It was an electric Friday night match-up against Army West Point in New York that got the ball rolling for the Englishman’s collegiate soccer career at Seton Hall a year ago in August.
“One memory that does stick out in my mind would be my first ever competitive game with Seton Hall,” senior forward Carlton McKenzie said.
McKenzie recalls the Army fans’ section’s usual rowdiness and the stands being closer to the players than he was used to for a college soccer field, adding to the tension already in the air. The Pirates would go on to win that game after CJ Tibbling’s goal in the dying seconds of first half of overtime.
“It was as if we’d won the World Cup,” McKenzie added. “It was just great because we stuck together. It was probably the first time I felt like we were together as a team.”
A year after his competitive debut, McKenzie has now wrapped up his senior year with five goals and one assist. Two of his five goals were game winners this season, one against Creighton and one against Marquette, and they proved crucial to the Pirates’ end-of-season efforts to make the Big East tournament.
Despite just falling short of the tournament, McKenzie was still awarded a spot on the 2019 All-Big East Second Team. Humbled by the honor, the senior still felt that it was funny that he was named to the team despite his consistent performances this season.
“I was laughing, to be honest,” McKenzie said. “I was thinking ‘How on Earth did this happen?’ This season’s been very, very difficult because the first game against Central Connecticut, I got injured and it’s been persistent all season. I actually just found out I have a hernia from that incident, and it’s gone into my groin. To receive that news, it was just ridiculous.”
He still took tremendous pride in receiving the end-of-season award and added that it is an accomplishment he will look back on with fondness after he leaves Seton Hall at the end of this academic year.
The end of his collegiate soccer career, however, may not spark the end of his soccer career in general. McKenzie said he has a few combines and tryouts lined up with professional clubs in the United States and back home in England.
“I was invited to a combine by the Red Bulls, so I’ll be doing that,” McKenzie said. “There are people that are supposedly interested in having me play whether it be in the USL or MLS or even back home in Europe. If the soccer doesn’t work out, I would like to maybe try and get a job in the city. Obviously within sports, that’s all I know. Or maybe go to graduate school and see where things go from there. Soccer is my thing, though, and it’s what I want to do. Hopefully I can figure what’s going to happen within the next couple of weeks.”
Justin Sousa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @JustinSousa99.