PDL / Mitchell Osmond (right) defends in the 2017 PDL Championship
After a successful Premier Development League season with the Thunder Bay Chill, defender Mitchell Osmond faces a new challenge in the fall as he continues his college career with a transfer to the University of Rio Grande for his junior season.
Big change comes as no surprise to Osmond. As the Australian national entered his college years, he made a tough decision to quite literally move almost half the world away to continue his education and playing career in the United States.
The move didn't come without challenges. Despite his successes during his two years at Calumet College of St. Joseph and with the PDL's Thunder Bay Chill, including a run to the PDL Championship this season, Osmond had to make some adjustments when he first arrived Stateside.
“The biggest challenge for me when I came over to the states was the structure of the seasons,” Osmond told USLPDL.com. “Going from playing one game a week and being with your club for almost the entire year, to very short and condensed seasons where you could play two-to-three games per week was a tough adjustment. You have to train differently, and the emphasis on recovery is really important in ensuring you are able to perform at your best in every game and also stay healthy.”
Osmond did indeed stay healthy this season, appearing in 13 of 14 regular-season games for the Chill over a stunning season that saw them top the Heartland Division with a 9-3-2 record. With Osmond putting in strong performance after strong performance, eventually leading to PDL Defender of the Year honors, the team surrendered only eight goals over the entire regular season.
Despite his personal successes, Osmond is quick to point out that he's as strong as his support allows him to be. From Chill Head Coach Giovanni Petraglia, to his teammates, to his wife, Osmond is quick to pass around the praise.
“The quality of players that came in gave us a lot of strength and depth, but most importantly, the Thunder Bay Chill as an organization and the coaching staff were incredibly well-prepared going into the season,” Osmond said. “For me personally, I’ve been very fortunate in being able to continually learn from Coach Petraglia and also from some of the older guys on the team, which allowed me to work hard every day in order to keep improving. The unwavering support of my wife, who has taken on great responsibility in caring for our son on her own, so that I could continue to pursue a career in soccer, is something that motivates me every single day to make the most of every opportunity given to me.
Although the Chill ultimately fell just short of the PDL title, as they were narrowly defeated by the Charlotte Eagles 2-1, Osmond counts the season as a winning one. In addition to the Chill's fantastic campaign, Osmond believes the PDL year has prepared him well for the new challenges he'll face at Rio Grande University in his first season with his new team. Despite being a well-rounded defender, one clearly ready to help his teams compete for titles, Osmond also credits the PDL with helping to shore up some areas of his game he felt the need to improve.
“I think being both-footed has really helped me a lot,” Osmond said. “I try to be a very vocal player and make sure I focus on the team being organized for 90 minutes. I would like to improve physically, get a little stronger, faster, fitter, anything to get an edge on the field.
“The PDL has allowed me to train and play every day against quality players throughout the summer. Being able to learn from other coaches is a huge advantage going into the season as well. Coming into my college season I felt match-ready physically and mentally.”
That preparation will be vital if he's to achieve his goals with the Red Storm this fall. Rio Grande fell in last year's NAIA Championship game to Hastings College, one year after hoisting the title themselves in 2015 for the second time in team history. Osmond knows that it'll be a tough road to get back, but those title hopes remain as he aims to lead the team to the best defensive record in the country. Those lofty aspirations are what drew Osmond to the Red Storm in the first place.
“The history of the program definitely jumped out at me, and my ambitions are to compete for a championship whenever I play, so I was drawn to Rio Grande,” said Osmond. “Coach Morrisey was another big factor, having led the program to continual success for such a long period of time and also the way he has treated me since first contact last year.”
Osmond and the Red Storm certainly got off on the right foot, as they completed their first match of the season on Monday, a 3-0 win over St. Xavier, in which Osmond not only helped pitch a shutout, but contributed on the offensive end with a goal.
“It was really nice to have my first game at home and have it end in a win with a shutout,” Osmond said of the victory. “It’s always a good feeling to contribute at the other end and get on the score sheet as a defender as well.”
A common saying in sports is to begin as you mean to go on. If there's truth to that statement, Osmond and the Red Storm are on the right path to achieve their dreams this fall. While there remains a lot of soccer to play between now and then, Osmond continues to aim high, with his eye ultimately on the professional game.
"My aspirations have always been to play professionally, and it’s something I work towards day in and day out, so if an opportunity was to present itself, it would be hard to turn down,” said Osmond. “If I am unable to make the jump next season I will return to Rio Grande and finish out my senior season.”
In the meantime, when he's not rooting for the Australian A-League's Western Sydney Wanderers or pulling for his friends with the Newcastle Jets, Osmond is quietly shaping himself into one of the best defenders in one of the best defenses across the NAIA. Of course, he's getting a little help from his new friends at Rio Grande.
“The whole group has made it easy for me to adjust,” said Osmond. “Coming from a big city, it definitely takes time to get used to the rural setting, but my teammates have made sure I’ve got in the swing of things as quickly as possible.”