July 20, 2019 | 85° F

Impact rookie dreams of professional career

Photo by Jovelle Abbey Tamayo |

Freshman forward JP?Correa started each of his four collegiate games, tallying two goals and two assists to lead the Scarlet Knights in each category.

The Rutgers men’s soccer team sports a freshman described as a being a one-of-a-kind talent, the type of player that does not come around often.

Make no mistake about it, JP Correa arrived on the Banks to help the Scarlet Knights turn their fortune around after a string of disappointing seasons.

But in the back of his head, Correa has a loftier goal. The forward from Montville, N.J., also dreams of one day playing soccer professionally.

“Ever since I was little, I’ve been dreaming about being a professional,” Correa said. “Coming out of high school and being recruited just feels like one step closer. I just feel like I have to work a little harder to get there.”

Head coach Dan Donigan believes Correa picked the right atmosphere to achieve his goals.

“JP, he is a special player. He is not a kid that you get every year or even every couple years,” Donigan said. “He is an incredibly talented player. He is a soccer junkie and he came to us because outside the whole school thing, he wants to become a professional, he wants to get to the next level. We feel confident that we are going to be able to do that for him, and obviously he chose us for that reason.”

Through the Knights’ first four games of the season, Correa certainly displayed the talents necessary to advance to the next level. The freshman contributed in each of those games in some way, notching two assists and a team-high two goals.

“In soccer, there is nothing really like scoring a goal,” Correa said. “To be leading the team in goals, it just feels great. It’s a good feeling.”

Correa is still very young and has a long road ahead of him if he wants to become a professional. But Donigan noted his youth is nothing to worry about.

“Every player in college and even in the professional ranks has some deficiencies,” he said. “We just want to help him develop his weaknesses and to make him a more complete player.”

The coach cited a number of tweaks Correa can make to his game that will take him to the next level.

First, his defense must develop, according to Donigan.

“I just think expanding his game would be best, not just becoming known for his attacking abilities but also a defensive presence, as well,” Donigan said. “We can’t afford to go out there and play with 11 guys going forward and only 10 guys playing defense because that would catch up with us eventually.”

Still, Correa’s biggest deficiency also gives him his greatest talent. Soccer is a team sport, but Correa seems able to compete as an entire team by himself.

“He also needs to learn how to include other players in his attacking side of the ball,” Donigan said. “He has done a lot of things individually because he is so talented and so good at dribbling at people, but if he can start to use the players around him to help himself, I only think that’s going to make him better.”

Correa’s talents call to mind for Donigan a player he coached years ago at St. Louis by the name of Vedad Ibiševi?, who also once struggled with sharing the ball on offense. He now plays professionally for Hoffenheim in the German Bundesliga, as well as on the Bosnian National Team.

“I had a player in the past very similar to him, where we used to have training sessions where he was such a dominant attacking player, and I told him, ‘You have to use the players around you. You can use these guys and you’ll get the ball back,’” Donigan said. “That reminds me so much of JP, and it proves he can make it eventually.”

Correa and the Knights return to action Friday against Iona, and if the fast rising freshman can notch any more stats under his belt, he will be one step closer to achieving his dream of playing professional soccer.

By Vinnie Mancuso

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