As Elmhurst product Jason Herrick enters Chicago Fire training camp Friday, he won’t be completely unfamiliar with his new teammates.
That’s because the third round SuperDraft selection has had the opportunity to train locally with some of the veterans ahead of the kickoff to a long preseason.
“I’ve been playing and training up in Palatine lately,” said the incoming rookie striker. “The other day I trained with Baggio [Husidic], Patrick [Nyarko] and Logan [Pause]. I feel like we work well together, so that’s a good start for going into camp.”
The fact that Herrick has already begun working on the chemistry with his new peers is positive, but in terms of talent, the University of Maryland alum is bringing an impressive attacking resume and big game experience at the collegiate level to training camp this week.
One of the top college programs in the country, Maryland is often talked about as being run very similarly to a professional club. A huge reason for the Terrapins success has been the work of head coach Sasho Cirovski, who since taking over the program in 1993 has taken it from marginally successful to legitimate national title contenders every year.
“I think playing for Sasho is a great help in moving to the pro game. He’s very passionate and we all try to go out and push hard every day. There are some days when you’re just not right and he doesn’t sugarcoat anything for you. He tells it to you as it is. If you’re screwing up or messing around, he’s going to let you know about it. He got the most out everyone every day, that’s the biggest aspect you take away from playing for him.”
The leading scorer on the top attacking side in the nation this past year, Herrick bagged 11 goals and six assists over 23 matches, before the Terrapins fell 3-2 in overtime to College Cup bound Michigan on December 4 in College Park, MD.
The Elmhurst native would score the final goal of his collegiate career in that match, hitting a 78th minute equalizer to send the game into extra time, but Brazilian-born midfielder Fabio Pereira found the winner in the 103rd minute, shocking the favored home side.
“The Michigan game was difficult. We let our guard down and they’re an amazing counter attacking team. We couldn’t put our chances away and they did very well with theirs. It was unfortunate for us because I felt like this might have been the strongest team we had while I was there. It was definitely the best attacking team I’ve been a part of. We scored a ton of goals, just the way we played and knocked the ball around quickly, fighting for it back right away whenever we lost it, it was a lot better.”
Though Herrick will look at his final collegiate game as a disappointment, he also has a title to tout from his time in College Park, having played a significant role in the Terrapins run through the 2008 NCAA College Cup.
Interestingly enough during that run, he encountered fellow 2011 Chicago Fire SuperDraft selection Davis Paul in an early round match as Maryland took down California 2-1 in College Park.
The two will come into training camp competing for a roster spot, but as he makes the next step in his collegiate career, he hasn’t changed the approach he’s always had.
“Going into camp my plan is just to play my game. I’m going to keep working on stuff and the most important thing for me is to maintain my focus and concentration every day.”
Unlike the other draftees and new signings, Herrick, who counts the double-winning 1998 season as his favorite Fire memory, will have the comfort of familiar surroundings during the first few weeks of training camp.
“Since I got drafted by Chicago, I was really excited. It’s my hometown team, a dream come true in a lot of ways. Training camp will be easier the first few weeks while I stay at my parents house.”
Shacking up with the folks and eating home cooking sounds like a great way to start as a pro.
Jeff Crandall is the Team Writer for the Chicago Fire. Follow him on Twitter @JefeCrandall.