Now that the National Premier Soccer League pushes into the playoffs, many clubs are digging for the experience and leadership to get them deeper into the postseason.
The same can be said for the New Orleans Jesters of the Southeast Conference, who are close to claiming title to their championship. That leadership will come from none other than Jesters’ veteran Reece Wilson, who has plenty of experience playing in the Big Easy.
“It’s been fun,” the Jesters’ forward said of the year in the NPSL. “There are a great group of players and we jelled pretty quickly. Sometimes these leagues are so short you don’t have time to prepare.”
The London native has been the backbone for the Jesters in 2014 off the field, but his play has backed that up, scoring seven goals and acting as the stand in captain as the Jesters ended the regular season with 20 points, in a tough Southeast Conference.
When Jesters’ Captain Sam Hurrell came out injured, versus the Georgia Revolution in early June, it was Wilson’s turn to step up to the plate and wear the armband. Not only did New Orleans finish that match a 2-0 winner, Wilson had some incredible theatrics the next night against Nashville FC.
“Nashville was a tough team. We were just on fire that night.”
Wilson can brag about the experiences that he has had, playing places where some other places cannot even imagine. Central Connecticut State was his first stop, where he won a Northeast Conference Title in 2012, and won the NEC Conference Player of the Year the following year. It’s humorous to think that Wilson has spent his summers in the brutal heat of Southern Louisiana to play his collegiate ball in the Northeast.
“I enjoyed the weather in Connecticut, where it barely got over 80 degrees and then playing in over 95 degree heat in New Orleans,” he added. “I have been living in New Orleans for more than six months and learning to train in the heat.”
Wilson has had to adapt before.
Named as one of the finalist for the Hermann Trophy (top college soccer player) and was looking to be drafted in the Major League Soccer SuperDraft 2012. With 15 goals in two years at CCSU, it looked that a MLS would come calling for Reece’s services. He did also score 12 goals in two year for the Jesters as they played in the Premier Development League.
“I was hoping that somebody would pick me up, when you are in that situation,” Wilson said honestly. “It didn’t quite work out, but that’s ok.”
The native Englander’s name was not called in Kansas City that day, so Wilson had to find that next step. Ironically, Wilson had played with Patrick Mullins, who played with the Jesters before being drafted in the 2014 SuperDraft by the New England Revolution.
“I played with him for two years here in New Orleans,” he added. “You could see at that time that he had great talent and I am very happy for him, that he’s doing well.”
Wilson then had to make a choice.
“I met some people in my footballing career and one of the guys I knew gave me opportunity to go to Costa Rica and play there. I thought ‘Why not’ and as soon as I graduated, I flew over there and played there for a little bit.”
After playing in Costa Rica for the Universidad de Costa Rica, Wilson had the decision of staying in Central America and to lose his American visa, or return to the States and figure his career out.
“I really had to sit down and make the decision of what I was going to do,” he said of the choice he had. “I thought I would come back here and go from there.”
Back in the States, Wilson has returned to full force in 2014, collecting seven goals and doing it in spectacular fashion. See, in that next match against a rested Nashville FC side, Wilson slid three past the Tennessee club wearing the captain’s armband in a 5-1 rout. That capped a four- goal weekend as he also scored against Georgia.
“We have a pretty mature team,” he said. “We have four or five guys that can be considered captain, I was given the armband and I was really happy to lead the team and I feel that there has been a real excitement in the camp this year.”
“With the game against Nashville, it shows that anyone can beat another team in the Conference. I feel that the teams are strong, I think it’s a tough level and there are a lot of great players in this league.”
With his expertise playing internationally, Wilson can be the spark that the Jesters need in 2014. This is just another compliment for the talent in the NPSL.
“A lot of these guys have a great chance to make it to the next level and beyond,” he said of the NPSL. “For foreigners in the MLS it is a little tougher to get there, but hopefully that investment in American players pay off for the U.S. National Team for years to come. I see it in this league.”