Penn men's soccer's Pillon and Engs meet miles from home
Former teammates meet again on the Penn field after playing together on the West Coast
September 16, 2013, 6:28 pm · Updated September 16, 2013, 8:09 pm·
Luke Chen | DP
What could be better than following a childhood teammate across the country to play Penn soccer?
Only Travis Pillon knows. Pillon, a freshman, followed fellow Californian Sam Engs across the country to play for the Quakers.
Pillon and Engs’ hometowns — Oakland and Lafayette, Calif., respectively — are just 20 minutes apart. And their paths to Penn soccer are even closer.
Both have competed for Major League Soccer’s San Jose Earthquakes and trained with the Tottenham Hotspur Under-18/Reserves team. And both know the value of already having been club teammates when they came together on the Penn men’s soccer roster for 2013.
“We are really close friends. We talk about everything from soccer to school, and we thought it would be fun to play together again because we played when we were younger,” said Engs, a sophomore for coach Rudy Fuller’s squad.
“I had coached Travis on the U15 national team so I knew him and he knew me, and it was just by chance that he had a connection to Sam,” Fuller said. “But once we knew that, it was obviously a plus for us because Travis and Sam were close, and they gave us an edge in recruiting Travis, knowing Sam was here.”
Though Pillon was not recruited because of Engs, the friendship the two share from playing club soccer in northern California together was certainly a major factor.
“I can go to him whenever I want,” Pillon said. “He’s my brother. I feel home even though I’m across the country.”
That sense of security has been crucial for Pillon, who has had to deal with all the classic obstacles facing any first-semester freshman — relocation, syllabi full of homework assignments and hallways teeming with new faces.
Acclimating to the college pace of competitive soccer, though, hasn’t been quite so treacherous, in part thanks to Engs’ familiar presence.
“If [freshmen] already have a pre-existing relationship then it allows them to acclimate themselves to the team that much quicker,” Fuller said.
Indeed, Pillon is already making a clear mark, tying for fifth on the team in shots and appearing in all four of Penn’s games so far.
The California freshman was not recruited because of Engs, but the positive impact of their friendship is clear.
The current players are the “most influential recruiters for our program,” Fuller said. “I mean, without question, when we are seriously recruiting someone, at some point, they are going to come visit campus and our players are our best promoters of the program and selling the program and giving the real inside story of what it is like to play for the school, play for the team, play for the coaches, and so we tell our guys that, to make sure they are selling the program to the best of their ability.”
And quite a freshman class the Red and Blue recruited. Two of the four freshmen started in the first weekend of games.
“They’ve come in and been very successful. They’ve come in fit and had a huge impact on the team,” Engs said. “They are a good group of guys, and we like hanging out with them, and they are going to help us do well this year.”
“[The upperclassmen] all expect a lot from us because we came in fit and so they know that they can ask a lot from us,” Pillon said. “They respect that we are working hard and they know we are going to make mistakes, but they respect that we are here and we are competing and trying to make them better too.”