Cameron has made 168 appearances for the team, almost all at right back, scoring twice. Still there today, Cameron is expected to leave for a new team in the EPL after Stoke’s slide in the EPL last season led them to relegation.
Cameron made his first appearance for the U.S. National Team in 2010 and now has a total of 55 appearances. He has scored four goals and made three starts for the team in the 2014 World Cup.
Midfield: Jeff Larentowicz
Jeff Larentowicz played for Brown University and is currently playing in his fourteenth year in the MLS as the league’s all-time leader in minutes.
Of Polish descent, Larentowicz was born and raised in Pasadena, CA. He chose to play for Brown, where he starred from 2001-2004 and played as a defender. He appeared in 66 games, leading Brown to two Ivy League titles and registering seven goals and six assists. He was named a second-team all-American in 2003.
In 2005 Larentowicz was selected 45th overall by the New England Revolution in the MLS Supplemental Draft. From 2005-2009 he made 111 appearances for the Revs as a defensive midfielder, scoring nine goals. From 2010-2016 he played on three other MLS teams, making 213 appearances, almost all as starts. In 2017 he was acquired by Atlanta United, where he still plays and starts regularly. Two of his current teammates are Parkhurst and Gressel who also made this list. Larentowicz has also made four appearances for the U.S. National Team, all in friendlies.
Midfield: Julian Gressel
Julian Gressel is second all-time in goals and assists for Providence College and began a promising career in the MLS by winning Rookie of the Year in 2017.
Though his first three years at PC were a success, his breakout came his senior year in which he scored 15 goals with six assists and earned the Golden Boot award for scoring the most goals during the 2016 NCAA season. He also was named to the a first-team All-American and was a semifinalist for the Hermann Trophy-- the equivalent to the Heisman Trophy of the NCAAF.
In 2016 Gressel helped lead PC to an epic comeback in the NCAA tournament against the number one overall seed, Maryland. After being down 4-1 PC roared back to a 5-4 win and went on to reach the Elite 8. Gressel finished his career with 30 goals and 26 assists, second all-time in goals, assists and points for Providence.
After being selected 8th overall in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft by Atlanta, Gressel made an immediate impact. In fact, he went on to win Rookie of the Year after making 24 starts, scoring five goals and adding nine assists, which is the third most ever by a rookie.
Midfield: Tommy McNamara
Tommy McNamara is a Brown alum who currently plays midfield for New York City FC.
Born in New York, McNamara attended Brown University from 2009-2012. He made 42 appearances for the team, scoring 12 goals and registering 10 assists. He went onto Clemson for a year to earn his master’s degree where he scored a team-high seven goals and had eight assists.
In the 2014 MLS SuperDraft he was picked 20th overall by Chivas USA. He was then selected 16th in the 2014 MLS Expansion Draft by NYCFC where he tallied five goals and three assists in 2015. McNamara has continued to excel for the club, making 76 appearances while scoring 13 goals through the end of last season.
Although McNamara has not yet made any national team appearances, he is both an Irish and American passport holder and has expressed interest in playing for either team.
Defender: Michael Parkhurst
A Rhode Island native, Michael Parkhurst’s illustrious MLS career includes five MLS All-Star selections.
Parkhurst was born in Providence, RI, and grew up playing soccer in Rhode Island before joining Wake Forest University in 2002. During his three years there, Parkhurst started all 62 games the team played and earned second-team all-American as a sophomore and junior.
In the 2005 MLS SuperDraft Parkhurst was selected ninth overall by his hometown team the New England Revolution. He earned the MLS Rookie of the Year Award and went on to win the MLS Defender of the Year in 2007. In addition, Parkhurst was named Humanitarian of the Year in 2006 and 2008.
Since then Parkhurst has played on several different teams both in the U.S. and in Europe and made 25 appearances for the U.S. national team. Parkhurst is currently teammates with Julian Gressel and Jeff Larentowicz and is captaining Atlanta United for the second straight year.
Defender: Steve Ralbovsky
Ralbovsky was a versatile defender who was the best college player in the country in 1975.
Born in Yugoslavia, Ralbovsky moved to the United States when he was in high school. He chose to attend Brown University and played from 1972-1975 with the aforementioned Fred Pereira. He was a part of the teams that dominated the Ivy League and made the 1973 and 1975 NCAA Final Four.
Ralbovsky was named the NCAA Tournament Defensive MVP in 1975 but was actually included as a forward on the All-American squad—his second time gaining that honor. That same year he won the Hermann Trophy, given to the most outstanding collegiate soccer player in the country.
With such an outstanding college career, Ralbovsky was drafted number one overall by the NASL's Los Angeles Aztecs and the ASL’s Los Angeles Skyhawks (teams from the U.S.’s top division and second division at the time).The Los Angeles Skyhawks managed to offer a higher compensation package and so the Yugoslavian joined their team, leading them to the title in his first year. For the rest of his career, Ralbovsky bounced between leagues having both personal and team success and making it to the NASL finals multiple times.
He also played for the United States National Team, earning 15 caps and playing in most of the team’s games in 1977 and 1978.