Midfielder Joseph Holland during his time with NY Greek Americans in the first half of the season.
By Ralph 'Onz' Chery| @onz_11
Dec. 24th, 2018
It’s November 18, 2018. We’re in a cold night at the historical Met Oval in Queens. It’s worth enduring the weather, we’re watching one of the most anticipated game of the season: 2017 CSL champions NY Greek Americans’ match versus the club with the most ex-MLSers and the two top scorers, Cedar Stars Academy. The score is 1-1 and we're in the 89th minute.
NY Greeks midfielder Joseph Holland is one-on-one with the Stars’ keeper Rashid Nuhu. Surely he’s going to score, he’s confident and the speed at which he moves the ball, with a soccer IQ of 70 you can tell that he’s one of those CSLers who has played at the higher level.
No doubt about it, Holland is going to score. He scored a brace just last weekend. The NYGA midfielder is scoring again for sure here. 2-1 for the Greeks and you can see a frustrated Austin Friel already, Cedar Stars’ coach.
But wait, a Cedar Stars defender catches up to Holland (another player with pro-like speed), gently clips him from behind, releasing just enough force to make the midfielder hit the ball wide.
Some players from NY Greeks’ bench roar for a penalty kick. However Holland thought it was a clean tackle.
“It was a very good tackle actually,” the 25-year-old said with a charming English accent. “I was going to finish with my left foot. I don’t know who the defender was, the one with the orange boots, he barely touched the ball, like he very, very gently touched the ball with his studs. But he knocked the ball onto my toe.”
That halfback who almost netted an 89th minute winner versus CSA has something quite special about him—and it's not his English accent. Holland is the CSLer who last played in the MLS. And he's the active CSLer from the first half of the season who was drafted as the highest pick in the MLS.
Joseph Holland in action with his former team Houston Dynamo.
The Birmingham-born was drafted as the 10th overall pick by Houston Dynamo last year in March.
“With the tenth pick of the first round of the 2017 MLS Superdraft, the Houston Dynamo selects from Hofstra University, midfielder Joseph Holland,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said.
Holland didn’t get up from his seat with a nice suit on then hugged his loved ones.
“I don’t believe Joseph’s here,” MLS Analyst Matthew Doyle said.
The youngster was at home watching the draft on his laptop. Just before it was his time to get drafted, the video froze.
“I was in my dorm in Long Island watching the draft,” Holland recalled. “I think my computer froze when I got drafted. But then my phone started blowing up with followers and stuff. My computer was still frozen and then it reloaded; I watched it back.”
“I was sitting on the floor thinking ‘Holy [cow], I just got drafted.’”
The English kid from Hofstra—a school that’s not really known to produce MLSers—made it, and it wasn’t by the skin of his teeth. He was the tenth pick and first-rate NCAA coach Sasho Cirovski called him ‘the real deal and maybe one of the best players in the entire draft.’ It was great news for the CSL as Holland had a brief first spell with NY Greeks before getting drafted.
Over in the 2017 MLS draftee's collegiate career, he tallied 19 goals and 28 assists in 78 matches for Hofstra and in his PDL career, Holland netted seven goals in 17 appearances for his school's sister team, Long Island Rough Riders.
To add to Ciroski calling him ‘the real deal’ on draftday, two more probable indicators that Holland had a promising MLS career in front of him are that the club handed him the number eight jersey as a rookie and he completed all of his passes in his first MLS game. But you never know with soccer, a defender with orange boots can creep in behind you and stop you from scoring a clear goal.
The former Rough Riders midfielder only played in five matches with the Dynamo. Does he want to get back in the top flight? Who wouldn’t?
“Well, I mean, I do. It’s obviously the most prestigious league in this country,” the Londoner said.
But his number one priority is to be happy with the team he’s with now, a team that coincidentally has the same name as his birthplace, new USL club, Birmingham Legion.
“With me and football it obviously depends on what makes me happy, right?” Holland asked. “I want to play for a coach who likes me, I want to play in a place where I enjoy living. Yeah, of course I do want to make it back to the MLS in the next few years but right now I just want to enjoy my time in Birmingham.”
Birmingham signed the Englishman on Nov. 20th, 2018. Holland previously played for fellow USL club Pittsburgh Riverhounds after parting ways from Houston. The former Hofstra starlet clinched the quarterfinals with Pittsburgh last season.
After Pittsburgh was eliminated, Holland returned to NYGA for a month. At NY Greeks, the 2017 MLS 10th pick had exactly what he mentioned makes him happy: he has a good camaraderie with the coach and with the players and the club is located somewhere he loves, New York.
“It’s perfect for me, it’s in New York my favorite place in the world,” the USLer said.
He previously stated: “A lot of the guys on the team like Shaun Foster and Tom Wharf I’ve known or played with for a while [at Hofstra or with the Rough Riders]. Just the fact that they have those players I know the team will be structured well and will play well.”
NY Greek Americans team picture; Joseph Holland is the second player at the bottom left corner. NY Greek Americans Images
The ex-MLSer played five games for the Greeks this season, tallying two goals. He won’t take part in the second half of the season because the USL will be in action then as their season will start in March.
Holland will be looking over his shoulder to make sure a defender isn’t pacing behind him in the rest of his pro career in the USL then perhaps with what he learned from his short stay in the MLS, he will create another opportunity to make it back there.