Foran keeper Luca Marinelli makes good on goal to play in college

Luca Marinelli signs to play men's soccer at Bryant University. With the Foran High All-State goalie are mom Laura, brother Andrew and dad Fabio.

Luca Marinelli signs to play men’s soccer at Bryant University. With the Foran High All-State goalie are mom Laura, brother Andrew and dad Fabio.

Foran High Athletics / Contributed photo

Luca Marinelli leaves Aug. 10 for Bryant University and preseason practice as a goalkeeper with coach Seamus Purcell’s Division I Bulldogs men’s soccer team that competes in the Northeast Conference.

Ask Foran boys soccer coach Rick DiStefano about Marinelli and he provides two stories.

“I remember the day Luca asked to come to my office. He was just a freshman. He sat down and told me ‘I want to be a college player.’ I told him what he needed to do,” DiStefano said. “Usually when a player walks out after a meeting like that one, I say to myself: ‘we’ll see.’ Luca did more than I ever could have asked him to do.”

Rob Petrie, Foran’s goalkeeping coach, pulled DiStefano aside later that season. “Rob came to me and pointed to Luca. He said to me: ‘He will be an All-State player twice, sure enough he was.”

Marinelli reached out to Bryant, as well as UConn.

“It came down to those two. I got a call from UConn. Because of COVID, it was difficult to see if senior goalies were going to stay. When Bryant came into the picture, I decided it was right for me. I committed early September,” said Marinelli, who is leaning toward a degree in accounting. “Bryant came in with a great offer. I spoke with Coach Purcell. They have a strong program. The players are well connected. It became an easy choice.”

Choosing soccer became easy for Marinelli, who said he didn’t play the sport until high school. Baseball, basketball, and football were his sports.

“My dad Fabio loves baseball,” Marinelli said. “He and my mom Laura let me choose my sports. I went to Notre Dame of West Haven to help my brother Andrew at a summer camp. Andrew’s coach said I had natural talent. He told me if I stuck with it, soccer would take me far in life.”

Marinelli watched and learned his first season at Foran. Slowly but surely the other sports fell by the wayside. He put all his time into soccer. He made trips to the beach at dawn to work on his footwork. Marinelli would lay out a ladder to get down his steps. He would put out cones to work on speed. In the afternoon it was goalkeeping session to better his understanding of the position.

DiStefano said: “You tell kids you will get out of a sport what you put in. All these cliches that coaches, teachers, parents use all the time, can be only words, unless a kid takes it to heart. Luca truly got out what he put into soccer. He had no former goalkeeping training before high school. There was no high level CGC, Oakwood experience that players come in with now. He made himself. He listened to his coaches.”

Marinelli earned All-State honors his junior and senior seasons.

“I think I was there physically my first year starting,” he said. “But mentally is where you win and lose games. If you let up a goal, that is tough mentally. You must bounce back and focus on the next play in front of you. You can’t let it get you down. You must keep performing for your team. Goalkeepers have got to realize that it is not about them. It’s about your teammates and coaches.”

DiStefano saw the transformation from athlete to star keeper.

“His athleticism is his strongest asset,” he said. “His weaknesses were distribution and game management. He hadn’t played enough games. He improved those 100-fold after playing club and Academy ball.

“You must make decisions in a split second, and you must live with them if you make a mistake. If a field player makes a mistake there are 10 other players and most times nothing comes of it,” DiStefano said. “If a goaltender makes a mistake more times than not it results in a goal. They must have a short memory and move on. Luca has the mental strength to get back to his game. He managed his back four well. His communication, match management, and leadership grew over the years.”

Study sessions

“I watched video to learn more. I matched my game to a high level. Since I began playing later than most in Academy and club, I knew I had to put in that much more work. I had some natural talent, but it will get you only so far,” Marinelli said. “Since I’m not the tallest keeper, I knew I had to work 10 times harder. I’d go to the field with ankle weights on and keep touching the crossbar every day.

“Confidence is the biggest thing,” he said about coming off his line to defend. “I had trouble when at first on when to come out and when to stay in goal. I sat down after practice one day and asked Coach Petrie. He said it comes down to gaining experience. He was right. With more games, I began to get a better read on situations.

“I play a high line. That is where the speed comes in. If you can beat the striker to the ball than it cuts down chances on conceding a goal. Also, with a higher line, I can take steps back to make a save.”

Set pieces

Marinelli said the most important part on set pieces is positioning.

“It’s about setting up your defensive line. I like to set wall to cover the nearest post. I want them to stay tight with no jumping, so the ball doesn’t go under them,” he said. “I want the back line to keep everyone on the same page, not one on the 18 and one on the penalty spot.

Coaching paramount

“Rob Petrie taught me so much,” Marinelli said. “I came in knowing just a little amount of soccer. Now that I’ve graduated, I see how much I’ve learned. With that comes the confidence you need.

“With the Inter Connecticut FC, I got to work with great keeper coach Leon Othen. Marty Walker is my keeper coach in the ASL Academy League.”

DiStefano said: “Rob Petrie has been with me most of my 15 years. The first two years Luca was working with Rob exclusively. As the years went on, Luca got involved with Leon Othen and Marty Walker. They are goalkeeping specialists as well as having both coached in college. They are great mentors.”

william.bloxsom@hearstmediact.com Twitter: @blox354