BRIAN SCIARETTA - Wednesday, January 23, 2013
After being drafted with the 27th overall pick in the MLS draft last week, Paolo DelPiccolo will instead begin his professional career in Germany after signing with Eintracht Frankfurt.
DelPiccolo, 21, enjoyed a strong collegiate career with the University of Louisville and over the winter elected to go to trial with Eintracht Frankfurt where he impressed while playing with the club's U-23 team.
While training with Frankfurt on a trip to Turkey, he was told that the club wanted to sign him. He waited until the MLS draft was completed before making his final decision to stay with the club on a short six month contract that will run through the end of the current season in June.
"It went really well," DelPiccolo told YA of his trial with Frankfurt. "We did a week here in Germany then a week in Turkey. We had about four test matches during those those two weeks. I played mostly with the U23s and I think I did really well. But I think I did everything to show my strengths as a player. I think I showed very well."
"About halfway through the trip to Turkey they told me they wanted to keep me through the rest of the season," he added. "So I started making decision. I waited for the draft to see who was going to draft me. I then just made the decision to stay here."
Under MLS rules, Montreal will continue to maintain DelPiccolo's rights while he plays abroad. Should DelPiccolo elect to return to MLS, Montreal will have the opportunity to sign him.
DelPiccolo's decision to sign with Eintracht Frankfurt was made while in contact with Montreal during the process. While he hopes to perform well and earn a longer term deal with Frankfurt, he is also happy to consider a return to Montreal.
"Montreal has been really great," DelPiccolo added. They've been really supportive of the decision. They said 'look, we're very happy for you. We're drafting you knowing you may not be with us this season.' They still have my rights. They made it really easy. There's no bad feelings between us and they know I can potentially come back to play for them. Right now I just think this is a great opportunity to work my way up over here in Europe."
DelPiccolo is naturally a versatile central midfielder. At the University of Louisville he played a a deeper lying defensive position but at Eintracht Frankfurt he will be expected to play more advanced in a box-to-box role.
Despite the short term nature of his contract, DelPiccolo has held discussions with the staff at Eintracht Frankfurt and has come away from the discussions believing he has a future within the club that now sits impressively in fourth place in the Bundesliga.
"I talked a lot to the coaches and the directors over here," DelPiccolo said. "They were hopeful of my ability to move up in here in Germany and even through this club. That was a major factor for me. I didn't just want to come here for six months and play some second division game and then leave. They were like 'we see you as someone who if you're playing well and there's a good relationship, we can always move you up."
DelPiccolo is a native of Wheat Ridge, Colorado and soccer runs in his family and his father played for NCAA powerhouse UCLA. He has both German and Italian ancestry but despite his Italian name, he is only eligible for a German passport which he is now in the process of acquiring to help his career in Europe.
He arrives in Frankfurt on the heels of a decorated four year collegiate career at the University of Louisville. He finished as the school's all-time assist leader and earned first team All-Big East Conference honors.
College soccer has at times been questioned as an effective method of developing professional players but DelPiccolo is very happy with the coaching and the training he received at Louisville. Recently many notable Americans have come out of Louisville including Chicago Fire defender Austin Barry who named the 2012 MLS Rookie of the Year, DC United midfielder Nick DeLeon who is coming off a very strong rookie season, and New England Revolution defender Andrew Farrell who was drafted with the first overall pick in last week's 2013 MLS Superdraft.
For DelPiccolo, he understands the reasons why Louisville players have been successful professional players. The answer, for him, lies in both the coaching and the team's rigorous training environment that mirrors what is found in the professional ranks.
"I think that Louisville does a great job with Coach Ken Lolla and [Associate Head Coach] Mario Sanchez," DelPiccolo said. "They know what it's like to train in the pros. When you look at what our trainings look like [at Louisville] they're almost identical to what they are in any pro environment. They only difference is the players. They level is probably a little bit higher here because the players are professionals but Louisville had high level training and high level matches in the Big East."
For now with his contract finally signed, DelPiccolo is eager to start his professional career. He knows that he is in a challenging environment at powerful Bundesliga club but his primary goal right now is to improve overall as a player.
In his past he has played with the US U-20 and US U-18 national teams but his dream is to eventually contend for a spot on the full national team. With most of the top American players based in Europe, DelPiccolo wanted to follow their path albeit at an earlier age.
"My goal right now is to keep developing, first and foremost," DelPiccolo concluded. "The good players are going to find teams. All I can do is get better as a player and the rest will take care of itself. When you look at the national team, most of the big guys are here in Europe. That's kind of the direction it's moving. It's a long ways away for me but it's also a goal and a dream of mine. I want to put myself in the best position to get there."