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01/11/2022

IU men's soccer goalkeeper Roman Celentano selected No. 2 in MLS SuperDraft

Indiana junior goalkeeper Roman Celentano was selected No. 2 overall by FC Cincinnati in the MLS SuperDraft on Tuesday afternoon, becoming just the third shot-stopper in MLS history to hear his name called in the top two picks.

A huge sign of trust was sent by Cincinnati, which opted against other outfield players to bring in a potential long-term solution between the sticks.

How did Celentano get here, what does it mean for Indiana, and who is FC Cincinnati getting with their pick?

Roman Celentano's Rise

Much has been written and said about Celentano since he first arrived at Indiana in 2019. When he first stepped foot in Bloomington, the two-star goalkeeper was met without much fanfare. He began his career buried on IU's depth chart, settling in as the third-string goalkeeper and biding his time behind then-redshirt senior Sean Caulfield and Bryant Pratt.

Within half of a season, however, Celentano forced his way onto the field, and soon became the backbone of one of Indiana's most successful periods in recent program history. The starting goalkeeper for two Big Ten regular season titles and two Big Ten tournament titles, Celentano was eventually named the Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year in back-to-back seasons, the only player in conference history to earn that distinction.

The undoubted peak of Celentano's powers came in the 2020-21 spring season, when he collected his first Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year award, then earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Tournament, and finally helped Indiana advance to the College Cup final against Marshall. Unfortunately, the Hoosiers fell 1-0 to the Thundering Herd in overtime, but Celentano maintained his exceptional form throughout the entire NCAA Tournament.

Celentano saw his biggest moment of spotlight when he made a heroic four-save sequence in the 2021 Big Ten tournament against Northwestern, which soon garnered national attention. For his efforts, ESPN's SportsCenter put the clip at No. 1 on its Top 10 Plays.

https://twitter.com/FOXSoccer/status/1458872189906669575

 

Before the 2021 fall season, Celentano said he was ready to come back to try and bring Indiana a national title, while continuing to improve himself. His growth during the fall season was evidence of that.

https://twitter.com/jackcedwards/status/1481018931007606793

After Indiana fell 3-2 to Washington this past November in the Sweet 16, Celentano opted against returning for a fourth season and instead signed a Generation Adidas deal with Major League Soccer in December. Celentano became the fourth Hoosier to sign a GA contract in the last five years.

In totality, Celentano made 52 appearances at Indiana, allowing just 33 goals while recording 28 shutouts. Next season, Indiana will have massive shoes to fill in net, and it will quickly become one of the biggest questions posed to head coach Todd Yeagley ahead of the fall season.

What will Celentano bring to FC Cincinnati?

If you're a Cincinnati fan that's wondering about the side's top pick, rest assured that the club has made a very safe choice, all things considered.

Although goalkeepers are tough to project long-term (see: Celentano's two-star recruiting rank), in Celentano, there's a degree of certainty that Cincinnati fans should find comfort in. Among the two-time All-American's top attributes is his mentality and ability to make the winning plays. Indiana dominated possession against many sides, resulting in most attempts at Celentano coming on the counter. The defensive-heavy play style necessitated constant focus and attention, something Celentano could be counted on for every match.

His size is another big attribute. At 6-foot-3, Celentano has the ability to make tougher saves than most goalkeepers, as exemplified in the four-save sequence. He can make himself big and is fearless coming off his line. The raw shot-stopping ability is there as well, and he finds ways to make fans shake their head in awe nearly every time he turns away a shot.

Arguably the biggest improvement Celentano has seen over his time at IU is his distribution, but there is still room to grow in that area. During his junior year, he regularly provided an escape valve with long throws or arrowed balls forward to start counter-attacks after making a save.

It's hard to gauge talent, but Cincinnati clearly trusts Roman Celentano to live up to the lofty pick and expectations that are sure to follow. After all, Celentano not joins an elite group of goalkeepers to be selected top-2 in the MLS SuperDraft: Brad Guzan (2005) and Andre Blake (2014). If Celentano plays to that level, this will be a pick well spent.

What next for Indiana?

The best word I can find to describe Celentano's loss is devastating. Celentano was arguably the best goalkeeper in college soccer for the last two seasons, and losing him means losing Indiana's backbone.

However, this is a very solvable situation. Indiana has seven months to train and prepare a replacement, and have already gone out to bring in a new face in the goalkeeper room to accomplish this.

Indiana will likely return redshirt junior Bryant Pratt and redshirt freshman Austin Himebaugh from last year's roster. Pratt has been Celentano's backup the last two seasons, and enters the 2022 spring season as a strong option for starting goalkeeper, as things currently stand. Himebaugh sat as a freshman last year, learning from the experienced heads in front of him.

Interestingly, in a move that hasn't yet been publicly announced by Indiana, the Hoosiers are adding Duke transfer JT Harms. The former Blue Devil is entering his third season, making four appearances over the last two years at Duke and redshirting the 2019 season. Harms will have three seasons of eligibility remaining.

It remains to be seen who is selected to replace Celentano in net, with three capable options existing on the roster.

Not leaving Indiana, however, is Assistant Coach Christian Lomeli, who was instrumental in Celentano's development. Lomeli is a former Hoosier goalkeeper himself, and has already proven capable of developing a top tier goalkeeper.

For the Hoosiers, Celentano's draft selection on Tuesday is further proof that the program remains in a successful and fruitful position. Indiana's ability to create draft ready players is evident.

https://twitter.com/IndianaMSOC/status/1480637244696375313

College athletics is a revolving door, and players come and go before moving to the next level. Indiana has created many pro-ready players, and will continue to do so.

The future is bright for both Celentano, and his now alma-mater.


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