Wherever Pete Caringi has played, he has found a way to score goals, the former Baltimore Bohemians and UMBC standout is ready to find out where he will get the chance to test himself in the professional ranks.
“You wait your whole life for this moment to happen and to get to a professional team, and Thursday’s obviously the start of that,” Caringi said this weekend as he attended the MLS Combine. “It’s fun to play games and do everything, but Thursday’s the goal now.”
The PDL’s Golden Boot winner in 2013 as he scored 16 goals in 12 games to lead the Bohemians to their first playoff appearance in the club’s second season, Caringi finished his UMBC career with 37 goals and 91 points. After a prolific youth career with the Baltimore Bays, where he won a national championship in 2011, Caringi appreciated getting the chance to continue to develop, and play alongside a number of his Bays teammates in the PDL ranks.
“Summer was a great experience,” he said. “Obviously it turned out very well for me with the goals and the awards, but we got our team into the Open Cup for next year, hopefully I’m not going to be there, but just to get that happening before I left and just to play with my friends for one more summer and take a bigger run at it.”
That run saw the Bohemians claim a playoff place on the final day of the season in a highly competitive race in the Mid Atlantic Division. Needing a victory against division champions Ocean City, Caringi scored a pair of goals, and Zach Kane a stoppage-time winner, to rally the Bohemians to a 3-2 win and a postseason berth.
Going up against teams such as Ocean City, Reading United, the Jersey Express and Long Island Rough Riders throughout the summer provided a high level of competition as Caringi looked to maintain his development.
“The top five teams were covered by two, three points, it was crazy, and that’s a testament to the good teams, the division,” Caringi said. “You’ve got to play those teams twice, obviously Reading with Philly and everything, they’re a very good team, Jersey Express and Ocean City, who won the division, playing against those teams consistently throughout the summer gave you a sense that all of these teams are good, all of these teams could win.”
After his Golden Boot in the PDL, and All-League honors to along with it, Caringi went on to claim the America East’s Striker of the Year award for a second consecutive season, a first in the conference’s history. He was also named to the NSCAA First Team, and went from being consideredTopDrawerSoccer.com‘s No. 71 college upperclassmen in preseason to No. 9 after the season ended.
With that track record, you might expect Caringi to be considered a solid prospect to find a place on an MLS roster this spring. The talk at the Combine, however, has been of someone who might need some time to make the jump to the pro ranks.
“I think the question I have for him is at the next level, how dynamic is he to get off his own shot?” said ESPN analyst and former New England Revolution star Taylor Twellman. “I don’t know if he can create his own shot at the next level, but I think he’s got something. I almost see him as being a guy that may have to go the USL [PRO] route, with an MLS team connection, and then see how he progresses.”
For his part, Caringi believes he’ll be able to adapt to the heightened speed of play that often proves the biggest transition for players making the jump from the PDL and college to MLS.
“Every time you go to a different level, from high school to college, college to pro, obviously the speed of the game picks up, so I feel like once I get there, I get to pick up the speed of the game,” he said. “I feel like that won’t take long for me, because I feel like I’m good with that, but there’s still a transition period.”
The other transition Caringi will face is the one that will occur off the field. After spending his entire soccer existence in Baltimore, both in youth soccer and the college and PDL ranks, Caringi will be heading out of town to play for the first time. That, too, is a challenge that he’s looking forward to.
“I’d like the challenge of possibly going far away from Baltimore and play with a group of players I haven’t seen before,” Caringi said. “I honestly, no matter what city is out there, will be happy as long as they’re happy with me.”
All of which brings things back to Thursday, and Caringi’s first step into the professional ranks.
“I’m very excited. This is what I’ve been waiting for now; this is what I’m ready for now.”