Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Swarthmore Men’s Soccer player Morgan Langley, ’11, recently signed with the Harrisburg City Islanders to play at the professional level. Langley was named an All-Conference, All-Regional and All-American in his last season. He holds school records for career points, career assists and single-season points.
Daily Gazette: For starters, tell me about the Islanders – how the recruitment process worked, and what you knew of them and what you think about the team.
Morgan Langley: The Islanders is a USO Pro team in Harrisburg, the USL [United Soccer Leagues] affiliate of the Philadelphia Union of the MLS [Major League Soccer]. Originally the recruitment process actually happened with some Union coaches that came out to a couple of our [Swarthmore] games. At the end of the season, my coach asked me: have you ever considered playing professional soccer? And I was like yeah, yeah let’s go at it, let’s see what we can do.
Essentially, my coach called the Union, and asked the assistant coach where he could see Morgan play professionally. And he goes, “Actually we would like him to come try out with us.”
It was a tryout between the Harrisburg City Islanders and the Philadelphia Union. So I went to that, and was asked to come back after the open tryout. And starting in January I went to Harrisburg every Monday when I was essentially on trial. I got an invite at the beginning of March to preseason. So once I got accepted into preseason, I then had to make the team from there.
DG: So when does preseason start?
ML: We’ve actually been in preseason for a while. We have our first game coming up this Saturday at Pittsburgh.
DG: What kinds of people do you play with on the Islanders? Why did you decide to go with the Islanders?
ML: Basically why I decided to go with the Islanders, I guess because it was the first team that approached me, and my first option to play pro soccer. But the team is a very interesting mix, kind of a surprise to me. I’m the youngest player on the team, being 21, and there are guys out there that are 33 and a couple guys in their late 20s.
There are only about 2 rookies or so but not much more than that. Most guys have been playing in the pros for at least a couple years, a lot of them are guys who haven’t latched on with an MLS team and are now in a lower division. A lot of guys are looking at this team as a stepping-stone to the MLS teams. So we have guys from big time colleges – University of Maryland for example – everyone else’s resume intimidates me. You know, coming from a school like Swarthmore that is known for its academics, not necessarily its athletics. It’s a learning curve for me.
DG: What do you think about the personalities on the team?
ML: We definitely work as a group, as a team. We have a team oriented mindset; every guy on the team understands that, hey, we win as a team, and that’s how we’re gonna get it done. And it’s a business, not youth soccer or the NCAA, this is how the coaches and players make money. But, they all know that in order for them to make this money, they have to work as a team. And that includes the coach and all the players – yeah there are individual ideas and goals for careers, but they understand that this comes from part of being on a team.
You know, for me I had to realize that this is now a job, where everybody needs to make their living. You could be the reason why another guy isn’t getting paid the next year. It’s an interesting dynamic.
DG: Going off of that, what does your contract look like and how does it compare? Where do you expect to go with soccer and your other career plans?
ML: I have a two year contract – with a second year option on it (one year only at first). Originally I wasn’t sure about this, but it ends up being a good deal for me. I do end up getting a fairly good contract; I have the possibility of the long term. In terms of what I want to do in the future, well I mean I definitely want to do this for a few years.
DG: Well its sounds great just to be able to focus on this after school and stressing about academics.
ML: Absolutely. So I definitely want to do this for two or three years and put full effort into it, and after that and maybe see how it’s going for me – and see if I can progress in soccer. Until it’s time to go and find a job in finance or business, what econ majors do [laughs]. I’m lucky in that sense that I have that flexibility thanks to Swarthmore.
DG: Will you have another job on top of soccer?
ML: Well, soccer pays enough to get by. Every guy in the league is trying to get into the MLS, where you get paid a lot more. I’m looking at possibly doing an internship – but that’s more for advancing my resume for after playing soccer. I don’t wanna get rusty in my head! [laughs]
DG: Are you guys doing a lot of travel with the team or training abroad?
ML: Training wise, we will be staying around Harrisburg – I have the Swat guys joking about how they get to go to Greece this summer and I’ll be stuck in Harrisburg. In terms of travel, a lot of it is on the east coast. We have games in Orlando, Charleston, Charlotte, Wilmington NC, Rochester, Pittsburgh, Dayton – those are just in our region. At one point we fly out to Los Angeles to play the Blue, a team in another division.
DG: So you probably must have a pretty intense training. How does it compare to training for a D3 program and what have you been doing to prepare for your first game?
ML: The best thing I can do is get into the best shape I can, especially because I can’t be in Harrisburg everyday. My teammates are all big time college players, and so it’s suddenly a much faster pace, technical game than I’m used to. Being up there only 2-3 times a week is hard – it’s hard adjusting to that from a D3 practice. The biggest difference is the technical aspect; we do a lot more technically focused things at practice, and these guys are almost impeccable at it. It’s pretty difficult adjusting to this.
DG: What does a daily schedule look like for you?
ML: Actually, it’s like a Swat practice, only two hours. We start out with much more intense footwork, more intense than any college program, then we move into drills, and then try to translate these skills onto the field. So it’s similar to a Swat practice, but we do a lot of sprinting and running – I definitely feel more tired after practices.
DG: Moving on to your background in soccer, how long have you been playing and how long did you start?
ML: I just remember being a little kid and asking my parents if I could play soccer. I remember kindergarten, running around the playground wanting to play soccer. It was really weird. I just kept asking my parents to play, it was after the ‘94 World Cup. I sat on my Dad’s lap watching the world cup, and then like any little kid I got obsessed with soccer. And my parents let me play. I was very fortunate; I had the best coach in the country for youth soccer, and we were just lucky to have him. He is still a mentor and an influence to me.
DG: What are you going to miss about Swat and what are you looking forward to?
ML: I’m definitely going to miss my friends – I’m still trying to wrap my mind around it. You’re never again going to be living five minutes away from all your closest friends. And that’s going to be the saddest part about it; just being able to sit around and hang out with the guys is what I’m going to miss most. What I’m going miss the least – definitely the studying [laughs]. I’m pretty excited about not staying up late to do work. I know grad school is in the cards, but I’m excited not to study.
DG: Who is your favorite soccer player/role model? Who do you admire most?
ML: Favorite soccer player of all time was definitely Ronaldo – not Christiano Ronaldo, the original Ronaldo [Ronaldo LuÃs NazÃ¡rio de Lima]. That Ronaldo. That was definitely the guy I looked up to as a kid, but it’s tough to have professional athletes as your role model. It’s hard to look up to some of those guys, even the best of them.
DG: How do you get ready for games during warm-up? How do you get mentally ready and what gets you pumped up?
ML: I’m actually, for the most part, superstition-free. I don’t have specific superstitions; I just typically try to keep everything off my plate by game day. I don’t really do any homework – I typically just hang out and surf the net, play video games. I think the biggest thing for me is my eating schedule. That’s pretty much just it. If I feel a little lethargic I just put on some pump up music – anything from Little John to House music – something to get me hypes. Nothing too special.
DG: Last question! Do you have any suggestions for staying in shape over the summer?
ML: My best workout has come from when I’m really stressed, mad, or anxious. The easiest way to work out is to get into a rhythm. Like if you actually get in there every day, by the second or third week you feel like you can work out for hours. And some of my boredom you can get rid of that over the summers. You can get rid of the stress and boredom for three or four hours over the summer and you can get really relieved.