Connor Maloney Ready For His Final Men’s Soccer Campaign
When Connor Maloney takes Jeffrey Field for the last time this season, he will be leaving as one of the best men’s soccer players to sport a Penn State jersey.
Maloney is a two-time All-Big Ten First Team honoree and the 2014 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. He led the team in goals the past two years, led the team in assists his freshman year, and racked up the team-high in points each of the three seasons he’s played.
The 5’6 striker from Harrisburg has done all you could ask of him in three stellar seasons. The thing is, he believes he has so much more to do.
“I am expecting Final Four, College Cup, that’s where I want to be at the end of the season,” Maloney said in the preseason. “It is our senior year and I think we can do it.”
Maloney’s expectations were lofty, but that’s the type of competitor he is. Early in the season, he’s done his part for Penn State. He leads the team with four goals and three assists as the Nittany Lions have started the year 3-3-1.
“We’re right near the middle of the season and playing better than ever,” Maloney said. “I definitely can do better. There’s always room for improvement. After every game we go in with coach, watch film, and see where we can improve on what we need to do better.”
As a leader, there may be no one better or more experienced in the Big Ten right now than Maloney. Having played in Big Ten postseason games, NCAA Tournaments, and some high-pressure matches, Maloney is key for the Nittany Lions.
Teammates and coaches see that. He has a drive on the field and in the locker room that is going to be important down the stretch this season.
“His character is just amazing,” coach Bob Warming said. “He’ll never be self-defeated. You’re going to have to defeat him.”
Maloney’s success at Penn State has given him opportunities to train at some of the highest levels of the sport in this country. In the summer of 2015, he was called up to play for the United States U-23 National Team in its preparations for CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying.
This past summer, Philadelphia Union Coach Jim Curtain invited him to train with the MLS side and it provided Maloney with some key takeaways to bring back to Happy Valley.
“It was definitely a good experience,” Maloney said. “Coming back here, showing our guys what they do as professionals. I kind of came in and said ‘guys this is what they’re doing, we need to be doing the same things.”
For all he has done playing for Penn State and all the opportunities he has had playing soccer, Maloney has received a new unique experience these past two seasons.
Austin Maloney, Connor’s younger brother, signed on to play for the Nittany Lions starting in the 2015 season. The two briefly played together in high school during Connor’s junior season, but Austin switched over to club soccer full time during Connor’s senior season.
The two have a certain connection on the field and it’s been evident these past seasons. It’s an opportunity, for both personal and professional reasons, that Maloney relishes.
“There is no better feeling than playing with your brother,” Maloney said. “You don’t really get to say that much, especially at the collegiate level. We know exactly where each other are and exactly what were doing at the same time. It definitely helps on the field and off the field.”
His playing days aren’t expected to end here.
He’s played with the Philadelphia Union Academy in the past, which left the door open for him to bypass the draft and sign with the Union through the MLS homegrown player rule. Since he hadn’t represented the Union throughout his college years, he is not eligible and must go through the 2017 MLS SuperDraft to enter the league. He is currently listed as a late first round/early second round projection.
Maloney still has the next month, plus whatever postseason action the Nittany Lions get, with this team. Still, his days are numbered at Penn State and he has a big appreciation for his time in Happy Valley.
“Penn State has really given me a lot,” Maloney said. “That degree at the end of here is really what you need. Soccer can’t last your whole life. At the end of that, you have your degree, you have Penn State, and the alumni around here are really unbelievable. You have those guys as well. Really, this is one of the best universities in this country.”
No matter how this season ends, Connor Maloney will be a name remembered at Jeffrey Field well after his time is up.