From playing college soccer just a few months ago to walking out on the pitch for 45 minutes against mighty Arsenal, Ross LaBauex has already taken some giant steps in his short career with the Colorado Rapids.
Granted, the club’s second-round 2010 SuperDraft pick did happen to win a national championship with the University of Virginia and the Arsenal team he played against during the Rapids’ recent preseason trip to England was full of aspiring teenagers, but the 21-year-old Chicago native is noticing the step up in class.
“Just how sharp everyone is on the ball,” he said at Rapids training this week of the differences he has seen so far between college and pro soccer. “The movements. Everyone is so clean on the ball, so confident.”
The talented attacking midfielder said he is learning very fast in what is proving to be a long preseason. Having been used to just two weeks of college preseason, the two-month stint has been an enjoyable challenge as well as a vast learning experience.
“We have older guys that really make you feel part of the team,” he said of players like Pablo Mastroeni, Conor Casey, Pat Noonan and Nick LaBrocca. “They’re not down on you. They make their points when they have to but for the most part everyone is so positive, they really help you out.”
Time will tell if the rookie gets any significant playing time in a midfield anchored by Mastroeni, new signing Jeff Larentowicz, the fast-emerging LaBrocca and wide players such as Jamie Smith, Colin Clark and Wells Thompson. For now, LaBauex can’t wait to get started with the real stuff.
“Everyone’s working hard to get to that goal of starting the season well,” he said.
The Rapids kick off the 2010 season on the road against Chivas USA next Friday, March 26.