By Jeff Helfrich/NPSL.com
When the list of players for the 2019 MLS Player Combine was released, Rashawn Dally’s name wasn’t on it.
The Hartford City FC and Quinnipiac alum was disappointed. He thought his resume spoke for itself. Four years, 78 games, and 16 goals at Quinnipiac. Experience with the Jamaican National Team, including a stint with the first team last March. Dally’s agent made some calls, and the forward got his wish.
“It was very good to receive that call,” Dally said of being selected to the combine. “I do feel like I deserve to be here just as much as anyone else here or has been here. It’s an opportunity I’m grateful for to showcase myself and try to get the ultimate goal.”
Dally came to the United States with his father from Jamaica at nine years old. His mother had to stay back in Jamaica for an extended period. He was the kid in class with a strong accent. It made him a stronger person. Soccer helped, too.
“Having that ball at my feet in a quiet place any time I needed to was definitely a big help in making that easier,” Dally said.
Dally’s love for the game comes from his father, who played in Jamaica. In years past, Dally’s father would take him and brother out to the driveway to train or juggle or kick around the ball. Dally’s teammates and friends at Quinnipiac know his father as the loudest one in the stands.
“He tells me it’s like I’m living his dream and he’s living it through me,” Dally said. “When he sees me on the field playing, he feels like it’s him.”
Dally accomplished another dream of his father’s when he was called to play with the U-17 Jamaican National Team at 16 years old. He also worked with the U-20 team and traveled to the Dominican Republic with them before training with the senior team last March. When he was young in Jamaica, Dally and his friends would all talk about playing for the country some day.
Dally now has to bridge the final gap to his next goal: playing professionally. He’s taken every step necessary, including joining Hartford City to stay fit against talented competition in 2018. He scored two goals in 10 games during the NPSL season for the Colts, including the game-winning goal in the 86th minute against in-state rival Elm City Express.
“When Rashawn and I first talked about playing with Hartford City, he was upfront about his desire to play professionally,” HCFC Director of Football Operations Nick Balistierri said. “My instinct was he has a chance, he possesses the athletic ability to compete. Even with that though I told him he would have to refine his abilities and that our club could provide that environment.”
HCFC allowed Dally to be at home while taking summer classes and working out at his own gym. Along with competing against talented players, Dally enjoyed playing alongside top players. The Colts having players from larger schools like UConn and Georgetown created a competitive environment for Dally to train in.
There are few environments that are more competitive or pressurized than the MLS Combine. Each player has dreamed of the chance and worked their whole life to get to this point. Dally started the combine by winning both the 30-yard sprint and jump exercise in his group. There are a few more days left in the combine, but Dally’s time will likely come when the MLS SuperDraft is held in Chicago on January 11. The ultimate goal.
“I just want to focus, be myself and express myself to the scouts,” Dally said, “And I know once I do that, someone will pick me up.”
Photo Credit: Alex Serbetzian