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Looks like AC has their left back: Mark Bloom

Here is an article from Rome News-Tribune about the signing of Berry College’s Mark Bloom with AC St. Louis:

Years of hard work and dedication paid off for Berry senior soccer player Mark Bloom, who recently signed a professional contract to play for AC St. Louis of the United States Soccer Federation D2 Pro League. He becomes the first Berry player under coach Richard Vardy to sign a professional contract at the USSF D2 Pro level.

“I’m very excited,” said Bloom. “It really is a dream come true.”

Bloom’s dreams started at a young age, when his father, Neil Bloom, took the head coaching job at Lassiter High.

“I really got into soccer when my dad started coaching at Lassiter,” said Bloom. “I looked up to the players on the high school team and wanted to be like them. It also helped having a dad who knew how to help me improve my game.”

Bloom will join AC St. Louis as a left defender for the first-year USSF D2 team. He was selected after attending an invitation-only tryout at the St. Louis Rams training facility on Jan. 30-31. The team is coached by Claude Anelka, the older brother of France international and Chelseas F.C. striker Nicolas Anelka.

“He is the best left defender we have seen,” said ACSTL’s director of player development Francisco Filho.

The USSF D2 Pro level is the second highest level of professional soccer in the US and is a combination of the former United Soccer League (USL) and North American Soccer League (NASL). The team has also announced the signing of former MLS Rookie of the Year and US National Player, Steve Ralston.

“It’s a new level and I can’t go in thinking I’ve made it already,” said Bloom about heading into the professional ranks. “I know I will have to start at the bottom and work my way up. I am really excited about the challenge and the opportunity.”

Bloom will join the squad on March 1, but still plans to work towards completing his degree at Berry. The AC St. Louis Season begins April 10 in Cary, N.C. against the Carolina Railhawks. The team’s first home game is April 27 against the Austin Aztex.

“I have no doubt that Mark will make a big impact in St. Louis,” said Berry head coach Richard Vardy. “He will be a great professional and I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up playing at an even higher level in the next few years.”

A native of Marietta, Ga., Bloom started all four years at Berry, playing in both defense and midfield. He helped the school to a 48-26-5 record during that time and a pair of conference titles. Despite his numerous defensive responsibilities, Bloom still managed to net 13 goals for Berry and dished out nine assists.

“I think Berry was great in terms of my development,” said Bloom. “I played with some great players and I was always pushed to work hard to be the best I could be.”

Always a clutch player, seven of Bloom’s 13 goals were match-winners for the Vikings. His efforts were recognized with an all-conference selection in 2008 to go along with two all-conference academic awards.

“We’ve always had talented players on the Berry team,” said Berry head coach Richard Vardy. “Mark has a rare combination of talent, hard work and desire to get to the next level that has made him successful.”

“Mark has always led by example,” added Vardy. “ I think he will serve as a role model not only for his current teammates who were able to see how hard he worked, but also for future generations of Berry players.”

Bloom likes the idea that future generations of Berry players might look to him as a pioneer, establishing a channel from Berry to the professional ranks.

“I’m excited that I might be considered as a role model for the program,” said Bloom. “I have never been the flashiest player on a team, but I really believe that you can accomplish anything through hard work and you can make the most of it.”

Overall, Bloom feels that his time at Berry was a great part of his development both in terms of soccer skill and on a personal level.

“I am grateful for my time at Berry and to the coaches for trusting in me,” concluded Bloom. “It was a great four years and more than anything from the soccer field I will take away everlasting friendships with my coaches, teammates and friends.”

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