Soccer Is Life For Justin Rennicks
Justin Rennicks, who hails from South Hamilton, MA, didn't even play high-school soccer. He went directly into the Revolution Academy U-14 team at age 13 ahead of the U.S. Developmental League's 2012-2013 season. Rennicks made great strides during his time there. He was soon called up to the U-14 US Boys National Team camps by then-coach Hugo Perez. Alongside Justin, in the forward's section, you'll notice some familiar names, such as Jonathan Gonzalez and Omir Fernandez. The winger made some important marks in scrimmages with Hugo Perez's team. He even scored a lone goal against the LA Galaxy U-16 Academy team, while they destroyed the team 8-1.
That Academy Life
Rennicks was a member of the Revolution Academy from the beginning of 2012 to the end of his time in 2017. He was prolific in attack during the US Developmental League games. Through 6 years and over 100 games he appeared with the Academy, he scored 38 goals and provided 25 assists. . The academy gave him the Player of the Year award twice in 2015 and 2016. He was the only player to have achieved this in his time with the teams.
While in college, he only played two years while figuring out where he would end up playing professionally. Justin Rennicks played for the Indiana University Hoosiers after the end of his tenure with the Revolution Academy team. Justin ended up injured before his freshman year in 2017. That year, he ended up subbing in nine games, gathering a lone assist and a shot on goal.
In 2018, with the Hoosiers, he scored six goals and had one assist over 20 starts. He scored three game-winners in the season. During this year, he was on the Second-Team All-Big Ten, First-Team All-North Region, and the College Cup All-Tournament Team. While with them this year, they went to the College Cup semi-finals, losing only to the eventual cup champions, University of Maryland. He also headed off for national team duty with the U-20 Men's Team during this year.
National Team Call-Ups
The quick, agile forward took his Academy time to achieve the most. Due to his great play with the academy, the US Youth National team coaches took an interest. The first tournament that Justin joined with the U-16 Boys National Team in 2015, was the Mercedes Benz Aegean Cup in Turkey. The U-16 Boys National Team competed in the Netherlands International Tournament in Rotterdam a couple of months later. In August of 2015, Rennicks was called up to the U-18 Men's National Team to participate in the Nordic Cup. They ended up winning 5th place with help of an assist from Justin.
In 2016, the team continued calling Justin up for the U-18 national team camps. He joined them on their trip to the Vaclav Jezek Tournament in Pilzen, Czech Republic. The team achieved winning the tournament trophy. He started in the cup final. Rennicks went 70 minutes during the game. In all of these tournaments, Justin at least scored one goal during the group stages.
During the end of 2017 and heading into 2018, he frequented the U-20 training camps. Throughout Justin's injury in 2017, he continued to work hard and come back stronger. He was playing for Indiana University during this time. Eventually, the U-20 USMNT squad headed by coach Tab Ramos wanted Rennicks on his team for the CONCACAF U-20 Championship. In the entire tournament, Justin ended up with 4 goals. This big performance leads him to be selected for the U-20 World Cup team roster coached by Tab Ramos. He went to Poland and scored one of the biggest game-winning goals of his life in a Round of 16 games against France. Rennicks ended up subbing in the quarterfinal match against Ecuador very late in the game. They went on to lose that game 2-1.
Let's Catch You Up To Speed On Justin
The US Men's National Team continues to rate this 21-year-old forward for their teams. He ended up proving his worth to Head Coach Brad Friedel and General Manager Mike Burns of the New England Revolution. Justin ended up signing a homegrown contract with the Revolution in January 2019. Rennicks gathered a total of 105 first-team minutes between two games, in the first three months of his first MLS season. Then, Bruce Arena started his takeover of the team in May.
Justin Rennicks ended his time with the Revolution first-team almost directly once Arena joined the team. Bruce ended up giving him quality time down in the USL Championship with the North Carolina FC, a team coached by Arena's former US Men's National Team assistant coach, Dave Sarachan. With NCFC in 2019, he appeared in 10 games and started three. During his 304 minutes with North Carolina, he only managed one assist.
Rennicks' stint in the USL ended in October of 2019. He came back to the Revs' first team for the 2020 MLS preseason play. Justin got minutes throughout the entire preseason, earning Bruce's praises after a game against the Vancouver Whitecaps. "I thought Rennicks had a real good game, so that part was good," he noted after the loss to the Whitecaps.
