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Chris Megaloudis didn't take the conventional route to a professional soccer career. He wasn't invited to the Major League Soccer Combine, where other top prospects showcase their talents in front of league coaches and general managers. And he wasn't selected in the MLS SuperDraft.
But thanks to a series of good breaks and some dogged hard work, the Jackson Heights native is a member of the New York Red Bulls. He now walks out of the tunnel and onto the field at Giants Stadium, much like the football and soccer players he watched as a fan for years.
"Even though it wasn't happening and I didn't get drafted by any team, it was something that always clicked in my mind that it was something I wanted to pursue," Megaloudis said. "I thought I had the talent to do it, everyone told me I had the talent."
It hasn't been easy, but then again, Megaloudis, a rock-solid 6-foot forward, never did anything easy.
He attended Monsignor McClancy HS in the CHSAA 'B' division, rather than a soccer powerhouse like Holy Cross or Archbishop Molloy. After leaving as the school's all-time leading scorer, Megaloudis had a solid collegiate career at St. Peter's College and then Stony Brook University, but fell through the cracks when it came to MLS scouts. And although he was placed in the pool for the Supplemental Draft two years ago, Megaloudis wasn't selected.
"I never lost hope," he said. "I just kept training every day, a lot of times by myself. Wherever I could play soccer, I would go. That's what kept me going, knowing this is what I had to do to make it as a professional."
The dream wasn't over. Megaloudis just needed to find a different way to get there.
Because his mother, Carmen, is of Puerto Rican descent, Megaloudis tried out for the Puerto Rican national team, with the help of Stony Brook assistant coach Dariele Collazo.
He's played in four games for Puerto Rico, which is attempting to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, and scored one goal.
"I did everything I could in Puerto Rico to train as hard as I can, almost thinking in the back of my head if there's a trial right now I think I'd be in top shape to make it," Megaloudis said.
That chance came through another connection, Joe Barone of the Brooklyn Italians. Barone made a few phone calls and Megaloudis was invited to attend a mini-camp with other pro hopefuls at the Giants Stadium training bubble in January.
Megaloudis impressed enough to earn an invite to train with the full team in preseason stints in Los Angeles and Austria, before finally being offered a developmental contract.
"He's a big-target player," Red Bulls technical director Jeff Agoos said. "He's a young kid who, when compared some others, we thought would have a chance to develop and do well."
In a recent scrimmage against Seton Hall University, Megaloudis scored a hat trick inside of 20 minutes. Because of injuries to Colombian forwards Juan Pablo Angel and Oscar Echeverry, it seemed probable that Megaloudis was going to make his MLS debut Sunday at Giants Stadium.
"Chris Megaloudis might get a chance," Red Bulls coach Juan Carlos Osorio said in the lead up to Sunday's game. "Obviously John [Wolyniec] and [Jozy Altidore] probably have the upper hand, but I will not disregard what Chris can do for us. I think the little bit of playing time he has gotten for us he has done well."
But that didn't happen. Osorio brought on Mike Magee at halftime and the Red Bulls' most tenured player scored what proved to be the game-winning penalty kick. His second substitution was a tactical one and his final change was made in the 75th minute because of an injury to defender Kevin Goldthwaite.
Megaloudis has come this far, he isn't about to let a small setback get to him.
"I would come to this stadium a lot, for football games, soccer games," Megaloudis said. "As a kid you're saying one day you want to play here. Hopefully, I get my opportunity to do that this year."
Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at email@example.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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