Here are just a few things Lorenzo Froehle has learned since he arrived in New York recently: People walk fast, they talk fast, and they can even be just a little bit aggressive. And he is also having big problems with New York humidity.
Those are just some of the hurdles Froehle will have to overcome now, after travelling 4,364.8 miles from his home in Anchorage, Alaska to come play soccer for the Manhattan Jaspers. But he is up for the challenge.
“It definitely doesn’t get as humid in Alaska as it does here, and that’s something I’ve been struggling with since I got here,” said the 6-1, 190-pound Froehle. “It definitely takes some getting used to. And people in Alaska are very nice, but I’ve noticed here that everyone is much faster and more aggressive. But I’m liking it so far.”
Froehle was a stud soccer player back in Anchorage where he played four seasons at Bartlett High School under head coach Matt Froehle, his father. During his time at Bartlett, Froehle said, he never felt any additional pressure playing as the coach’s son, and instead piled up one impressive season after another. He was a four-time All Conference selection and was also named to the All-State team following his junior season.
What was it like playing for his father?
“I played my entire four-year high-school career for him. He’s the best,” Froehle said. “We have a great relationship on the field, and off the field he is my dad. We keep the coaching and player stuff 100 percent on the field, and off the field he has always been about parenting a good man rather than a good player. So, I loved playing for him. He played pro soccer so he knows what’s it’s all about and what he’s talking about.”
Matt Froehle played professional soccer for the Orlando Nighthawks and the Daytona Tigers of the United Systems of Independent Soccer Leagues (USISL) before turning to coaching.
Playing soccer in Alaska has its challenges, as you might imagine. The biggest hurdle, of course, is the weather, and when Bartlett’s season kicked off each March, the schedule actually began with indoor games, before heading outdoors after the snow melted.
“In the early weeks of March, there is still snow, but by around the third week of March it starts to melt away and we can go play outside,” Froehle said. “We have the largest air-supported dome in the U.S. It has one large field and three small fields with a track around it and a weight room. So we played the beginning of the season inside and then the rest of the season outside. The dome is great, a really nice place, but nothing beats playing outdoor soccer.”
After a successful four-year stint at Bartlett, how does a kid who had never heard of Manhattan College before last year wind up in Riverdale to play Division I soccer? It took a lot of emails, phone calls and one former coach losing his job to get Froehle Manhattan-bound.
“My goal was to go and play Division I soccer, so I emailed just about every Division I school in the country, and I got a few bites,” Froehle said. “Luckily for me, one of them was Jorden.”
Jorden is Jorden Scott, the Jaspers head soccer coach who received a phone call from a coaching colleague telling him about the kid from Alaska who had game.
“I had never heard of Manhattan, never. But I was in touch with a coach from Niagara University, Eric Barnes, but he got let go after one season,” Froehle said. “But he let me know there were some other schools in the conference that were interested in me as a player, so he helped get me in contact with Manhattan and Marist College (in Poughkeepsie).”
Scott also was in contact with Barnes, while also consulting with some of his contacts in Alaska (yes, he has them there), and liked everything he heard about the kid from Anchorage.
“It’s a crazy story. He was actually going on a visit to several schools and one of the teams, Niagara, is in our conference, and they changed their coach,” said Scott with more than a hint of a Scottish accent. “That coach called me up and said he was no longer part of their program, but ‘I just wanted to let you know there is a great kid available right now and he’s kind of unsure where he is going to end up.’”
Scott also received “a glowing reference” on Froehle from his Alaska contacts and before long, he was in Riverdale visiting Scott and the campus with his dad.
“His dad was truly supportive and wanted an opportunity for this kid from Alaska to come to New York and I thought, ‘You know what? This is a great story and a great kid,’” Scott said. “But this is going to be a process for him. Being here now, it’s like Mars to him right now. But I spoke to him the other day and said, ‘Listen, we can see you’re a little nervous, and we can see this is a little different, but I want you to understand we’re here for you and we’ll help support you. Having a story like his in our program is a great thing. I believe we can help him get better. He’s a great student and he’s a great teammate and I’m just delighted to have him. You won’t meet a nicer kid.”
Upon his arrival in Riverdale on Aug. 7, Froehle had to battle a bout of homesickness while getting comfortable with his new surroundings. With the screech of the No. 1 train just down the hill on Broadway, along with the usual city sounds of fire engines, traffic and even the occasional Mister Softee truck, Froehle was definitely not in Anchorage anymore.
