Santino Quaranta is confident he found the right mix of players as the Baltimore Bohemians open their fourth season in soccer's Premier Development League.
Quaranta, who is entering his first season as head coach of the team, wanted players who trained and played hard, rather than having a reputation as a "superstar." With a solid crop of players from some of the region's top NCAA programs, Quaranta likes what he's developed so far.
"It's a different group from last year," Quaranta said. "I wanted to create a different environment. Last year, we had a different feel, because we had a lot of guys from Georgetown, a lot of guys from UMBC. Guys were on a little bit of a different schedule. This year, I think the group is going to be a bit more unified -- not that it wasn't last year. But there's a different feel about these kids."
The PDL is considered the top development league in North America, comprised of mostly college athletes who are looking to impress professional scouts. A solid pipeline has been developed through the PDL and Major League Soccer, with several players making an impact.
Some of the top players on this year's roster are Jeremy DeGraffenreidt, a former Baltimore Sun Player of the Year at Loyola Blakefield who is now at the University of Louisville. Malcolm Harris, formerly of McDonogh and now at the University of Denver, and Thomas Quaranta, Santino's brother who played at Perry Hall and Wilmington University, are also expected to make an impact.
Tommy Quaranta played with the team for the final two games of last season and is looking forward to competing again. The opportunity to play in front of scouts for MLS clubs is also enticing.
"Being 25 years old, I feel like I'm in my prime of my soccer career," Tommy Quaranta said. "I'm definitely looking forward to what comes."
Santino Quaranta expects the PDL to be challenging once again, but with a lot of parity as the league is loaded with professional prospects. The Bohemians are looking to qualify for the playoffs for the second time since 2013. Their 14-game season runs May 16-July 18.
"What I'm excited about is there really isn't that mainstay superstar," Quaranta said. "For me, that's a big deal. They work their [butts] off. It's a good, talented group."
There is also excitement surrounding the team's new venue in Baltimore, where it will play at Bonvegna Field, which is just off the waterfront on Boston Street. The team has moved around during the last couple of years, playing its inaugural season at Cedar Lane in Bel Air, Md. The following year, the team moved to the Ridley Athletic Complex at Loyola University. Last year, it played at Calvert Hall. The new home in one of Baltimore's most popular neighborhoods should be a draw.
"We're thrilled to be moving to Canton," Bohemians general manager James Tirabassi said. "The community is so vibrant, and the location of the field is ideal. The renovation of the field on the part of Coppermine has rejuvenated Bonvegna, and we can't wait to share the neighborhood with our fellow residents. Bonvegna field has been an integral part of the Baltimore soccer history, so it's very special for us to be playing there. We look forward to bringing a high level of soccer to the citizens of Baltimore city and promoting local area players to professional scouts, both domestically and abroad."
It is also an exciting time for the players. Tommy Quaranta has enjoyed watching the progress of the stadium throughout the spring.
"I catch myself just going down and staring at the field," Tommy Quaranta said. "I liked to go down and just watch the progress. I pictured playing down there on a Saturday night. What else can you ask for?"
Santino Quaranta's goals for the season are simple, as he wants to make a run during the postseason.
"I want to get to that playoff spot," Santino Quaranta said. "I want to be at the top of the table with this group. It's about who executes."