MORICE EYEING RENNES FUTURE
Just last year, Max Morice found himself a freshman at Yale University, trying to carve out a balance between the commitments of playing for the soccer team and navigating the school's tough academic slate.
But after signing a one-year contract in May with Stade Rennais F.C. of France's Ligue 1, Morice will only have the first of those two issues to deal with from now on. That challenge, however, will be an entirely new beast, as he'll leave the 101 classes behind and head straight to the advanced seminars of professional soccer.
Morice told Yanks Abroad that he had had a trial with Rennes back in the summer of 2011 before heading off to Yale, and he returned in March of this year for another shot. The St. Paul native would be offered a deal two months later, but, despite the great opportunity that lay front of him, the choice to leave Yale was not an easy one to make.
"It was a really tough decision, because I really liked Yale," he said. "I had great coaches, a great team, and it's obviously an amazing university. So it was a tough decision, but it's been my dream since I was a little kid to play professionally in Europe."
That dream first began to grow within Morice thanks to his father, Pierre, who played for several teams in Ligue 1 during his playing days, including seven seasons for current Ligue 2 side FC Nantes.
Growing up with a professional soccer player in the house spurred on the young Morice to try to follow in his dad's footsteps, a path that has led him back to the same country where his father grew up and plied his trade.
"He's been my coach since I was a kid, [and] I definitely wouldn't be here if it weren't for him," said Morice. "He's taught me most of what I know. He was my idol when I was [younger], and that obviously made me want it more."
And that hunger has helped put him right on the doorstep of top flight European soccer.
A left midfielder last year for Yale, Morice said that he has been moved to the backline since arriving in France, being deployed now for Rennes more as an attack-minded wingback. He noted that he will be playing primarily with the reserves during the 2012-13 campaign, but if he impresses, he could work his way up before the season is over.
So, while the insecurity that comes along with short contracts is often tough for athletes, a levelheaded Morice explained that he is ready just to leave everything he has on the field and see what happens.
"On a one-year deal, I have to prove to the coaches and to the club that I can play in the first division," he said. "There's a few younger players on the pro team that don't usually play in all the matches but [that] practice with the first team, so realistically, this year, that's my goal."
And if he does end up training with French international Yann M'Vila and the rest of the Rennes first team, a U.S. U20 call-up could very well be in the offing for the 19-year-old. Morice has yet to feature for any of the American youth national teams, but with Terrence Boyd getting senior-team appearances while still playing for the Borussia Dortmund reserves, it would seem likely that the former Bulldog will be hearing from Tab Ramos some time soon.
When the idea was brought up, he did not hide his excitement at the thought of getting the opportunity to don the Stars and Stripes.
"I mean I haven't really thought about it that much, but it would be amazing. I would love to wear the U.S. jersey some day. If that ever happens, I would be honored," Morice said.
With a new soccer dream in mind, then, the Minnesotan is looking to make an impression at USMNT captain Carlos Bocanegra's old stomping grounds. The ivy-covered walls of Yale behind him, Morice now looks toward what could potentially be a very bright future.