After trying to make the leap professionally following the 2016-17 season, Seton Hall men’s soccer midfielder Andres Arcila is back for one final season in South Orange.
When Arcila made his decision to return, it was not announced in a tweet that evoked hundreds of likes and retweets, like another returning senior athlete. Instead, it was a text to his head coach of three years, Gerson Echeverry, which made clear his intention: “What are the options,” it read.
Arcila arrived at Seton Hall in the fall of 2014, from Cartagena, Colombia, and immediately had to deal with an NCAA hurdle which required him to sit out his first year at Seton Hall.
“When I first was going to come here, the NCAA was making a lot of troubles because I was international,” Arcila said. “So, because I had a different grading system, all this stuff, they were complaining about a lot. But then they said, ‘Okay, you can come, but you have to sit a year.’”
During his year on the sidelines, Arcila could have sulked, but instead he embraced his academics and began working toward his degree with the same determination that would come to embody his unstoppable runs through the Owen T. Carroll midfield. There was also an urgency for Arcila to finish his schooling quickly, arriving at Seton Hall at the age of 20, when most players who intend on playing professional soccer have already made their breakthrough.
When Arcila finally did step onto the field in 2015, the talent was indisputable. And Arcila, unlike most international players, was not overcome by the intense physicality which exists in college soccer. By 2016, Arcila had developed the perfect blend of strength and creativity to thrive in the college game, finishing the season with a team-leading seven goals and 18 points.
In his second season, Arcila was ready to see what professional interest existed. Thanks to his persistence in the classroom, which involved taking a full slate of summer classes for back-to-back years, Arcila was prepared to graduate by the end of the spring.
“In December, when I finished last season, I was talking to my coach Gerson, and I told him what I wanted. I said, ‘Gerson, I think I’m mature enough now to try and play professionally,’” Arcila said.
And so, after leaving Seton Hall in the spring, Arcila tested the waters both in the United States, where he first arrived on the soccer field in 2012, training with Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids, and back home in Colombia, but things did not materialize.
It was during this period in June where Arcila reached out to Echeverry – someone who Arcila says he stayed in contact with throughout and shares a close relationship with – to see if there was any option for one more runout donning the blue and white.
The text message ringed into Echeverry’s phone from Arcila, with the potential to bring back a player who is a guaranteed commodity; the conductor in the attacking end of the midfield who was undeniably the most important player offensively for the Pirates the last two seasons.
There was only one move for the Seton Hall coach.
“He was responsible for about 85 percent of our productivity [last year], you make room for someone like that,” Echeverry said. “I mean, in any sport, anyone who has that much productivity for you on the offensive end; it’s an easy change.”
With Arcila back, the Pirates have the chance to do something they could not do consistently in Arcila’s first two years on the field: win.
“The most important thing is to get better results as a team,” Arcila said. “Last year I did a lot of good stuff, so people heard my name, but this season, the most important thing is to get results for the team.”
James Justice can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @JamesJusticeIII.