After years of training and playing in a professional environment with Bethlehem Steel FC, goalkeeper Tomas Romero hasn’t skipped a beat since joining one of college soccer’s stingiest defenses.
Through 15 games this season, Georgetown has conceded just five goals and yet is somehow still second in the nation behind a Virginia team that’s conceded just four times.
“I think a majority of the credit should go to the (defense), they’ve made my job extremely easy,” Romero said in a recent phone interview. “Basically my job has just been organizing them and making sure we have a good chemistry together. After that they’ve limited the shots on goal so I haven’t had to make a huge amount of saves, which is just a bonus.”
Romero, an 18-year-old freshman from Cherry Hill, N.J., has conceded just twice in seven starts and 641 minutes while recording 15 saves. He’s posted shutouts against defending national champs Maryland, eighth-ranked St. John’s, Temple, Butler and DePaul.
Big stop coming from Tomas Romero to keep the Red Storm scoreless! #HoyaSaxa #BEfutbol pic.twitter.com/Q6pLB1u9nw— Georgetown Men’s Soccer (@GUHoyasMSoccer) October 24, 2019
6' | Eli feelin' it early— Maryland Soccer (@MarylandMSoccer) October 14, 2019
Forces the first stop of the match. #Excellence pic.twitter.com/d3rUqKXa2l
Sophomore keeper Giannis Nikopolidis, who Romero has split time with, has conceded three goals in the other eight starts.
The weekly battles in training, not unlike the ones Romero had with former Steel and Union Academy teammate Kris Shakes, a freshman at Penn State, is something Romero said has been beneficial for his growth and early success at the college level. Nikopolidis, a Greek National Team keeper, was a Big East All-Freshman performer last season so Romero knew going in playing time wasn’t a given.
“It makes me better, it makes (Giannis) better and it makes the team better,” Romero said. “The competitiveness is very healthy.”
With two league games left on the schedule, the Hoyas are unbeaten in Big East play at 6-0-1 and 13-1-1 overall. They were No. 3 in the most recent United Soccer Coaches poll and are on top of the RPI rankings entering Saturday’s game (1 p.m., Higgins Soccer Complex, Villanova), which will be a homecoming for Romero.
“It will be fun playing in a home environment where I can have more fans there rooting for me,” said Romero, who played for Real Jersey FC before joining the Philadelphia Union Academy and graduated high school from YSC Academy.
It’s been only three months since Romero was still a fixture on the Pennsylvania side of the river — his last start for the Steel and ninth appearance of the season was against Saint Louis FC in late July — but it’s been a period of change adjusting to living away from home for the first time at an academically rigorous school in a different city.
“The ability to balance responsibilities, that’s obviously been a big thing,” Romero said.
Romero has also adjusted to a new formation, new coaches and an entirely new team. While the roster includes other players from the region like Maurice Coyle (New Hope, Pa.), Sean O’Hearn (Mountville, Pa.), Austin Riddick (Lumberton, N.J.) and Chris Le (York, Pa.), there aren’t any other players with ties to the Union or YSC Academy.
“In the past I’ve always known people even though I changed age groups with the Union and this time I came in not really knowing anyone,” Romero said. “Being able to build relationships on and off the field is something I’ve learned a lot from.”
For a goalkeeper communicating from the back and organizing a defense, those relationships have been critical to Romero’s early success in college soccer with a group he hopes to still be playing with come December. The Hoyas are seeking to become back-to-back regular season and conference tournament championships and are after the program’s first College Cup berth since 2012.
“The goal is to just win as much as possible,” Romero said. “Win the league, the conference tournament and go as far as we can after that.”