In the final game of the preseason against the Portland Timbers, the younger players, including Justin Rennicks, didn't get rostered. They instead ended up playing in a scrimmage against the University of Portland Pilots for 45 minutes. It was clear then that Rennicks would still have to battle for his spot on the squad.
Rennicks' Current Situation
Rennicks started off the 2020 MLS season on the bench, as an unused sub, against the Montreal Impact. Justin was a substitute in a game against the Chicago Fire in March of 2020. In that match, Rennicks missed a pretty clear goal scoring chance to put the Revs up 2-1 over the Fire.
After that game, the season was discontinued, due to the corona-virus. It wasn't until July when the MLS Is Back tournament was concocted to resume the MLS season. Bruce saw fit to include Rennicks as a sub in two out of the four matches. The amount of time that Justin saw the field was not ideal though, he played for 15 minutes total between the two games.
The forward was still itching for minutes and Bruce put him on the bench a couple of times throughout July and August. He subbed in for five minutes during a 1-1 draw against the Philadelphia Union.
Directly after that, it was clear Rennicks fell out of favor with Bruce. Arena selected Justin to the bench for two straight games in which he did not get played off the bench. Bruce Arena didn't select him for the next two games. Rennicks was then announced as a loan down to Revolution II before their game against FC Tucson where he featured for 70 minutes.
A Quick Chat With Rennicks
Since then, Rennicks has started and gone nearly the full 90 minutes in the next two games. In those two games, he scored the game-winning goal. Justin has been having a ball down at Revolution II.
Justin Rennicks was available for an interview after his first two games down at Revolution II and I was able to ask a few questions through a helpful communications associate for both teams, Daniel Shulman. Senior Communications Manager Adam Klionksy also helped with the process.
What parts of training with the first team helped your game the most?
"Definitely the speed and the physicality, It's not easy getting up there with a bunch of older guys, really pushing you in different ways. I found it really improved my game the most."
Which players (on the first team) helped your confidence in training?
"Andrew Farrell, he's a guy I'm always going against, he's always telling me to keep positive no matter what, just keep grinding."
There were a couple of games that you were available on the bench for the first team, what were the conversations with Bruce Arena like afterward when you didn’t get playing time?
"There was never a conversation. Just got to work harder in training, so you earn those minutes. Obviously, I want to be out there, but if Bruce doesn't think it's right, then it's not right.
When were you first a part of the conversation of being loaned down to Revolution II?
"The conversation was a couple of days before I was sent down to the second-team." (This would put the loan process as finished around the weekend of September 12th.)
Were you excited to be a part of the team with fellow Revs Academy players and first-teamers Damien Rivera, Nicolas Firmino, and Isaac Angking?
"We all go way back. Me, Isaac, and Firm especially have more chemistry because of academy days. Tico was a little bit younger. Yeah, it's great."
What were the emotions like stepping out onto the field for Revolution II against FC Tucson?
"It was great. I haven't gotten minutes in awhile. So being able to get 70 minutes before my calves started giving out. It was really good. You know it's been a while since I started a game. It's what I needed."
You scored your second professional goal against Union Omaha on Saturday, what were your first thoughts as the ball hit the back of the net?
"I was happy. It's a good start to the rest of the games. And I will hopefully be able to translate that to other games as well."
Orlando Sinclair and yourself seem to be coming together quite nicely as an attacking pair, the goal is a great example of that, is this consistent throughout training as well?
"Yeah, definitely. We're not usually on the same teams because we're both forwards. We definitely get along well and play well."
Do you feel that League One is an adequate level to train and achieve your way back to the first team?
"Definitely the games, it is the main reason I'm down here, which is for the minutes. "
You’ve been playing soccer at a high caliber for quite a while now, what do you think is your greatest achievement thus far?
"Becoming a professional soccer player in general. Being rostered with the U-20 Men's Soccer Team in Poland was a great honor. It was a great achievement of mine."
Tacking onto that question, you’re 21 now, what level of soccer are you aspiring to play by the end of your career?
"Until my legs can't anymore, around my 40's. Here, I'll play anywhere as long as I'm playing soccer. But at the moment, here."
After Hearing The Audio
I can't wait to be able to chat with Justin Rennicks when we're allowed to come back to games. He's very down to earth as a person and a player from these answers. For a kid who has such a storied beginning to his career, he only seems like he's just starting his ascent to greatness.