Tony Viglietti was already well-traveled when he came to Temple in 2003. Although the 24-year-old soccer player had lived primarily in England and France, a new home did not concern him as much as the transition from striker to defender.
“I used to mark up players man-to-man,” he said. “Now whenever I get the ball, coach [David MacWilliams] screams and tells me to pass and get back to my position.”
As a walk-on, Viglietti played in all 19 games last season and made an immediate impact on a team with little hope for success.
The program was an abysmal 13-37-2 in the three seasons prior to his arrival.
When Viglietti is on the field, the Owls have a stronger shot – literally. Behind his aggressive play, the Owls were 13-6-3 last season, and made an appearance in the Atlantic Ten championship.
The only problem is Viglietti hasn’t been on the field long enough to make that sort of impact this season.
Against Long Island in the fourth match of the season, Viglietti was tackled hard while dribbling the ball upfield. He played all 90 minutes in pain and by the next day, Viglietti said he could hardly walk. Worried he had done significant damage to his ankle, he used crutches and had X-rays taken. While only a deep bone bruise, the injury had kept him from playing since.
Today is his first game back as conference play opens against Rhode Island, the defending A-10 champions. After dropping the conference title game to the Rams last season, he said this game could be a turning point.
He doesn’t expect the layoff to hamper his hard-nosed approach.
“Some of the players look up to me because I shout on the field at all times,” he said. “Because I’m the oldest player on the team, I have to be an example to the others. In that regard, I have to keep it up, so I need to get back out there.”
Viglietti was born in Lyon, France. He and his mother moved to England when he was 5 years old. It was there he began playing soccer.
At Ridge Danyer’s High in Manchester, he was selected to the County XI team, the equivalent of all-state honors in the United States. He fine-tuned his game by playing for the Mount Field Rovers before crossing the pond to come here two years ago.
Viglietti’s expectations were high after jumping continents. He knew he had the talent to make the team, but wasn’t sure how immediate he could help the struggling program. He was a bit surprised by what he saw.
Viglietti thought his American teammates were both faster and in better shape than he was.
“The main difference is that it is more about pace, endurance and strength here,” he said. “In Europe, they are more concerned with the technical side of things. Here, everyone was fit. I was running five miles a day to get fit in the off-season. I wanted to be able to run for the entire 90 minutes [of the game].”
MacWilliams has noticed Viglietti’s impact on the team as well as anyone. The fifth-year coach was excited when he discovered that Viglietti, who graduated with an undergraduate degree in finance last January, had one year of eligibility remaining.
But three weeks prior to the start of the 2004 fall semester, Viglietti was informed that his tourist visa was nearing expiration.
Desperate to play another season for the Owls, he went to Canada and reentered the country on a student visa.
Despite the visa issues, MacWilliams envisions Viglietti’s experience as the perfect stepping stone for other international players. Viglietti was MacWilliams’ first international recruit. Since then, sophomore midfielder Ryan McMullen of Scotland and freshman forward Stephen Bristow of England have joined the team. MacWilliams has labeled Viglietti the “ambassador of our program.”
“We don’t try to go out there and just get kids from the area,” MacWilliams said. “It’ll help us down the road in recruiting when you have players like Tony. I’m sure he’ll talk to the players that aren’t quite sure about coming over [to the United States]. With his success, he’ll be able to sell our program well for us.”
Christopher A. Vito can be reached at email@example.com.