Rafael Diaz has been dreaming of a professional soccer career since he was at Morris Hills. The goalkeeper has signed a contract with New York Red Bulls II in the United Soccer League.
Diaz, 23, spent much of preseason with the Red Bulls, training with both the Major League Soccer and USL clubs. He will likely be the No. 2 goalkeeper behind Santiago Castano, a homegrown signee who is on loan from the MLS team, though first-team head coach Jesse Marsch said he expects Diaz “to be a big contributor.”
The all-time shutouts leader at St. John’s University, Diaz was the lone New Jersey invitee and one of four goalkeepers at the 2014 MLS Combine after his senior season.
“I feel like I’ve always been competing,” Diaz said earlier in preseason. “In college, you’re always competing. Then you leave college, and I’m at the combine and competing again, and then in preseason it’s competing again. Even when you have a contract, and the coach says you’re the first guy, you’re still competing because you can easily get jumped. That’s one thing I learned for sure as a pro, you’re always competing no matter what.”
Red Bulls II opens its inaugural USL season against Rochester on Saturday afternoon at Red Bull Arena. The MLS team will play in Columbus on Saturday night.