From playing Division III soccer to becoming the highest Major League Soccer SuperDraft draft pick in University of Rhode Island history, Patrick Agyemang’s journey to the professional soccer world has been nothing short of inspiring.
Agyemang was selected as the 12th pick in the first round of Major League Soccer’s SuperDraft by Charlotte Football Club on Dec. 22, becoming the first player in Rhode Island history to be selected in the first round and only the fourth player in program history to be selected since the formation of the SuperDraft in 2000.
A hamstring injury kept the forward sidelined for the start of the 2022 season, but he still tallied seven goals and two assists in 14 appearances for the Rams.
“I just felt such a sigh of relief,” Agyemang said. “All of the hard work, all of the sacrifices that I really put into it, it showed, it’s been showing. All of the times where I found myself discouraged, not believing in myself, it all came out then and there.”
Agyemang’s journey dates back to August of 2018, when the East Hartford, Connecticut native suited up for his first collegiate soccer game for Eastern Connecticut State University (ECSU), a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III state school. Agyemang made an instant impact in his debut season, scoring nine goals and assisting three in 18 starts.
The breakout season was enough to see Agyemang win Little East Rookie of the Year in 2018. It was after his first season that the forward began to believe that his dream of playing professional may just become a reality.
“At some point I realized that not everyone has the same goals as me, and that’s ok,” Agyemang said. “A lot of people are going to school for what they really want to do, and I realized what I really wanted to do was play.”
From his sophomore season, the ultimate dream started to become an attainable goal for the striker. Inspired by this newfound belief, Agyemang led the team with 21 goals and seven assists in 2019. In his two seasons with ECSU, Agyemang would finish 9th in program history with 30 career goals and 70 points as a sophomore.
Despite his early success, Agyemang said he never intended to transfer from ECSU, and the most important thing to him at the time was the fact that he was enjoying playing the game and finding success.
“I thought I was gonna stay there [at ECSU] and keep going, making numbers and then getting trials and stuff like that,” he said. “But I always had that in mind, that if I get the opportunity to show myself, it is gonna present itself.”
That opportunity came at the start in the fall of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic had brought the world of collegiate athletics to a grinding halt.
“My mind was like, ‘Oh, I’m just living in the present, having fun and playing footy,’” Agyemang said. “But then when COVID hit, everything stopped, and it made me really evaluate my goals and everything. I realized I wanted something bigger for myself, I wanted more of a challenge.”
In the summer of 2020, Agyemang began joining training groups with college players from all three divisions around the country, doing everything he could to continue staying sharp and playing the game he loved while the pandemic had shut down the collegiate scene.
Inspired by a close friend during this time to officially enter the transfer portal and take the step to the next level, Agyemang eventually chose the University of Rhode Island following several conversations with members of the coaching staff. Allowing him to stay close to home while playing at the Division I level made Kingston an ideal home for the striker.
Agyemang’s production on the field continued to impress during his three seasons in Kingston. A shortened 2020 season would see him score two goals and lead the team with four assists. Agyemang’s form continued as he led the Rams in goals in his final two seasons, scoring 10 in 2021 and seven in 2022, finishing 29th all-time with 19 career goals for URI.
According to URI Men’s Soccer Captain Zach Drayer, Agymang’s impact on the team wasn’t just limited to his on-field production.
“He’s got this positivity, this energy that I think we can feed off of,” Drayer said. “He’s just a great guy to have in the locker room. I think that part of his game is a little underestimated.”
During his college career, Agyemang would also spend time playing for United Soccer League Two side Western Mass Pioneers during the college offseason, leading them to the Eastern Conference Championship in 2021.
Following a standout junior season at URI, the three-time Atlantic-10 Player of the Week would earn the chance to train with Major League Soccer professional side Nashville Soccer Club, as well as the Columbus Crew’s reserve team in the summer of 2022.
For Agyemang, the chance to train with a professional team was a step outside of his comfort zone, but a necessary step to advance his game.
“I had never traveled in an airport by myself, I had never done all these things by myself, it was just like, ‘woah, this is actually me chasing my dreams,’” Agyemang said. “It was all college kids, a lot of the college kids that didn’t end up getting drafted this year, they were all just together. It was just fun, it was really cool to see where I compared myself [to other players] and made me realize ‘Yeah, you can. You can go pro.’”
For Agyemang, the realization that he could keep up with players at the professional level was vitally important for his mentality. Coming from playing at the Division III level, getting professional opportunities helped him to clear years of self-doubt about his future.
“I used to search up kids and say ‘Has there ever been a division three player that goes professional? Is this a thing?’” Agymang said. “Then I started to relax and realize that as long as I have faith and I’m good enough and I keep growing, anything could happen.”
Now, in 2022, Agyemang can finally call himself a professional. Charlotte FC is set to kick off their second MLS season on February 25th, 2023, hosting the New England Revolution at home. The 2021 Expansion team broke attendance records with their inaugural home opener last season, as 74,474 fans packed a sold-out Bank of America Stadium, a step up from the 2,000-capacity bleachers at the URI Soccer Complex.
“I just want to be able to warm-up, see the fans, see the atmosphere and be in that arena, I think that’s the one thing I really am looking forward to,” he said. “As a professional, I see myself making an impact in some way, whether it’s on the field or off the field.”
From the humble beginnings of Division III, to the MLS SuperDraft, Patrick Agyemang’s eventful collegiate career has finally come to a close, but his playing days are far from over. His professional journey has only just begun.