Penn State Men’s Soccer Officially Signs First Two Recruits Of Jeff Cook Era
Penn State men’s soccer officially signed the first two recruits of Jeff Cook’s tenure as head coach Thursday afternoon. Left back Anthony Harding and forward Jeremy Rafanello will join Penn State ahead of the 2018-19 season.
“We are delighted to welcome Jeremy and Anthony to our Penn State men’s soccer program and we look forward to their future contributions,” Cook said in a release. “Early in our tenure as a coaching staff we wanted to emphasize our commitment to recruiting student-athletes from our state and our region, and feel confident that we have added two outstanding individuals to our team.”
Cook replaced Bob Warming as the team’s head coach last month. His Division I experience comes from coaching stints at Creighton, Cincinnati and Dartmouth. Cook also worked as a youth developmental coach for the Philadelphia Union (MLS) before arriving in Happy Valley.
Rafanello played club soccer for the Union’s youth academy team. He finished his final season as the fourth-highest goal scorer in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy — one of the premier youth soccer leagues in the United States — and helped the Union post a 10-2-2 record. He was also selected for the first U.S. Soccer Men’s Youth National Team Summit last month as an under-19. The Delran, NJ, native is six feet tall, giving the team more size in the position.
“I chose Penn State because the campus is beautiful and I felt at home,” Rafanello said. “I cannot wait to be a part of Jeff Cook’s new program.”
Rafanello will be tasked with contributing goals to a team that struggled to score against established, Big Ten opponents last season. He could form a dangerous partnership with sophomore forward Ethan Beckford, who led the Nittany Lions in scoring last season with five goals.
Cook describes Anthony Harding as a “tenacious, left-sided player” who is also extremely versatile. Listed as a left back, Harding can also play in midfield. The Huntingdon, PA, native played for Norwin High School and the club-level academy team of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds last season after committing to Penn State in August 2017.
“I chose Penn State because from my first visit there, it felt like the perfect fit for me from an academic and athletic standpoint,” Harding said. “I loved the passion and culture I felt when I was there.”
Harding joins a well-established defensive unit returning a number of starters, including outside backs Kyle Perno and Brennan Ireland.
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“Whether this team is a No. 3 seed or or a No. 4 seed, they’re going to have a real opportunity to be in the Sweet Sixteen. If you’re a Penn State basketball fan, that’s like the Final Four. That week of hype and attention gives a team a brand.”
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