Allen Gavilanes has been a great success in his two years at Marist College, winning MAAC offensive player of the year in 2017 and twice being on the All-MAAC first team. He is arguably the best player in the MAAC and has been in that conversation since he stepped foot on campus. Now that the season is over after a loss in the MAAC semifinals to Quinnipiac, Gavilanes has a big decision to make within the coming months regarding his future.
Gavilanes’ options include a return to Marist College for his junior year to compete for a MAAC championship, transfer to a bigger school to play at a higher level and get more exposure from pro scouts, or turning professional now.
Forget about registering for classes, Gavilanes should hire an agent and turn pro right now.
He has already proven himself to be a nightmare against defenses in the conference and has displayed his ability to beat defenders one-on-one using his crafty left foot and pace. Dominating the MAAC for a third straight season seems a bit redundant for Gavilanes. Even if Marist were to win the MAAC, an early exit in the NCAA tournament would be not only likely, but inevitable.
Transferring to a school in the Big Ten, ACC or Pac-12 conference would definitely be an upgrade for him in terms of competition. However, Gavilanes would have to prove himself again to a new coach in order to get a spot in the starting lineup. Not that his abilities would preclude him from doing that, but this has been done by countless others, many of whom have failed.
Gavilanes’ current teammate, Cam Harr, is a prime example at how this can backfire. Harr completed two great seasons for Marist and then decided to move on to greener pastures in the ACC for the University of Virginia. Although partly to blame on injury, Harr never saw the field. He eventually transferred back to Marist this past spring and has not reached anywhere close to his freshman and sophomore year form.
Jason Wright, a Jamaican native, is another player who transferred to compete at a higher level when he went from Rutgers to Clemson in hopes of getting more exposure with pro scouts. The 5’7” forward was an absolute wrecking ball his freshman and sophomore seasons. After his sophomore campaign consisting of 13 goals and five assists, along with a unanimous Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and 2nd Team NSCAA All-American honors, the diminutive pacy forward was seen as a potential Generation Adidas candidate. After a subpar junior season, Wright decided to transfer to the ACC with Clemson for his senior season, thinking he would now get an even better look from pro scouts while playing for one of the best collegiate teams in the nation.
Wright was invited to the 2018 MLS combine as one of 60 players initially invited. Everything looked like his dream of playing professional soccer would finally be realized, until draft day came and went without the penultimate phone call. His dream ended before it began. He has not signed with any team since the draft and is currently a soon-to-be 24-year-old free agent.
Both Harr and Wright, serve as cautionary tales for players like Gavilanes that are looking to transfer to some of the top soccer programs in the country.
If Gavilanes’ goal is to become a professional soccer player, now is the time to pull the trigger. He is still very young at 19-years-old and has room to improve his game into an all-around player. Quite frankly, college soccer is not a conducive atmosphere to develop in, and he would be much better served by being in a professional environment.
While Gavilanes is playing a three to four month season in college, a 19-year-old in Germany is playing a 10 month season. In fact, almost every 19-year-old soccer player in the world outside of the United States is playing a rigorous 10 month season. The development track for American-based players is way off compared to European and South American based players. This has been addressed by NCAA official Oliver Luck who has recently departed to be the commissioner for Vince McMahon’s re-booted XFL.
Even the minor rule discrepancies between college soccer and professional soccer make all the difference in preparing a player for professional soccer. The substitution rule, golden goal 20-minute overtime rule and the most appalling, but seemingly harmless rule: the clock. The referee should have control of the clock, including the ability to dictate stoppage time in a game where the clock is not supposed to be stopped.
Going professional obviously has its downfalls too, including losing eligibility to play college soccer again and losing a scholarship to get an education. You only make this decision if being a professional soccer player is your lifelong goal and if the trials involved in getting a college diploma will hinder that from happening.
Gavilanes would not be eligible for the MLS draft after this season, the only eligible players being seniors and Generation Adidas contract players. He can, however, sign with an MLS team as a free agent and most likely play for their USL team. The best option will most likely be outside of the U.S. and hiring the right agent that can provide the right contacts for trials will be extremely helpful in jumpstarting Gavilanes’ professional career.
It’s not an easy decision to make, but given his potential, Gavilanes should not settle for just being a great college soccer player.
Edited by Will Bjarnar and Meaghan Roche