By Charles Boehm
Darryl Gee oversees an enormous club with around 7,000 recreational participants and more than 1,000 travel players, but mention Sam Onyeador, and the technical director of Loudoun Soccer immediately knows exactly who you’re talking about.
“Big player,” Gee said when The Soccer Wire asked him about Loudoun 95 Red’s outstanding goalkeeper. “Good attitude, works hard, good team player. He has a lot of potential, and I think he’s still going to improve.”
Onyeador’s netminding has helped push his Under-16 squad to new heights over the past year. Coach John O’Hara’s boys reached the finals of the 2011 Virginia State Cup, won their Predator-Red group at Disney’s Soccer Showcase in dominating fashion in Orlando, Fla. in December and defeated two state cup champions (from California and Kentucky) en route to a winning record in the top flight of the U-16 boys showcase at the Jefferson Cup in Richmond, Va. last month.
It’s also won Onyeador a nomination as one of Korrio’s Players to Watch for April.
“He was the one guy that I thought would make a huge difference to the team, so he’s the first guy I went after [after taking over Loudoun 95 Red],” said O’Hara. “I’d known him for a long time from coaching him at Great Falls [SC]. He’s been doing really well. He’s been one of our most consistent players, especially in big tournaments – our State Cup run and down at Disney. He was definitely our top performer down at Disney.
“I met a lot of schools at the Jefferson Cup who were really impressed with him, and a lot of the other coaches for the teams we played were really impressed with him, too.”
O’Hara is well qualified to evaluate Onyeador. A former professional ‘keeper himself, O’Hara is also the goalkeeping coach at George Mason University and the Director of Coaching-Goalkeepers for Loudoun.
“I think one of his greatest strengths is that he doesn’t really get fazed. He’s got a real calming influence on the team, the guys really respect him as a player and a person and I think that goes a long way to lead the guys, and lead the back line,” said O’Hara of Onyeador. “Then I think shot-stopping-wise, he’s one of the best for his age, he’s really hard to beat…His reactions are really good.”
A sophomore at Park View High School in Sterling, Va., the imposing Onyeador hails from a family with deep roots in the sport. His sister Olivia played at the University of Maryland, His brother K.C. played at Clemson, his cousin Uche recently concluded his college career at Georgetown and his uncle Ike is a longtime coach at the club and college levels.
So while Sam has not yet reached the prime period for college recruiting, it probably won’t be long until he’s the subject of keen interest from top NCAA programs.
“I think he’s got big ambitions. His sister played at Maryland, his brother played at Clemson, so I think he would love to play in the ACC, because he’s seen both of those programs and the teams they play,” noted O’Hara. “He really has a strong background in the game, and he’s a good student, I think he has a 3.6 [GPA] so I think that will help him, too.”
O’Hara says Onyeador will need to improve on some of the finer points of his game, specifically his foot skills and his decision-making, in order to cut it in the nation’s most competitive college conference. But given his work ethic and sky-high potential, there’s little doubt that he’ll be playing at the Division I level when the time comes.
“I think he’s got a chance. A lot of the things in the game come naturally to him and one of those is athletic ability,” said O’Hara. “He’s got two and a half years before he gets to that next level. I have had [recruiters’] interest about him, even though he’s only a sophomore, so I definitely think he’s on the right track.”