Tyler Lassiter was always in the starting line-up when he played for the NC State soccer team. So it has been a bit of an adjustment as a rookie for the New York Red Bulls in Major League Soccer, where Lassiter spends the games as a spectator watching from the bench.
But Lassiter understands that it is all part of the transition from amateur athlete to professional soccer player. The action is faster, the players are more skilled and the game is more relentless.
“It’s a lot faster,” Lassiter said in a recent phone interview from New York. “They punish you for your mistakes, so you have to be on your game for the full 90 minutes.”
Lassiter, a defender, says he is hungry to get some game action. But he also says he needs to continue to improve if he wants to become a significant contributor in the MLS.
“The reality check is that everyone is really, really good here,” Lassiter said. “I’ve got a long way to go. You have to be willing to bust your butt.”
Lassiter says he spends his time on the bench studying the players who are in the game, particularly those who play his position, to see how they handle different game situations. He has the chance to learn from some of the best, with teammates such as forward Thierry Henry and U.S. National team members Juan Agudelo and Tim Ream.
Lassiter has been following the U.S. team in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup, including their disappointing loss over the weekend to Panama. But Lassiter was confident the U.S. would get a win in its match tonight against Guadeloupe to advance out of group play.
“We’re a good squad, so I definitely think we have a chance,” Lassiter said.
Lassister said he dreamed of playing professional when he was playing youth soccer for CASL in Wake County. He said the only advice he would have for someone hoping to follow his path is to not cut corners. He said that was a lesson instilled in him by many of his coaches, including former NC State soccer coach George Tarantini.
“Just work hard every day and never give up,” Lassiter said.