The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



Standout moves on to MLS

Mike Monaco | Thursday, October 25, 2012

One thousand, nine hundred and thirty-six.

At the end of his freshman season in 2008, former Notre Dame star and current Toronto FC rookie Aaron Maund had played every possible minute for the Irish. Maund was one of just two Irish players to log the maximum. The other: then-senior all-American Matt Besler.

Given his successful freshman campaign, it may seem Maund had easily transitioned to collegiate soccer. That, however, was not the case, Maund said. After joining the team as an outside midfielder as an incoming freshman before the 2008 season, Maund was quickly switched to center back. The Dorchester, Mass., native said the move was a difficult one at first, but he acclimated gradually to his new position.

“That transition wasn’t easy,” Maund said. “It was tough. It was really tough. But I was lucky. I’m athletic and a lot of times I would make up for not knowing how to play the position with my athleticism. I had a lot of good role models and leaders around me my freshman year, guys like [then-seniors] Alex [Yoshinaga], [Jack Traynor], [Andrew Quinn] and Besler. They showed me the ropes and made the transition a lot easier than it could have been.”

It ended up being a smooth transition for Maund to both Big East soccer and the back line. Maund helped lead the Irish to seven shutouts and the NCAA tournament, where they eventually lost in the second round to Northwestern.

Maund started 77 of 83 possible games in his career at Notre Dame and earned all-Big East honors in his sophomore, junior and senior seasons. In 2011, Maund was a captain, played every possible minute again and landed on the all-Big East first team. Despite all his accomplishments, Maund said his overall development during the course of his four years at Notre Dame was his greatest achievement.

“I think personally, just the strides I made as a player while playing at Notre Dame over four years and the way I developed [is my greatest accomplishment],” Maund said. “My knowledge as a player and my abilities as a player gradually increased by a lot. That’s a testament to my teammates and the coaching staff.”

Maund specifically praised Irish coach Bobby Clark for his role in developing him as a player and as a person.

“There’s a lot that [Clark] did,” Maund said. “Technically he’s so good with defenses and just that understanding he gave me of how defenses work and how other teams work and how the back four is supposed to move and drop and work together. That’s something that I didn’t know at first and it has helped me at [the professional level].

“Off the field it’s incredible with his morals and his values that he instills in all his players. It’s something he reiterates and he wants us to be quality men with the right morals and the right work ethic and that’s so valuable as players and men in the real world.”

For Maund, the real world is now Toronto. The 22-year old was selected with the 12th overall pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft in January by Toronto FC. Maund said it was thrilling to hear his name called on draft day.

“It was a great experience,” Maund said. “I was at home in Boston with my family watching on TV. I thought I would get drafted, but not that high. It was a great experience just to see the looks on my parents’ faces and my whole family because they have sacrificed so much for me.”

But the excitement of being a first-round pick evaporated almost immediately for Maund, who found himself stuck on the bench in eight of his first 11 games with the Reds.

“[Being drafted] was really rewarding because it made me feel that my hard work had paid off,” Maund said. “But it’s short-lived because being a rookie is hard. Now I have to make [being drafted] worth something. It is so hard to be a rookie in this league. That was my next thought.”

Maund said professional soccer has been more difficult due to both mental and physical factors.

“There’s more attention to detail,” Maund said. “You have to think a lot faster. There’s really no room for error. In this league if you make mistakes you get punished whereas in college there is room for error. That’s not the case at all in [the MLS]. … It’s a very tough transition physically too, because it’s a very athletic and physical league. We have a longer season that started in January and ends in October, so you have to get your muscles ready. It’s tougher competition day in and day out and you have to take care of your body off the field.”

Despite the trials and tribulations of being a rookie facing stiffer competition, Maund said he felt well prepared by the professional nature of the Irish soccer program.

“The transition could have been a lot harder,” Maund said. “Bobby Clark runs a very tight ship. The program is very professional with its facilities and the responsibilities you’re given as a player. … My time at Notre Dame taught me that level of responsibility you have to have to play professionally. As the level of competition gets higher and higher, you always have to be on top of your game. The way things were run at Notre Dame are not a far cry at all from the professional environment I’ve seen.”

Since getting accustomed to the professional ranks, Maund has made nine starts and played in a total of 15 games for Toronto FC. But the 6-foot-1, 185-pound newcomer has been playing a new position: center midfield. And just as in his freshman season in South Bend, Maund has been making an impact in his inaugural campaign, albeit in a different role.

Things worked out just fine the first time.

Contact Mike Monaco at [email protected]