Before every home match, New York Red Bulls midfielder Sean Davis heads to his hometown of Holmdel to stay at the residence of his parents, Keith and Lynn.
It is a pregame ritual Davis, 27, has used throughout his six-year professional soccer career in Major League Soccer. It has helped him accomplish a special feat as the first homegrown player in the history of the Red Bulls to have 100 career starts.
“If you told me that 10 years ago, I don’t think I would have believed you,” Davis said of his accomplishment. “I am very thankful to play for this organization. They believe in homegrown players. This accomplishment is very special to me. I have gotten to spend a lot of time with my parents and my family and they have been able to watch me play.”
Davis’ 100th career start came on Aug. 20 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison when the Red Bulls took on rival New York City FC.
It is a match that Davis said he will always keep as a special memory in his career. Not only did the Red Bulls win, 1-0, but it was also the first time Davis played New York City as a team captain and that is something about which he was very proud.
“I will always treasure that start,” Davis said. “We won that game and it will be a special memory for me. It’s something to build off and making that next step to helping the team win a championship.”
Another start Davis will always remember was his first start as captain in the team’s 2020 season opener against FC Cincinnati on March 1, a match the Red Bulls won 3-2.
Just finishing his sixth professional season for the Red Bulls and helping the team reach the MLS playoffs for the 11th consecutive year, Davis is living a dream he has had since he was in second grade.
That was when Davis caught the eye of Jay Teitelbaum, who asked him to join the Holmdel Bulldogs travel team.
Things really took off for Davis after his freshman season at Holmdel High School under coach John Nacarlo, when he was named the team’s Most Valuable Player during the 2007 season.
Davis’ play led to his selection to participate in U.S. Soccer’s Under-17 residency program in Bradenton, Fla., where he trained with 40 of the nation’s best youth soccer players for two years.
Before attending Duke University, Davis got his first taste of the Red Bulls’ program when he played for the Red Bulls Academy for two seasons.
Davis continued to train with the program during his time at Duke. He played for the Red Bulls Under-23 team during the summer of 2014 before his senior year at Duke and helped the squad win the National Premier Soccer League championship. Davis assisted on the game-winning goal against Chattanooga FC.
That fall, Davis was named the Atlantic Coast Conference Midfielder of the Year. In December, he realized a dream he began at the age of 7 when the Red Bulls signed him to play in MLS.
“I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to play for the Red Bulls,” Davis said. “It was a lot of fun playing for the academy and it was a great experience.”
For Davis, the 2020 season was more about issues that were occurring in the world, off the field.
As a team captain, Davis made it a point to talk to his teammates and the Red Bulls staff about how they were dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and social issues such as the death of George Floyd.
Davis said the organization had a good dialogue about racial equality and did a great job following COVID-19 safety guidelines so the entire season could be completed.
“Soccer brings players together from all over the world,” Davis said. “As a captain, it was important to me to talk to everyone and see how they were doing. I want to be someone who cares about the guys and knows what is going on and does the right thing. I want to pass that down to the younger generation.”
Davis was also happy to be able to participate in the Red Bulls’ partnership with Hackensack Meridian Health to help children who are being treated for cancer.
The Red Bulls participate in a boot design program in which players and children design cleats together for the players to wear during a match.
Davis has been partnered with Tackle for Cancer MVP Liam Lazaro for several years.
With the pandemic going on, Davis said he was able to Facetime with Liam and this time they helped to create a poster, which Davis said was a really cool moment for him.
Having the opportunity to play professional soccer in his home state is an opportunity Davis has enjoyed.
As a 6-year-old who wore a MetroStars jersey (the team that became the Red Bulls), Davis is a lifelong fan of the franchise and loves being able to share his experiences playing for the Red Bulls with Holmdel residents and the soccer community.
“To have that personal connection with the town is great,” he said. “I’m excited for the town and it’s great to see them have success with soccer. It’s become an important sport in town and a lot of fun for the community.”