New England Soccer Today

The Relentless Will Daniels

Photo credit: David Henry/

Photo credit: Western Mass Pro Soccer

At the end of a long season, many soccer players welcome the chance to take their mind off the game. To unwind and get away. To rest and relax. Note: Will Daniels is not one of those players.

While a number of North American footballers are currently using the offseason to recharge the batteries, the 24-year-old Western Mass Pro Soccer striker would rather keep his mind centered on the sport he loves.

“It is a passion that I cannot hide,” Daniels said. “It’s the first thing I think about when I wake up, and the last thing before I fall asleep. It’s a dream I have been working on ever since I was 5 or 6, and something I will never give up on, or stop working for.”

To get a sense of Daniels’ love for the game, one need only see his dedication to sport far removed from the bright lights of Lusitano Stadium. After all, it’s the behind-the-scenes aspect of the sport that the 6-0, 172 lbs. striker seems to relish the most.

With winter in full swing in New England, Daniels continues to hit the weights – after all, opposing center backs aren’t going to ease off the punishment anytime soon. And knowing that the game will only get faster at each successive level, he devotes hours upon hours to footwork to ensure that he’s quicker, and more decisive on the ball than he was last year – and the year before that. Like the old saying goes: if you’re not moving forward, then you’re only falling behind.

That commitment to the craft didn’t happen by accident. While at Quinnipiac University, Daniels was given a crash course on what it took to elevate his game to the next level. Under the watch of men’s soccer head coach Eric DaCosta, the Nutmeg native – by way of Clackamas, Oregon – learned early on that the seeds of a pro career are planted when no one is paying attention.

When practice concluded, Daniels and a handful of teammates stayed behind to fine tune their skills. Whether it was improving a first touch or finishing, the opportunity to improve was one that Daniels never turned down.

“I absolutely loved the program, and still do,” Daniels said. “I continue to go to the games, and speak to all players and coaches, and do my best to inspire my former teammates. The atmosphere at (Quinnipiac) was outstanding, collegial and very professional.”

That level of professionalism only prepared Daniels for the next step: the Premier Developmental League (PDL), which showcases some of the best collegiate talent across the country every summer. Following his senior year at Quinnipiac, he linked up with the Kitsap Pumas in 2013, and saw action in six games.

Photo credit: David Henry/

Photo credit: David Henry/

After Kitsap wrapped up its season, he headed back home, but was convinced to play one more game before the summer concluded. It would prove to be a serendipitous decision.

“A friend of mine, DJ Pereira, who was playing for the Pioneers at the time, had told me they needed a forward for their last game of the season,” Daniels said. “I went ahead and played in the game that we ended up tying 1-1 in which I scored the lone goal.”

His 61-minute performance against the Seacoast United Phantoms was enough to convince Pioneers head coach Federico Molinari to bring him back for 2014. And Daniels rewarded Molinari’s faith in him on the field.

Daniels scored five goals and added two assists in 14 games last year. His scoring haul was the second-highest behind that of Alencar Junior (13), opening the door for another opportunity.

With the Western Mass organization fielding a pro team in the newly-launched American Soccer League, Molinari, who was named its first coach, invited Daniels to join the squad.

It was another masterstroke of a move for Molinari. Daniels led the team in scoring with seven goals in 10 games, and helped steer the Lusitanos to an unbeaten fall 2014 ASL campaign (6-0-4).

“I enjoyed thus far playing in the ASL, because most of the players are just like me, trying to improve their game and reach their full potential to continue progressing with their careers,” Daniels said. “It gives players a reason to fight, to have passion about reaching your goals.”

Daniels is still in the process of reaching those goals. The young striker who eats, sleeps and dreams the sport is determined to move up the American soccer pyramid, and someday play in MLS. But for now, he’s simply focused on honing his craft, and letting the rest take care of itself.

“Every single day of my life, I wake up and think, ‘What is it going to take for me to get to the next level?’” Daniels said. “Once I come up with a solution, I go and work on that aspect, whether it’s going to the gym and getting stronger, or going to the pitch and working on my foot-skills and agility. The aspect of progressing and becoming better is what drives me professionally.”

Photo credit: David Henry/

Photo credit: David Henry/


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