FC Monmouth Player Profile: John Antunes
FC Monmouth midfielder John Antunes has already made a name for himself at the brand new National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) club. The bearer of the number ten shirt and captain of the squad, Antunes scored the first ever goal in the history of FC Monmouth in their inaugural home match and first ever win against Atlantic City FC on May 26th.
Born to parents of Portuguese and Italian descent, soccer played a major role in Antunes’ life from an early age. “Soccer is in my blood, and I was kicking a ball in the house as soon as I could walk,” he said. Hailing from Fairfield, New Jersey, Antunes grew up idolizing global soccer stars Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Ronaldinho.
Antunes attended St. Benedict’s Prep High School in Newark, New Jersey where he played soccer and featured in a very successful team. He said, “We were the number one soccer team in the country three out of the four years I went to school there.”
Antunes chose to further his soccer career at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, New Jersey. A National Collegiate Athletics Association Division I program, the men’s soccer team at Monmouth plays in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Antunes said that his transition to college soccer was not that difficult, but he did have to adapt to some differences. “The speed of play, intensity, and physical aspects of the game were much faster, but soccer is soccer,” the midfielder said. “A good player makes adjustments and can play the game no matter what.”
Antunes’ career at Monmouth University got off to a rough start. He suffered a right hamstring strain during the first game of the Hawks’ campaign versus Denver and was sidelined for the entirety of the season. “Injuries are a part of the game,” he said. “It gives you as a player the opportunity to grow mentally and physically. My family, friends, coaches, doctors, and trainers played a huge factor in the recovery process and I believe they deserve all the credit.”
Having missed his entire freshman season, Antunes opted to become a redshirt athlete. His first season as a redshirt sophomore saw him notch two goals and three assists in 17 games played for the Hawks. The midfielder earned All-MAAC Second Team and Third Team All-Northeast Region recognition for his efforts.
In order to stay fit and continue to play soccer during the summer ahead of his second college season, Antunes joined FC Monmouth to play in the NPSL’s Keystone Conference. Though it is only the midfielder’s first time playing in the NPSL, he said that the level of play is very good. FC Monmouth was appealing to Antunes because of its status as a new club that is looking to engage the Red Bank and Monmouth County community with local soccer.
Antunes was named FC Monmouth captain early on in the season, and the midfielder attests his leadership abilities to his parents. He also wears the number ten shirt, typically plays the number ten role on the pitch, and he believes that it all ties into his style as a player. “I play with spurs of creativity with a focus on possession and getting to goal,” he said. “I love to take players on and win one-on-one battles. Wearing the number [ten] gives me motivation to score goals and be dangerous at all times throughout a match.”
Antunes is not alone at FC Monmouth, he is joined by three of his Monmouth University teammates in Andy Martinez, Zachary Pereira, and George Akampeke. “Those boys are family to me. I’ve been playing with Andy and Zach since St. Benedict’s and George is my brother who knows exactly how I like to play on the field,” the midfielder said.
The start to FC Monmouth’s season was rocky; it began with two losses on the road. The small amount of time that the players and coaches had to get to know each other and play together before the opening games had an effect on the team’s overall performance. Antunes said, “It takes time to get used to the styles of play and personalities of your teammates, but time and training heals those issues.” The midfielder, who was substituted early on in the first half of Saturday’s win due to a hamstring injury, said that the team did well to bounce back with six points at home ahead of their match with New Jersey Copa FC next week. “This shows that our team is on the right path and is starting to grow into something very powerful and interconnected.”