By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Yannick Reyering's journey from the German village of Mettingen to Charlottesville began at his computer keyboard.
At age 20, he did not see a future playing for Osnabrueck, a modest soccer club where he had spent four years in the youth system, and came to the realization that education should become his priority. So one night nearly two years ago, he turned on his computer and tapped "college soccer in America" into a search engine.
"I found the NCAA Web site and saw some of the schools," he recalled last week. "I wanted to be on the East Coast and Virginia was one of the best teams."
He began exchanging e-mails with the Cavaliers' coaches, who, intrigued by the prospect of signing a seasoned European to complement their foundation of American players, flew to Germany to see him play.
The trip was well worth it.
Reyering, whose punishing shot is as intimidating as his 6-foot-5 height, has scored 22 goals in two years and will be a closely watched player at the ACC tournament this week at Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds.
The Cavaliers, the third seed in the conference and the fifth-ranked team in the Soccer America magazine rankings, will begin their quest for a third ACC title in four years tomorrow with a quarterfinal match against sixth-seeded and ninth-ranked Clemson.
Virginia has had only a few foreign players since Bruce Arena turned the program into a national power 20 years ago, but in Reyering's case, current coach George Gelnovatch saw a unique opportunity.
"He comes from a family where education is pretty important," he said, "and he has a passion for soccer as well."
Reyering grew up in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia and often took a 90-minute train ride to watch his favorite Bundesliga club, Borussia Dortmund. As a player, he steadily worked his way up with Osnabrueck, but when the club offered him a professional contract, he turned his attention to the United States.
"I just didn't see a future with Osnabrueck," he said. "It was a good decision because I enjoy it here now. I love the university and the team has been successful."
Reyering's past, though, cost him a year of eligibility. He played three games for Osnabrueck's first team and, although he was not paid for his appearances, the NCAA ruled he would have to sit out his freshman season.
Concerned he would have a rough time adjusting to a new culture without soccer, Virginia appealed and suggested he sit out his senior year. The NCAA agreed.
Reyering's impact was immediate. Last fall he led the Cavaliers in scoring with 14 goals and two assists and was named first-team all-ACC. This year, teaming with senior forward Adam Cristman to create a dangerous front line, he has contributed eight goals and seven assists.
"He just has a very mature soccer brain," Maryland Coach Sasho Cirovski said. "He's a guy who sees where the ball is going to end up and puts himself in those positions. He is very aware of his surroundings and a very intelligent player. His height is just an added advantage."
Gelnovatch believes Reyering, who turned 22 in July, possesses a sophistication largely unseen in college soccer.
"There is a different quality about him," he said. "He's a big guy, but I think of him as a technical finisher with both feet. He has that savvy ability and, when he hits it, it's going to be heavy and on target."
Reyering said he did not know what to expect when he arrived at Virginia, "but I was surprised by the level of our team. The skill level is very good. We learned a lot from last year; we just didn't believe what we could do. This year we think we can achieve big things."
He also is happy to see that interest in the sport here, though far less intense than in Europe, is growing.
"People in Germany, they don't think Americans have their heart in the game," he said. "But the knowledge of the game, the passion for the game is here."
ACC Notes: Maryland goalie Chris Seitz was named ACC defensive player of the year and forward Jeremy Hall was named freshman of the year. Boston College's Charlie Davies won the offensive player of the year award and Wake Forest's Jay Vidovich was selected coach of the year. . . .
In this week's Soccer America rankings, six of the top 10 teams are from the ACC, led by No. 1 Wake Forest. The league is hoping seven or eight of its nine teams will earn NCAA tournament berths when the 48-team field is unveiled Monday.