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Former SJU soccer star inks deal with MLS’s Crew

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When St. John’s All-American midfielder Jeff Matteo was drafted by Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew in February, he didn’t exactly take a direct route from Jamaica to Columbus.

After leading the Red Storm to the NCAA semifinals and scoring St. John’s lone goal in the 2-1 overtime loss to Indiana, Matteo traveled to Italy, Germany and Westchester before finally arriving in Columbus last week. Matteo signed a developmental contract with the Crew that runs through the remainder of the season, with a three-year option.

“I am really happy to be in Columbus,” Matteo said. “It was an unusual situation how it ended up, but I am excited about the opportunity. I am going to work hard and give it my all every day and do whatever the coaches and team needs me to do.”

Matteo, who wears No. 24 for the Crew and was selected by Columbus in the second round of the 2002 MLS SuperDraft (20th overall), made his MLS debut Sunday in Columbus’ 4-0 win at Kansas City. Matteo entered the game in the 76th minute, replacing Duncan Oughton.

Along with teammate and close friend Shalrie Joseph (who was drafted by, but never played for, the New England Revolution in the second round) Matteo became the fourth player in St. John’s history to be drafted in the MLS. He is only the second to play in the MLS, following Jesse Van Saun, who played for New England.

After attending the Crew’s training camp, Matteo left for Italy to train with Monza in Serie C-1. Following Monza’s season, the crafty 5-foot-5 midfielder had a tryout in Germany for a second division club and then returned to the United States to play for the Westchester Flames in the D3-Pro League, where he had one goal and three assists in five games.

“It was a little frustrating, things didn’t work out as planned overseas,” Matteo said. “It’s great, I’m pretty happy to be playing in the MLS.”

A four-year standout at St. John’s, Matteo was a two-time first-team All-Big East selection and was named Big East Midfielder of the Year last year. He had 17 goals and 21 assists for 55 points in 88 career games.

“Jeff is a dynamic young player and we are pleased to have to come to terms with him,” said Columbus head coach Greg Andrulis. “We have remained in close contact with him since training camp and look forward to both his return and future contributions to our club.”

Another former St. John’s All-American, Stefani Miglioranzi, has recently switched clubs in England, where he has been playing professionally for the past three years.

Miglioranzi, a standout at St. John’s from 1996-98, has signed with Swindon Town in England’s Second Division after three years with First Division Portsmouth.

Miglioranzi, who wears No. 10, has started in all three of Swindon’s games and has helped the club to a 2-0-1 mark, good for second in the early season standings.

In Swindon’s last game, a scoreless draw at Blackpool Saturday, Miglioranzi nearly set up the game-winning goal, as he won a ball at the edge of the penalty area and played the ball through to Eric Saban. But Saban’s tough angle shot, which had Blackpool keeper Phil Barnes beaten, dribbled wide of the far post.

“I suppose a draw away from home is always a decent result, but I was certain we were going to win the game in the second half,” Miglioranzi told the Swindon Evening Advertiser. “I didn’t think Blackpool troubled us that much.”

Miglioranzi, who set up several quality scoring chances in Swindon’s other two games, also picked up a yellow card in the 72nd minute.

“I think the referee was struggling to find space in his notebook to write Miglioranzi,” he joked after the match. “I didn’t think the challenge was worthy of a booking anyway to be honest.”

Swindon manager Andy King originally signed Miglioranzi to a month-to-month contract, but appears ready to offer the 24-year-old a contract for the remainder of the season, according to published reports.

“Stef appears to be quite happy and I think I’ve already said he has a balance and an awareness that I admire,” King told the Evening Advertiser. “He is still ambitious and feels he can play at a higher level than Division Two. That doesn’t bother me, in fact I like the fact he has ambition. You would hope all your squad has ambitions to play as high as possible.”

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by email at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.

Posted 7:16 pm, October 10, 2011
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