After all, DeLass, a Spring Lake native, has certainly had to fight for everything he’s achieved in his soccer career.
From a Division III college career at Wheaton College, to a summer in Europe trying out for potential teams, to breaking into the pro ranks with the Charlotte Eagles, to leading the Dutch Lions with 1,927 minutes last season, the 25-year-old certainly wasn’t the most likely person to end up making a career in professional soccer.
“Honestly, I really wasn’t even thinking about that, especially when I was in college,” DeLass said. “I was just playing college soccer, playing PDL in the summer because I loved it, playing PDL because I was trying to improve for my college season. There’s not a lot of D-III players who get a shot, so for that I’m really grateful, and I think I’ve surprised myself and a lot of people just making it here.”
The United Soccer League Pro division began its inaugural season in 2011. It’s sanctioned as the third tier of soccer in the American Soccer Pyramid, behind Major League Soccer (first tier) and North American Soccer League (second tier) in the hierarchy.
DeLass has certainly been responsible for making his own breaks. He capped his career at Wheaton by being named a Division III All-American by the National Soccer College Association of America in 2008. Then came a trip to Europe in 2009 with Bridge to the Pros, which saw some players earn lower division contracts.
Once he arrived back in the U.S., DeLass headed to Charlotte, and turned professional with the Eagles in the USL Second Division in 2010. While he only made two appearances for the Eagles, DeLass valued his time there, with the opportunity not only offering him a chance to break in to professional soccer, but also giving him the chance to develop and learn.
“I think that was a big development for me,” DeLass said, “a time where I really developed as a player, which allowed me to get on in Charlotte, and then I came back to the Midwest to Dayton and found a spot where I could get in a little bit more.”
Having previous pro experience was obviously a bonus for DeLass as he joined the Dutch Lions, but his drive, determination and technical ability were also important factors. After appearing in 22 games last season, one of Coach Ivar van Dinteren’s top priorities was to make sure that the 25-year-old was back with the club this season.
“I think Joel is one of the most experienced players on our team,” van Dinteren said. “He can play the style I want him to play, and he did very well last year. He can also be a leader, so that’s why I really wanted him back.”
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