New England Soccer Today

Charris Gets His Chance

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

CUMBERLAND, R.I. – Jasir Charris has seen plenty of semi-pro outfits form and fall apart in Rhode Island, so he knows the challenge ahead of him as head coach of the newly-formed Rhode Island Oceaneers.

Only weeks after the club entered into the fledgling American Soccer League (ASL), the tall task ahead of Charris is actually two-fold: 1.) build a squad from scratch, and 2.) continually replenish it with promising prospects. Prospects that, in some cases, may not get the opportunity elsewhere. And it is for that reason why Charris accepted the challenge in the first place.

“I know there’s a lot of talent in urban communities such as Providence, Central Falls, Pawtucket, where there are kids that, because of their grades or economic issues, they cannot make it to college,” Charris said following a training session last week. “They seem to lose the opportunity to play at a good level.”

Charris has seen it happen before his eyes. After moving to the Ocean State from his native Colombia 13 years ago, the former first-division pro played locally, and saw a number of talented teammates and adversaries who didn’t exactly fit the mold of professional prospect. He witnessed young players with raw talent that desperately craved the coaching and structure needed to refine their skills and abilities.

So with the memories of untapped talent still fresh in his mind, Charris made a decision. He wanted to do more than just coach. Rather, he wanted to scour the area and find those diamonds in the rough. His mission? To give them an opportunity they might not otherwise get in a local or semi-pro league.

“We put this together in 15 days, and there’s a lot of talent here,” Charris said following a recent training session. “The word’s getting out, and we’re getting kids from Brockton as well, traveling 45 minutes to get here and we practice twice a week like PDL teams do, and we’re getting good talent, and that’s the goal.”

Building a competitive team is the objective, of course. While the Oceaneers kicked off their season two weeks ago at Cranston Stadium, the coaching staff is still hard at work putting together the roster. In fact, the team is expecting the arrival of two American-born players who recently plied their trade in second-division Colombian soccer.

Charris oversees a recent training session at Lusitana Field.

Charris oversees a recent training session at Lusitana Field.

Charris is certainly devoted to the cause of the overlooked talent, but that doesn’t mean he’s giving anyone a free pass once they step onto the training pitch. During a recent session, Charris didn’t hesitate to halt the proceedings  in order to correct mistakes.

“He demands a lot, and he’s not afraid to tell what he demands from you,” Oceaneers midfielder Wilder Arboleda said. “It’s definitely good because players know that this is what he expects you to do, and you either do it or you’re not going to be playing.”

It’s not hard to see where some of Charris’ coaching credo has come from. As a member of the New England Revolution coaching staff, the Colombian native absorbed plenty of insight from head coach Jay Heaps. Granted, Charris may not be as fiery as Heaps is on the training pitch or in the technical area, but he’s certainly looking to put into practice the way Heaps approaches gameday.

“It’s that preparation going before the games, how he intense he is, how he wants it,” Charris said. “It’s speed of play that he’s looking for, putting the ball on the ground, speed of play, keeping possession of the ball, it’s a lot. Once you hear him talk, especially right before gametime – it’s unbelievable.”

Charris hopes to use that recipe with his own collection of players. And he’s made it known to everyone around him that the Oceaneers won’t just be another team whose high hopes turned to faded fortune.

“The whole goal with this is trying to make it something different,” Charris said. “We’re training twice a week, proper training on the field and the goal is to draw the attention out of the people who are involved in soccer that we’re doing something right. That it’s different than what’s been done in the past, and at the end of the season, be one of the top teams in the ASL.”

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