LITCHFIELD — The U.S. Soccer Coaches Association has named Litchfield High School’s Timmy Donovan a first-team All-American.
Donovan, a junior, has starred for the Cowboys since his freshman year. By the end of this season, he owned Litchfield school records for career goals — 78 — and single-season goals — 36.
League and state soccer coaches took notice last year with his first of two consecutive All-State and All-Berkshire League selections. Now, he’s moved up in the future Litchfield Hall of Fame to become the second Cowboy to achieve All-New England status and the first All-American.
If you think the junior year in high school is young for such records and honors, you haven’t seen the soccer years his parents have.
“Right from the start, soccer was his passion,” says Timmy’s Dad, John, a soccer star at Wamogo High School and Norwich University and seven-year-old Timmy’s first coach with the Litchfield Soccer Club’s Nippers.
“He trained himself for hours and hours on the Milton green,” said John. “At age 10, you start playing games and you could see he was bigger, faster and stronger than the other players, with more technical skills.”
“Whenever he could, he was out there playing by himself — dribbling and kicking into the goal,” said his mother, Elizabeth (Keilty) Donovan, who still holds girls soccer records at Wamogo and walked onto UConn’s women’s team as a freshman.
“Sometimes, I could feel our house shaking,” she says. “Even after his games, he’d still go out there and play by himself. He just loves the game.”
“I grew up with soccer,” says Timmy. “My (older) brother and sister played, so I was eventually going to be introduced to it. My brother was the main reason. I’d watch him in games and play soccer with him.”
Brother Jack Donovan, now 22, was an All-BL player at Litchfield. Sister Caroline, 19, now plays at Fairfield University.
“They were good, but neither of them was quite like Timmy,” says John. “When he was in eighth grade, I went on with them to coach a junior premiere team in Cornwall. By then, Timmy (now 6 feet, 175 pounds) had grown to 5-10 and that was it for me. I knew I was over my head.”
“Timmy’s future is limitless,” said Litchfield coach Rob Andrulis, an all-star goalie whose brother, Greg, was coach of Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew and head soccer coach at George Mason University.
Good soccer genes and hours and hours of practice on the Milton green bring rewards at a price.
“You can teach yourself to shoot and pass, but the game is so much more,” said Timmy, who missed the hours with friends as a kid and now practices three times a week, 7:30-9 p.m., with the Farmington’s FSA FC premier team in the high school off-season.
“I sacrifice a lot to do it, but it’s worth it. This is what I want to do,” he says.
Donovan credits Andrulis and FSA coach Zeke Seguero, who coached Hall High School to the Class LL championship this year, with teaching him soccer dimensions beyond shooting and passing.
“The main thing I learn from them is technicality — seeing the field and awareness,” he says. “With FSA, we’ll focus on specific things like first-touch drills.”
In spite of the Donovan-led Litchfield success in the Berkshire League, playing for FSA has other lessons for him.
“It kind of keeps me in check,” he grins.
Farmington FSA plays in the 15-team Northeast Division of the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL), with showcases as far-flung as San Diego and Florida last year.
“I have to think differently and play differently with each team,” Donovan says. “For Litchfield, I can chase through balls and use my body. In the ECNL, they always have that really strong player in the backfield. It’s a different game.”
FSA is currently ranked second in Connecticut, hoping to go to the ECNL Nationals this year (top two teams in each division).
After a 30-game season in that rarified atmosphere, how do you adjust to a high school season in which almost every team has a flaw and the game is far less technical?
“It’s a confidence boost,” says Donovan. “As a player, you want that boost — it’s crucial. One of the hardest parts of the game for me is my mental strength. If I get mad at myself or a teammate, it’s because I know I can do better (when we miss a chance).
“With soccer, the most important thing is whether or not you come to play.”
On Jan. 18, at its convention in Baltimore, the U.S. Soccer Coaches Association officially declares that Litchfield’s Timmy Donovan comes to play like an All-American.