Adjusting to the lifestyle of a professional athlete is never an easy task.
The constant travel, lack of familiar faces and pressure of performing weigh heavily on young athletes trying to succeed at the highest level.
But for former Terrapins men’s soccer players Taylor Kemp, Ethan White and Casey Townsend, the transition into MLS has been much better. All three are members of D.C. United — who will host College Night during tonight’s game against the Chicago Fire at 8 p.m. at RFK Stadium — and having former teammates around has made this season more enjoyable for the trio both on and off the field.
“It’s been great with Ethan and Casey because it’s guys you went to college with,” said Kemp, who was the No. 17 overall pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft. “You know where they’re coming from, they know where you’re coming from and it gives you instant friends on the team. They can show you the ropes and help you through, especially for the first couple months when you don’t know exactly what’s going on or how things work. It makes things a little bit easier because there’s always a pretty high level of uncertainty starting with a new team and moving from college to the professional ranks.”
White was the first of the three former Terps to sign with United. The defender left school during his sophomore year and signed professionally after rising through the ranks of United’s youth academy.
White started 21 games for United his rookie season, scoring one goal in 1,928 minutes of action. While he didn’t play any regular-season games in 2012, White has started 13 times in 2013.
Townsend joined the club this year after playing his rookie season for Chivas USA in 2012. Chivas USA took the forward with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft, but it traded him to United on Jan. 25 this year in exchange for a second-round pick in the 2014 SuperDraft.
In his rookie season with Chivas, Townsend played in 17 games (10 starts), scoring one goal and dishing two assists.
“Obviously we’re all good friends and we’ve known each other for awhile now,” said Townsend, who lived with White for a year while playing for the Terps. “It makes it a lot easier to be on the team and have a good time with guys because you’ve known them for so long. It is nice having guys around that you’re comfortable with.”
White, Townsend and Kemp have helped each other transition to the pros, but playing in Washington means they can also remain close to their alma mater. They know the area from their time in College Park and have stayed connected with members of the Terps program, including coach Sasho Cirovski.
“[Cirovski] will pop by practice randomly and talk to you probably once a month,” White said. “He doesn’t want to swarm us, and he has his own stuff going on, but he does come by to see how we’re doing and to see if he can help in any ways. He gets us ready to make the step forward and turn pro and he does a good job of getting us there and also keeps us going.”
White, Townsend and Kemp will never get a chance to return to Ludwig Field and play for Cirovski and the Terps. But tonight, with United inviting college students to RFK Stadium, the trio will get to play before some of the Terps faithful one more time — just with different jerseys on.
“I hope I can hear some people talking to the keeper a little bit,” White said.