Concord’s Chris Pinkham is living his D-I soccer dream in Durham

  • Chris Pinkham played for the Crimson Tide and Seacoast United (above). BELOW: Pinkham (right) stands alongside fellow Concord High graduate and UNH goalkeeper Dylan Thomson. Courtesy

  • Concord High graduate Chris Pinkham played for the Crimson Tide and Seacoast United (above). He will be a freshman on the UNH men’s soccer team this fall. Courtesy

  • Concord High graduates Dylan Thomson (left) and Chris Pinkham are competing roles on the UNH men’s soccer team. Thomson is a goaltender and Pinkham a forward. Allen Lessels / UNHWildcats.com

  • Concord High graduate Chris Pinkham always wanted to play soccer for the University of New Hampshire, where he’ll be a freshman this fall. Allen Lessels / UNHWildcats.com

Monitor staff
Saturday, August 12, 2017

He spent countless hours on outdoor pitches and indoor fields. He played for his school and for clubs. He organized pick-up games and practices on his quiet street in Concord.

All the effort is now paying off for Chris Pinkham, who is living his dream of playing Division I college soccer and representing his home state at the University of New Hampshire.

“I set this as my goal a long time ago and I’ve finally gotten here, so it’s exciting,” said Pinkham, a newly-minted freshman in Durham.

Four years ago he earned a starting spot for Concord High as a freshman, a rarity in the highly competitive Crimson Tide program. He played two seasons for Concord, totaling 15 goals and 22 assists and earning Second Team Division I honors as a sophomore.

After that, Pinkham played for the Seacoast United Academy against the top youth talent in the region. He played all over the field for Seacoast, spending time at defense before moving to forward in his final season at Seacoast, where he netted eight goals in 22 games, all starts. He was still going to school at Concord High and graduated last spring.

“It’s been a couple years that I’ve known about Chris and gotten to know him,” UNH Coach Marc Hubbard said. “First impressions were that he’s a passionate player and person, he’s competitive and industrious and very hard working. … He’s not backing away from challenges or any physicality. He’s always going to work hard under pressure, he’s not going to stop running. And the intensity is going to be there in everything he does.”

That non-stop running intensity was on full display on Pinkham’s first day of practice at UNH. The team went through an endurance test, running 20-meter intervals at increasing speed, a common test that’s often called a “beep test” because a recording beeps when it’s time to start running again.

Pinkham won the test with an eye-popping 42 intervals. To put that in perspective, anything over 13 intervals is considered excellent for an adult male.

“He definitely has a great engine, and that speaks to how hard he’s worked in the offseason to get there,” Hubbard said. “He wants it, that’s for sure.”

Where Pinkham will fit into this UNH team is still to be determined. There is a ton of turnover from last year’s 12-7 team with 15 newcomers joining the 2017 squad. Hubbard will have his hands full puzzling together this new team, but Pinkham is clearly an intriguing piece.

“It’s still early, but he’s indicative of the entire new group – young, exciting, talented,” Hubbard said. “It’s going to take some time before we’ve seen everyone situate to our system and culture, how we do things, but all initial signs are good … I think he’s a guy that has a lot of good intangibles and is pretty versatile.”

Hubbard is considering Pinkham for multiple positions – outside back, outside midfielder and forward. Being asked to perform in so many different roles would be difficult for some players, but Pinkham embraces the challenge.

“I’ll play wherever the coach puts me, because that’s what we can do to win games,” Pinkham said. “I really don’t mind where I play, as long as I’m playing and having a good time. Adapting to new roles and positions is exciting for me, so anything I can do to help the team is what I’m going to do.”

There will be plenty of adapting for this team with all the new players, a transition that extends beyond the field. Six members of this incoming class are international, with two coming from Sweden and one each from Spain, South Africa, Iceland and Norway.

“It opens up the window to so many different aspects of life and culture just getting to know these people and what they’re all about,” Pinkham said. “It’s just a whole new perspective for me and allows me to see the broad vision of what else is out there. It’s kind of surreal.”

Learning about new cultures clearly fascinates Pinkham – he’s planning to minor in Spanish in part because it allows him to communicate with people from other countries, including a large portion of his family, which is from Panama. At the same time, he’s thrilled to be staying close to home and proud to be wearing a UNH kit.

“I’ve always wanted to stay local and be in New Hampshire and accomplish something for my state, it’s really big for me,” Pinkham said.

He’s not the only Wildcat with Concord connections. Goalkeeper Dylan Thomson led the Tide to the D-I title in 2015, earning First Team D-I and First Team All-Region honors in the process. Thomson and Pinkham both played for Concord in 2014 and they were also teammates at the club level.

“Dylan is a great guy and just having him here really helps me out getting to know the other guys,” Pinkham said. “He’s a great person to have here.”

Thomson didn’t see any time last year as a freshman, and the keeper spot is looking very competitive again this year. Last year’s starter, Andrew Pesci from Windham, is back for his senior year, and the incoming class included two more keepers, both transfer students. So Thomson will have to work to see the field, but he’s in the mix.

“Dylan had a good spring and committed himself to learning and getting better, so it was a great developmental year from Dylan,” Hubbard said. “It’s a competitive group of goalies as well, so we’ll see how it shakes out, but he’s a great team player and a great personality to have.

“And it’s always fun to watch those New Hampshire guys. We want those New Hampshire guys to want to represent their state and have a lot of pride in that and those two guys, Chris and Dylan, have that for sure.”

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3341 or tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timosullivan20)