Left backs are a rare commodity in Major League Soccer, so every year teams crane their necks towards the college ranks, hoping to see a ripe prospect ready to man the flank.
Out at UC Riverside, Otis Earle has emerged as one of the top left backs in the college soccer ranks in 2014, and will be on his way to Ft. Lauderdale and the MLS combine next week. He also happens to have a green card, which could help him avoid slipping like other internationals may do on draft day.
Earle’s father Robbie is a known commodity to soccer fans for his role as an analyst on NBC’s Premier League coverage, not to mention his playing career in England and for the Jamaican national team.
TDS caught up with Otis as he preps for the combine and draft season. You can also check out his highlight reel above.
TDS: How would you describe yourself as a player?
Otis Earle: I’m an attacking left back. I like to get forward, get involved in the game. I’m very possession-oriented, I like to keep the ball.
TDS: How did you end up at UC Riverside?
OE: I moved [to the United States] with my family, my dad got a job here, and I was trying to play college soccer here. I was playing on a club team and the UC Riverside head coach saw me play, invited me out and that got that ball rolling.
TDS: Your dad is well known here because of his role as a TV analyst. Does he give you advice on your playing career?
OE: He let’s me do my own thing, but when he feels like it’s right for him to chime in, he’s there to give me good advice. He understands that I’m my own man, trying to make my own way in the game. He’s respectful of that, but he’s also there if I need something, like a question, something tactical, he’s the first one on hand to help me out.
TDS: How have you improved as a player at UC Riverside?
OE: I think my technique has improved since I’ve been at UC Riverside. I’ve become more of a complete players as opposed to just a good athlete who can play soccer, I’ve become more well-rounded. I went into college, I wasn’t a left back so I’ve learned the position, tactically I’ve become sharper.
TDS: Did you move to left back freshman year? Was that something you were interested in?
OE: My coach suggested I become a left back with the way I play, and then at the start of my freshman year I wasn’t too keen on it, but by the end of my freshman year I thought ‘I’ll give it a go’ and then at the end I loved the position.
TDS: As someone who grew up in England what’s been your impression of watching soccer and the MLS grow?
OE: It’s an exciting time to be in the U.S. Soccer is really ticking up, the [U.S. national] team did well at the World Cup, making it out of the group of death. It’s an exciting time to hopefully be involved in the league and hope it grows some more.
TDS: Would you rather play here or in England?
OE: Right now I’d rather play here, that’s my main goal. It’d be perfect to play soccer while living here that’s the dream.
TDS: Any part of the country you’d like to live in or team you’d like to play for?
OE: To be honest I’ll be blessed to go anywhere in the draft. There are certain teams that I like the way they play more than others, but at the end of the day to go anywhere in the draft would be a dream come true.
TDS: What are your thoughts on the upcoming combine? Have you talked to anyone about what to expect?
OE: Yeah I’ve been speaking to a few older friends who have been to the combine before, ex-players, and they’ve said to just go there, play your game and you’ve got there for a reason. I’m just excited to go there and show what I can do.
Earle is represented by First Wave Sports Marketing.