- Category: Volume 88 (Fall 2016 - Spring 2017)
- Published: 01 February 2017
- Written by JOHN SORCE | SPORTS EDITOR
Monmouth men’s soccer alumnus Eric Klenofsky has officially become a professional after being drafted by Major League Soccer (MLS) outfit D.C. United with the 34th overall pick of the 2017 MLS SuperDraft on Jan. 13.
“D.C. United is an historic club with multiple MLS Cups, a knowledgeable technical staff, and a front office that cares. It’s truly a blessing to have been drafted by D.C. and I can’t wait to play in front of the incredible fans at RFK [Robert F. Kennedy Stadium],” Klenofsky said.
“Eric is a competitor. He has soft hands and good feet,” said D.C. United Head Coach Ben Olsen. “He’s still a touch raw and we have a lot of faith in (Director of Goalkeeping and assistant coach) Zach Thornton to move him along quickly to make him better. He’s another guy that has a bunch of tools that suit the position and suit our league.”
The goalkeeper was recently invited to participate in the 2017 MLS Player Combine in Los Angeles, CA, which took place throughout the days leading up to the draft. Klenofsky’s selection makes him the eighth ever Monmouth student-athlete to make the step up to Major League Soccer.
“I’d definitely say there was a touch of nerves while I was there [at the combine]. I’ve worked for an opportunity to play pro for as long as I can remember and when that opportunity is staring you in the face, it’s normal to be nervous,” Klenofsky said.
“I’m proud to represent Monmouth in Major League Soccer,” Klenofsky added. “We have a few guys like Bryan [Meredith], RJ [Allen], and Derek [Luke] who are all great Monmouth soccer ambassadors in the professional game currently that I’ve learned a lot from. The knowledge I’ve gotten from them will be so important as I make the transition.”
Klenofsky, a Lincoln Park native and DePaul Catholic High School graduate, became Monmouth Head Coach Rob McCourt’s first choice goalkeeper midway through his freshman year at Monmouth. He thrived under the newfound responsibility, leading the nation in goals against average (0.22), coming second in save percentage (.914), and being named Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Defensive Player of the Week four weeks in a row spanning from the middle of October to early November 2013.
Klenofsky carried his success into his sophomore year as Monmouth’s main man in between the posts. He shined in the spotlight once again, ending the season second in the nation and the MAAC in save percentage (.880) while being named All-MAAC Second Team for the second year in a row, amongst a host of other honors.
“We are so happy for Eric,” said McCourt. “He has always pushed himself to get better, and his everyday habits are those of a professional soccer player. He has a wonderful future in Major League Soccer and for D.C. United. It’s going to be fun watching Eric as he progresses onto this next stage of his career.”
Klenofsky’s junior year was undoubtedly his most successful one for Monmouth men’s soccer. Before the season even kicked off, he was named MAAC Preseason Player of the Year and was recognized as being one of the nation’s top ten goalkeepers by TopDrawerSoccer.com, which is a website that “provides authoritative, responsible coverage of college and high school aged soccer; promoting the game and the players who play it,” according to the website. He was named in both the All-Northeast Region and All-MAAC First Teams, as well as being crowned MAAC Goalkeeper of the Year.
Klenofsky was in goal for the Hawks for every minute of every match throughout the fall 2015 season, being recognized as an Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) All-Star and a member of the MAAC 35th Anniversary Second Team, culminating in setting a career-high record of nine saves in the MAAC Championship where the Hawks fell to Rider by a score of three goals to two.
On top of all of his success on the field and in the classroom, Klenofsky was also a member of The Outlook and served as the Sports Editor for the fall 2015 semester.
“Eric’s service to The Outlook really illustrates the kind of person he is,” said John Morano, professor of journalism and faculty advisor of The Outlook. “Eric was studying journalism and decided that he might want to write sports for the student paper. Not only did he do that, he quickly took on the role of Sports Editor, running the entire section. He did this while playing soccer and taking a full course load. Eric is a hustler. And he doesn’t like to settle for ‘good enough’. Eric gives you 100 percent no matter what he’s involved with. I’m excited to see where life takes him.”
“Eric is the latest in a long line of outstanding goalkeepers for Monmouth soccer,” said Matt Harmon, Specialist Professor of Communication and broadcaster of Monmouth Soccer for the Monmouth Digital Network. “He is a great ambassador for the program and for Monmouth University Athletics as a whole. He did a great job dealing with the pressure of being such a highly rated prospect during his time in West Long Branch. I also had the pleasure of having him in class and saw him balance being a student-athlete extremely well.”
In a senior season plagued by a broken bone in his right hand, Klenofsky still managed to rank first in the MAAC in save percentage, as well as earning recognition as MAAC Co-Goalkeeper of the Year, earning two MAAC Defensive Player of the Week honors and a spot on the All-MAAC Second Team. Klenofsky’s collegiate career ends with him holding the record for fourth-best goals against average in Monmouth men’s soccer history as well as recording 32 clean sheets in his 66 career appearances.
“Eric is an example of how successful a student-athlete can be when hard work and perseverance meet natural ability and talent,” said Eddy Occhipinti, Associate Athletics Director/Marketing & Sponsorships. “As skilled as he was, it was his determination to work hard every day that separated him from the rest of the keepers at the collegiate level and one of the reasons he is now a professional. It was a joy to get to know him and be able to broadcast his matches, and I have no doubt that Eric’s best soccer is ahead of him.”
The MAAC superstar turned MLS recruit had a message for the youth soccer players of today, too, and it is that dreams really do come true.
“My advice to those trying to play professionally is not to be afraid to fail,” said Klenofsky. “Whatever you want to do in life, whether it be soccer or anything else, you can make it happen. Give everything you have to what you want and whole-heartedly commit yourself to your dreams and they will come true, I promise you.”
PHOTO COURTESY of Monmouth University Athletics