“It was definitely hard in the beginning. I definitely struggled at first because I was homesick, but now I’m loving it here,” Froehle said. “My teammates have been great, and Jorden has been great and very supportive, and I feel great about what’s coming. But everything is still very new to me.”
Froehle saw action in Manhattan’s opening exhibition game against St. John’s recently and quickly learned that he is still a ways away from mastering Division I soccer. But both Froehle and Scott know he will eventually be a key cog in the Jaspers’ soccer machine.
“I can be very physical, and once I get used to the pace of the game, I can use my feet a bit more and make some killer passes and help my forwards score a little bit,” Froehle said. “I think I’m over the homesickness, but I’m definitely working on the nervous part, you know? Alaska soccer right now is at Level 1 and Division I soccer is Level 5 so I’m trying to get to Level 5. But it’s one step at a time.”
Scott threw Froehle into the deep end of the pool against St. John’s, just so he could learn the pace of the game and what he will need to work on going forward.
“He went on for 15 minutes and you could see his head was spinning,” Scott said with a laugh. “So I pulled him out, gave him a quick water and said, ‘It’s fun isn’t it?’ Then he looked at me and said, ‘Wow, that’s quick.’ Then I put him back on, and that’s what it’s going to take. But he has a desire to be better and that’s all I ask.”
When he wasn’t playing soccer in Alaska, Froehle was helping teach the sport at a club, and to kids with special needs. It was something he enjoyed every bit as much as playing the game itself.
“I actually worked in two programs. In one program I was working in the special education department in my high school to play soccer in the gym,” Froehle said. “They were handicapped kids, so it was fun just to get those kids out and be active. And then the other one I did, I grew up in a low-income community, so my high school was low-income, and that comes with its own issues and problems. So I helped incoming freshman students deal with academic issues and everyday life issues. How they deal with things at home and stress, and how they deal with students and their teachers. I’d help them with math or history or science, whatever they needed. I was kind of like an older brother. I was there as much as I could be.”
But the one thing Froehle hasn’t been able to experience since arriving in Riverdale is a taste of New York pizza. A bit of a pizza connoisseur himself, Froehle said his hometown pizza joint, called Moose Tooth’s, could rival anything he tastes here. But it will be a while before he indulges. Soccer comes first.
“I haven’t had a chance to try the pizza yet because I’m on my soccer diet right now, so I can’t have any pizza yet,” Froehle said laughing. “But actually in Anchorage, we have some of the best pizza in the world. It might not be known, but USA Today did a story on the top 100 pizzas in the country and Moose’s Tooth in Anchorage was No. 3. I think a place in New York was No. 1, and a place in Chicago was second. But I’ll have to wait until the end of October [when the soccer season ends]. That’s a long time though.”
Scott thinks Manhattan is the perfect collegiate landing spot for Froehle, since he is not used to large population centers. Manhattan College with its 3,471 undergraduates will help give Froehle that small-town feel for the next four years.
“It’s such a small community here, and I think having this environment will help him because it’s not as if you’re at Temple,” Scott said. Temple University has an enrollment of 28,287.
“There, you walk in the door and you’re like, ‘Geez man, this is crazy.’ He’s got that small family feel here right now and that’s going to help him,” Scott said.
Scott also has plans for a little field trip into the city for Froehle and his teammates sometime after their Aug. 21 exhibition game at Bucknell, and before their Aug. 26 opener at Temple. It’s a way of making the out-of-towners like Froehle feel comfortable in their new city.
“The boys haven’t even been into New York yet. We’ve been in preseason now and we’ve just been going at it – training, meetings, rehab, team building,” Scott said. “It’s just been crazy. But we’re going to take the guys to New York and hang out and let them see the city a little bit. I don’t want them to just see the tourist areas. I want them to feel what it’s like to live here. I want to take them to Harlem and Little Italy. I want them to experience the Meat Packing District and understand what the High Line is. It will be a little history lesson.”
Then it will be time for soccer’s regular season, as Froehle begins to settle in for his first season at Manhattan.
“I miss the Alaska weather. This is pretty hot to me,” Froehle said. “I’m not used it. And I don’t call home much because I heard it makes it much harder to adjust to the New York life when you do that, so I just shoot my family a text every once in a while. I try to stay a little distant right now. But I just love that you are never going to be bored here. If you’re bored, than it’s your fault, you know?”
It’s the very early stages of Lorenzo Froehle’s Excellent New York Adventure, and he can’t wait to see what new experiences a new day will bring.
“A year ago did ever I ever think I’d be in the Bronx? No,” Froehle said. “But so far so good.”