Asani Samuels was the hero of the USL Championship as his Rochester Rhinos defeated LA Galaxy II 2-1. The result would not have been possible without the NPSL alum’s two second-half goals. He would go on to be named match MVP, a rather obvious choice.
His successful career started at Canisius College, where the Jamaican striker was an absolute standout. He rolled to a laundry list of honors and awards including being named to the 2012 NSCAA All-North Atlantic Region Third Team, 2013 All-MAAC Second Team, 2013 NSCAA All-North Atlantic Region Second Team, 2014 All-MAAC First Team, and the 2014 NSCAA All-Northeast Region Second Team.
Samuels would appear in 72 matches for the Golden Griffins, registering 16 goals and six assists. His reputation as a clutch finisher was well-noted thanks to scoring six game-winners during his time in the college game. Samuels’ best performances came in 2014 as he posted career highs in goals, assists, points, and shot percentage. He would also earn MAAC Offensive Player of the Week honors after defeating rivals Iona and Rider in the same week in October.
Canisius head coach Dermot McGrane saw Samuels’ vast potential from the very beginning.
“Over the course of four years, we had the pleasure to watch Asani develop into a special player during his time at Canisius. I don’t think he has even reached his full potential yet and will only continue to get better during his time as a pro. I’m looking forward to his continue development and watching him grow his game.”
Samuels would also spend time with NPSL side FC Buffalo, a club that provided further opportunities to sharpen his game. He would play in 10 matches, tallying one goal and two assists. It was a special and important time for Samuels.
“At FC Buffalo, I got a better understanding of the game because I got to play with and against more experienced players. The coaching staff were very helpful in that they pointed out what I can improve on and correcting my errors.”
Playing in the NPSL’s ultra-competitive Midwest Region also helped hone his development.
The NPSL is a very strong league. The NPSL taught me that there are really good players out there and in order for me to make it the next level there is a lot of things that I needed to work on. Playing with and against good players improved my game tremendously.”
The NPSL provided the rising star with great opportunities, which allowed him to prepare for a professional career.
“To me the quality of the NPSL is very high. It contains players of all dimensions. There are very technical players, very skillful players, and there are players that are very athletic. It’s a very good league and young players can learn a lot from it.”
Samuels impressed many people during his time in the national league, but none more than FCB head coach Brendan Murphy. He was quick to sing his praises.
“Asani was a joy to coach, incredibly humble, and willing to take on any role to help the team. To see him scoring two of the most important goals in the history of the Rhinos was an absolute thrill. I am so happy for him as a person. Whatever may come next for him, he deserves it and I wish him nothing but the best.”
Getting Samuels to the Rhinos was not really a surprise thanks to FC Buffalo’s massive pipeline to the USL side. Kendell McFayden, Josh Faga, Mike Reidy, Brian Knapp, Andy Tiedt, and Ngwese Ebangwese are all FCB players that have also spent time with the Rochester Rhinos.
Samuels’ success with the Rhinos was not all that surprising as the 6’5” forward has had success at every level. Being among the best pushed Samuels even further in a magical season for the Rhinos.
“As a team we had a wonderful season. We only conceded 15 goals in the regular season and we scored over 40 goals. We lost one game all season and set a couple of records so personally I think we had a tremendous year.”
Samuels is quite modest about his team’s achievements, but that is to be expected from someone who is so incredibly humble. This was seen during the biggest moment in his career as he won the USL Championship. FC Buffalo co-owner and General Manager Nick Mendola saw it unfold.
“You see the first goal go in and, ‘Woah! That was Asani!’ Then he nabs the second one and our phones are just buzzing. Twitter’s going nuts for our friend. That’s amazing. And then he gives this super humble, perfect, team-first postmatch interview. He’s the MVP of the USL Championship Game, if there’s ever a time to revel in your accomplishments it’s then. And he thanks his coach and his school.”
When asked about his future, Samuels gave a simple response: “I am just going to work as hard as possible and see where soccer takes me.”
Our guess is that it will take him to the heights of the professional game. The sky is literally the limit for this player that got his start in the NPSL.