In the lead-up to the 2021 MLS SuperDraft, excitement filled the air around the Clemson men’s soccer program, as many players on the fall roster cluttered mock drafts in the days leading up to Jan. 22. Following a historic draft day for the program, reality settled in, as Clemson would be without two of its most potent scoring threats when the spring season arrived in March. Nonetheless, the Tigers were ready to compete when the opening whistle was blown on March 7 as the Tigers faced Syracuse thanks to a familiar face stepping into a new role.
Enter Isaiah Reid, a sophomore from nearby Rock Hill, S.C., who spent his first year and a half in Tigertown splitting time between Clemson’s defensive and attacking groups. In the fall, Reid earned a start for the Tigers at forward against Wake Forest near the end of the regular season. In his first start of the fall, Reid showed his promising form, displaying his pace on the wings as he made precise runs through the Demon Deacons backline.
The openings left by Clemson’s new professional players allowed for current members to step into new roles and earn valuable minutes on the pitch. Reid knew that a spot amongst the Tigers’ attacking trio would be open and he wanted to occupy it, as it was a natural position for the sophomore to step into.
The past year has seen Reid focus his training on becoming the best forward he could be. In working with the coaching staff, and volunteer assistant coach Pearse Tormey in particular, Reid honed his finishing skills.
“Pearse has helped me a lot, doing finishing sessions with me after training, as well as Camilo [Rodriguez]. They’ve both helped me a lot with my finishing,” reflected Reid. “I also have to give a lot of credit to Rick [Franzblau]. He would send me workouts over the summer to prep my body more to do these longer sprints and get myself in positions to attack.”
Reid’s work in the off-season and clinical finishing prowess was put on full display early on in the match against Syracuse after Reid was named the Tigers’ starting left-winger. A beautiful bit of give-and-go play between Reid and James Brighton sprung the sophomore in on goal with just the goalkeeper to beat. Reid’s initial shot on goal was saved, but the rebound met Reid’s stride as he kept charging towards goal. With the ball again as his feet, Reid went around the goalkeeper and tapped the ball into an empty net. In just the fifth minute of the match, Reid scored his first goal as a Tiger and put top-ranked Clemson into the lead.
A bit of brilliance early on from Isaiah Reid and #ClemsonUnited 😎📊 – https://t.co/spHHr3BEiA📺 – https://t.co/XF2waIIPv0#ClemsonUnited 🧡💜 pic.twitter.com/DhugAwQgy0— Clemson Men's Soccer (@ClemsonMSoccer) March 7, 2021
A bit of brilliance early on from Isaiah Reid and #ClemsonUnited 😎
📊 – https://t.co/spHHr3BEiA📺 – https://t.co/XF2waIIPv0#ClemsonUnited 🧡💜 pic.twitter.com/DhugAwQgy0
— Clemson Men's Soccer (@ClemsonMSoccer) March 7, 2021
With arms spread wide and a smile stretching ear to ear, Reid ran towards the corner flag to celebrate with his teammates, something the sophomore got to experience for the first time.
“It was insane for me to be the one celebrating,” added Reid. “In my freshman year and a little bit of my sophomore year… usually I was the guy on the sidelines running over to go celebrate with Kimarni [Smith] or Grayson [Barber], so for me to be the once celebrating, it felt amazing.”
A feeling like that left him wanting more, and Reid was able to contribute another “first” when, in the 51st minute, he played a perfect arching cross into the 18-yard box and found the right foot of an on-rushing Callum Johnson. With a one-touch volley as the ball hung a meter off the ground, Johnson fired his shot into the back of the net to give Reid his first assist during his young career.
The play went just as the two had drawn it up going into halftime, as Reid reflected by saying, “Before we went into the locker room, Callum [Johnson] was like, ‘Isaiah, I’m going to be on the back post next time. You don’t have to look. If you send it there, I will be there.’ I literally took the ball, rainbowed it, and I saw Callum and I was just like ‘Please finish it,’ and he just slotted it into the goal.”
With the first match of the spring slate now behind the new-look Clemson Tigers, the team has its sights set on Saturday’s contest against No. 21 Virginia Tech. The last time the two programs met, Kimarni Smith made history as the first player to record seven points in an ACC Tournament match and just the second player to ever register a hat-trick in tournament play. With confidence and a yearning for more now consuming the young forward, Reid will be ready to take the pitch come Saturday.