Making Most of a Cold Chance

"He's got an engine and can move pretty well," United Coach Tom Soehn says of Ricky Schramm (in shorts). (Photos By Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)
By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Ricky Schramm was up early yesterday, dashing out of the rowhouse he shares with five Georgetown classmates and into the bitter morning cold to get to campus.

His destination was not a classroom, but a bus stop in front of the dining hall where the university shuttle collects those needing a ride to the Rosslyn Metro station just across the Potomac. Schramm could not, under any circumstances, be late, for if he wanted to preserve his dream of becoming a professional soccer player, he had to get to RFK Stadium promptly.

Without a car, public transportation was his only option. The rush-hour ride on the Blue Line took 21 minutes, the brisk walk from the station to the stadium another five or so.

"I was maybe 45 minutes early," he said. "I didn't want to take any chances, not for this. I got here, that's what mattered."

Selected by D.C. United in the third round of the MLS draft, Schramm will spend the next few weeks balancing academic and soccer pressures as he attempts to earn both a degree in English and a roster spot on the league's most decorated team.

Unlike most other American pro leagues, being a third-round MLS draft pick carries few perks and just as few guarantees. And many players who manage to stick on a roster begin their careers making less than $20,000 a year and will work a second job.

Schramm will commute to RFK every morning this week -- getting to the Metro via shuttle or bike, or by driving straight to the stadium in a borrowed car -- then accompany the club to Bradenton, Fla., for two weeks of workouts and exhibitions.

Although he was the Big East offensive player of the year in 2004 and finished his college career with 39 goals and 15 assists, he faces long odds of making United's 28-man roster. A menacing striker for the Hoyas, Schramm probably will have to prove himself as a competent flank player to make the cut in MLS.

"He's got an engine and can move pretty well," Coach Tom Soehn said. "We'll see. It's still a bit of question mark as to whether he can hang in there and make it."

If he does make it, the payoff will be anything but lucrative. Schramm likely would be offered a developmental contract worth as little as $12,900.

The low salary "does go through my mind, and that's probably the main question I get from all my friends who are going to make almost six figures in their first year," said Schramm, who guesses he would pursue a job in sales or banking if he does not land a pro soccer contract. "I'm just saying to myself, 'Money should not be your first priority.' The realities are pretty harsh, but I've been given a chance and I have to take advantage of it."

Schramm had to work hard just to get noticed. Despite an excellent college career, the Westchester County, N.Y., native was not invited to the MLS scouting combine. To attract interest, he produced a 6 1/2 -minute highlight DVD and shipped it to every MLS team.

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