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Lake Grove’s Joe Scally makes debut with NYCFC

Joe Scally made his debut with New York

Joe Scally made his debut with New York City FC in the U.S. Open Cup game. Credit: Nathan Congleton

He isn’t necessarily your ordinary Joe. Or an ordinary teen, for that matter.

After all, how many American soccer players make their professional debut at the age of 15, taking their social studies final exam earlier that day? And how many teenagers replace a World Cup champion, David Villa?

Joe Scally is living the life to which many youngsters aspire — playing their favorite sport professionally. The Lake Grove resident, who signed with New York City FC in March, made his first appearance with the Major League Soccer club in a 4-0 loss to the Red Bulls on June 6.

“It was a really a dream come true,” Scally said. “It was awesome being out there, especially going in for David was awesome. He gave me some tips before I went in to alleviate my nerves.”

After the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, then head coach Patrick Vieira heaped high praise on him.

“Joe is the future of our team,” said Vieira, who left the club Monday to coach Nice [France]. “He’s a really strong personality. He’s got talent. We have to work with him the next couple of years because I believe he’s got the potential to be the right back in the future.”

Signing with NYCFC meant Scally surrendered his high school and college soccer eligibility. According to the MLS Players Union, Scally will earn $76,316.71 this year.

“It was an easy decision,” Scally said. “There are so many great professional coaches and players who can help me improve.”

His mother, Margaret, said she liked NYCFC’s “family atmosphere.”

Scally, a freshman, completed his final high school academic commitments this week before departing with the NYCFC U-18/19 squad for the U.S. Soccer Development Academy playoffs in Oceanside, California. He then will train at the team’s Orangeburg complex, 68 miles away. Since Scally won’t get his driver’s license for two years, his family is searching for transportation options.

A member of the National Junior Honor Society, Scally will be home-schooled going forward. As a full-time professional soccer player, the school hours don’t mesh with his new schedule.

Life has been a whirlwind for the Scallys.

“It’s just day by day,” said Margaret, who played for the Sachem Tomahawks’ 1987 U.S. Youth Soccer girls under-16 national championship team. “Mostly just go with it. You don’t know what’s going to happen the day before. Just a lot to absorb because he’s so young. Just happy to see him do something he loves.”

Frank Schmidt, who coached at Sachem high schools for 30 years, couldn’t believe how talented an 11-year-old Scally was when he was the training coach for Sachem Destroyers of the Long Island Junior Soccer League.

“There was something special about him,” he said. “I had never seen anything like this. He was just beyond his years. He’s got the personality that makes you like him. He’s got a smile all the time.”

Schmidt remembered asking players to pick practice partners.

“Kids at their age want to be with their best buddy,” Schmidt said. “He would volunteer to partner up with the 15th and 16th kid, who clearly could not do the things he could do. What other 11-year-old kid is going to do that?”

Before signing with the professional club, Scally played for NYCFC Academy teams three years above his age. Academy soccer’s focus is on elite player development. Therefore, he couldn’t play varsity soccer with his older brother, Drew, at Sachem North High School because NYCFC doesn’t allow Academy players to pursue scholastic soccer. But the brothers played together on the Sachem North varsity basketball team when Joe was an eighth-grade point guard.

Still, Scally created a buzz in the community when he played for NYCFC.

“To have somebody in the Lake Grove, Ronkonkoma area, is very exciting for soccer people,” said Sachem North boys varsity coach Chris Russo, who received many texts about Scally’s debut. “ ‘Did you see this? Did you believe this? He went in for David Villa.’ . . . It was surreal. We’re happy for him.”

Like many players, Scally dreams of playing for the United States on the international stage.

Schmidt, however, offered some advice: “Take this moment now and ride it as long as you can. Enjoy. Soak it up. Take care of the now. Everything else will fall into place, hopefully.”

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