It’s Thursday [double checks notes], yep it’s Thursday which can only mean one thing: time for another Throwback Thursday alumni check-in! Last week, we chatted with Virginia Football’s Alvin Pearman. This week, we’re sticking with football, but going with the more European version as we chat with Virginia Soccer’s Alecko Eskandarian.
Streaking the Lawn: So, what have you been up to since leaving school?
Alecko Eskandarian: I left UVA after the Fall semester of my junior year to sign a contract with MLS. I played for DC United, Toronto FC, Real Salt Lake, and LA Galaxy before suffering a career-ending concussion in 2009 which completely altered my life. Fortunately, I had stayed in touch with Dean Rachel Most throughout my soccer career and she helped pave a path which allowed me to return to Charlottesville and earn my degree. Following that, I coached soccer professionally for 5 years before transitioning into the front office where I now work at Major League Soccer HQ in New York City.
STL: If you could have been an athlete in another sport at Virginia, which would you choose, and would you be a starter?
AE: There’s no doubt in my mind I could have been a starting kicker for UVA’s football team but my skill set probably would have best translated to lacrosse. I’ve never played the sport to this day but if I had monsters like Brett Hughes (Virginia Lacrosse alum) protecting me, I think I would have been a dangerous attacker.
STL: What is your favorite UVA sports memory, either as a fan or a player?
AE: My favorite game I was part of would have to be when we played vs UCLA my sophomore year. I believe we were both undefeated at the time and making a claim for the No. 1 ranking in the country. We ended up playing them to a 2-2 draw at Klöckner, but it was a back and forth battle for 120 mins. Looking back, there was a total of 10-15 pros on the field that day and it was a defining moment for me to know that I could do this for a living.
From an individual vantage point, I’d have to say breaking the single season goal scoring record is my favorite memory because of how much respect I have for the legendary names that have come through the program over the years. I look forward to the day someone comes along and smashes it but until then I’ll hold on to it with pride.
Finally, as a fan, the men’s basketball team winning the national championship last year was truly special. I’m a huge basketball fan, and an even bigger Tony Bennett fan since I got to see the beginning of the culture he established when I was back at UVA finishing my degree in 2011. It’s truly remarkable to see what the program has been able to accomplish as I never thought I’d see this day in my lifetime.
STL: What are you doing during this self-isolating period to stay busy/entertained?
AE: As you know, we have been hit hardest in the NYC area and the priority for me is to simply do whatever I can to make sure my loved ones are safe and healthy. The MLS season has been postponed until we receive further guidance on when it will be safe to return to play, so we are doing all we can to manage all the clubs in the meantime. My down time mostly consists of finally learning how to bake cookies, binge-watching Ozark, and going on long runs to justify eating all the cookies.
STL: Which coach or teacher had the greatest impact on you while at UVA?
AE: Dean Rachel Most saved my academic life so I will always be indebted to her for believing in me. I also have to say BOTH men’s soccer coach George Gelnovatch and women’s soccer coach Steve Swanson had a tremendous impact on my development as a soccer player and as a human being. George gave me my opportunity to play at UVA ahead of much higher-touted recruits and led by example with his demeanor and humility. Steve had a huge impact on the work I put in off the field. We first met when I happened to be running laps by myself at Lower Field and he was out doing some private training with one of his players. He ended up taking me under his wing and inspired to me to constantly work on my weaknesses when no one is watching.
STL: Do you have any career advice to current students or recent alumni?
AE: My advice would be: don’t be afraid to go full speed ahead to pursue your goals, but if you fail - don’t take your failures for granted. Try to be as self-aware as possible about what your strengths/weaknesses are, where your passions lie, and what makes you happy/fulfilled. Your journey to find your niche and thrive will be a continuous work in progress.
STL: What do you see that current UVA student-athletes have on Grounds that you wish you had? (facilities, resources, coach)
AE: The brand new facilities look amazing and last time I came into town I noticed they had food trucks beside The Lawn! It’s great to see improvements constantly being made. With that said, I wouldn’t change a thing about my time on Grounds.
STL: What is your favorite Charlottesville restaurant?
AE: Gotta stop in at LittleJohn’s and White Spot every time I’m back in Cville.
Huge thanks to Alecko. Stay tuned...we’ll be back with another alum check in next week!