By Logan VanDine
Fresh off Rider men’s soccer’s first Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championship since 2018 and a trip to the NCAA Tournament, one member of the team saw another dream come true which may actually top winning a MAAC title.
Senior forward Babacar Diene surprised the Rider community when he signed a professional contract with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC of the United Soccer League, making it the first signing since 2018 when fellow Bronc Jose Aguinaga joined New York Red Bulls II.
‘I’m really excited’
Diene, who is originally from Thies, Senegal, first talked about his excitement about joining the Riverhounds for their upcoming season.
“I’m really excited, it feels so amazing right now,” said Diene. “This is my first experience with a professional team … even though it’s a different experience for me, I’m ready.”
Being just the second Bronc since 2018 to join a professional soccer league, Diene highlighted his tryout experience for the USL and how there were three teams that reached out to him.
“After our season ended, I received an invitation to tryout,” Diene said. “After tryouts a week later, the head coach [Bob Liley] called me and gave me an offer and I accepted it.”
Besides Pittsburgh, the other two teams that Diene tried out for were Real Salt Lake and Charlotte Independence.
‘I was not nervous’
Despite having to try out for a professional soccer team, the intimidation of that feeling did not faze the former Rider Bronc.
“I was really comfortable, I think the experience of me playing the sport really helped me for this tryout,” Diene said.
Playing for the Riverhounds in the city of Pittsburgh was very special for Diene because he had a friend that lived in the area that he considered family and for his love of the city of Pittsburgh.
“I love the city, I know the city very well and I’m very comfortable here,” said Diene. “I told myself that this is the place I want to play.”
‘Had to work hard’
Playing soccer at the professional level is something that has always been on Diene’s mind ever since he was at a young age.
“I’ve dreamed about it for a really long time before I even came to America,” Diene said with a huge smile on his face. “I’ve always said to myself that I wanted to be a professional soccer player so I really had to work hard to get to this level.”
Diene also could not go without thanking his coaches and teammates at Rider.
“Charlie [Inverso] has helped me a lot to get me into this position and I did a lot of work with him. After he left, Chad [Duernberger] did the same thing, he would always check in on me and see how I was doing and how school was going and he was like my dad here,” Diene said.
Head Coach Chad Duernberger, who concluded his first season as the head coach for the men’s soccer team, spoke very highly of his former forward.
“I’m really proud of Babacar to have this opportunity as he deserves it. A lot of players want to be pro but they don’t have pro habits. Babacar went about his work in our program every day as a professional and it showed on the field with his success scoring goals and helping our team win a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championship,” Duernberger said.
With Diene well underway practicing with his Riverhound teammates, he gave his overall feelings and thoughts about adjusting to playing for a professional team.
“It’s been going very well right now,” said Diene. “I really like my teammates, they’ve helped me out a lot and the coach showed me how much he wants me to be here and just very excited to play for them and to see how our season ends up going.”
Diene and the Riverhounds will suit up for their first regular season game at home against New Mexico United on March 9 at 4 p.m. and can be streamed on KDKA.com.