NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – After helping lead the Merrimack men's soccer team to its first-ever berth in the NCAA Tournament this past fall, leading scorer and graduating senior Franklin Lemus Pena (Revere, Mass.) achieved an enormous individual milestone in inking his first professional soccer contract this week.
Lemus Pena, the Northeast-10 Conference Player of the Year this past fall, will join the up-and-coming New England Force club. The new franchise was born over the winter and will play an exhibition schedule against some of the top teams both in the United States and at the international level.
The Force will apply for membership in one of the top leagues (MLS, NASL or USL) in the United States at the conclusion of their introductory season. The franchise will be based close to Providence, R.I., and will be led by head coach Jonathan Langer, who holds previous head coaching experience at Division I and BIG EAST powerhouse St. John's University, as well as professional coaching experience with the Austin Posse.
"There aren't words to describe what this means to me," Lemus Pena said of the signing. "I have always dreamed of playing professional soccer and to finally reach that goal is just indescribable. This is a massive achievement for me, I've had to work extremely hard and have given up a lot in my life to make it here, but it has all paid off."
Named an NSCAA Second Team All-American and an ECAC First Team All-Star last fall, Lemus Pena played in all 21 games with 18 starts as a senior, leading the Warriors on offense with 16 points thanks to five goals and six assists. His offensive prowess helped the Warriors lay claim to their fourth NE-10 regular season championship, as well as appearances in the NE-10 Championship Finals and – finally – a berth in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history.
"I am extremely happy for Frankie and could not be more proud of this accomplishment," head coach Tony Martone noted. "He has worked so hard during his time with our program, and I am happy his dream is materializing. This is not only a milestone for him, but for Merrimack soccer, as well."
A three-year member of the program after transferring to Merrimack in the fall of 2010, Lemus Pena accrued 48 career points over a three-year span, ranking 17th in the program record book in career scoring. A Revere, Mass., native, Lemus Pena was also named to the NSCAA First-Team All Region squad, as well as the Daktronics All-East Region Team.
"Playing at Merrimack was a turning point in my life," Lemus Pena noted of his career with the Navy and Gold. "I personally thank the coaching staff, my teammates, friends and everyone else who pushed me to be the best I can be on and off the field.
"Coach Martone has not only been a father figure, but also one of the best coaches I've ever had in my soccer career. He has tremendous knowledge of the sport and I thank him so much for having me. If it wasn't for him, I would've never gotten this opportunity of a lifetime."
The Force's 2013 Schedule has already included bouts with the Harrisburgh City Islanders and the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. The squad will take on Ottawa of the NASL on May 11, as well as several other exhibition matches against top-tier United States and international programs during their inaugural season.