It’s August 27th, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio and Andrew Tarbell was sitting on the San Jose Earthquakes bench, sitting second on the team sheet to one of the top goalkeepers in MLS, David Bingham. Then Bingham took a knock and the rookie goalkeeper had to step in for the second half. Tarbell stepped up to the challenge, coming up with a huge save and maintaining a clean second half for the Quakes.
“You have to be ready all the time,” Tarbell said after the match, “I just tried to stay calm and focus on playing soccer, like it was any other soccer game.”
Looking back, it was anything but any other soccer game for Tarbell, not only did it mark his first MLS experience, but so far it remains his first taste of the league, and he hopes it helps him take more opportunities in this MLS season.
“I just need to be ready to play,” Tarbell said. “Keep working and pushing the number one (goalkeeper) and hopefully I’ll get chances to play like in the Open Cup.”
When Tarbell has played, he has shone, especially in his final year at Clemson, where he lead the Tigers to the national final with a heroic performance against Syracuse in the national semis, where Tarbell came up with a number of saves in the full 120 minutes as well as the penalty shootout.
“Clemson was just amazing; I couldn’t of asked for anything better.” And Tarbell credits the NPSL with preparing him for his college experience.
There’s no question that Tarbell succeeded as a Tiger, and received high praise from his college coach, Mike Noonan.
“Andrew was one of the most influential players that I have had in my coaching career. His talent speaks for itself but what made him so significant during his time at Clemson was his transformational leadership development.”
Noonan then went on to credit Tarbell as a part of a change in the entire culture of Clemson soccer, moving them into a national power.
“He was amongst a group of players who were able to inspire others to believe in Clemson Men’s Soccer, our staff, and our goals for the future of the program. I am forever grateful to him.”
In 2015, Tarbell had one of the best seasons a collegiate goalkeeper could have, racking up an NSCAA All-America Second Team, NSCAA All-South Region First Team and All-ACC First team honors in his final year, and won the Best Moment Award at the CLEMMYs for his performance in the shootout against Syracuse in a year that saw Clemson’s football team reach the national championship.
Following his monumental junior season, Tarbell became the first former NPSL player to be a part of Generation Adidas, which allows players to enter the MLS draft before they conclude their college eligibility.
“It was a great honor, it’s a really good thing to help players reach the MLS,” Tarbell said. He was then drafted by San Jose with the 8th pick in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft.
Of course, before all of the great success at Clemson and his MLS career, Tarbell was the netminder for the New Orleans Jesters, an experience which Tarbell notes as is his first taste of high-level soccer.
“It was a great experience before I went to college,” Tarbell said. “It was my first time playing at a high-level of soccer so it really helped prepare me for Clemson.”
Tarbell also noted the importance and impact of New Orleans coach Kenneth Farrell, who has become one of the pioneers in bringing the beautiful game to the Big Easy.
“Kenny (Farrell) helped me so much in my time there,” Tarbell said, crediting the coach for part of Tarbell’s overall great experience in the NPSL.
Whether Tarbell is filling in while Bingham is with the U.S. Men’s National Team or during the Open Cup, the 23-year-old keeper is working towards his opportunity, whenever that may come.
“My job is to push the number one,” Tarbell said, noting how great it has been to work with Bingham, who Tarbell believes to be one of the best, if not the best goalkeepers in MLS. “I’m just going to keep working and get ready for my opportunity whether that be in the Open Cup or something else.”
When that opportunity does arise, Tarbell will have a wealth of experience between the posts to draw on, both from college and from his first experience at a high level: the NPSL.