The New York Red Bulls signed rookie central defender Sean Nealis to an MLS contract, the club announced Sunday. Nealis was a second-round pick of the 2019 MLS SuperDraft.
“We are pleased to welcome Sean to the first team,” Red Bulls sporting director Denis Hamlett said in a statement. “When we drafted Sean we knew we were getting a quality player, but throughout preseason camp he has displayed qualities the we look for on and off the field.”
The athletic and physical 6-foot-4 defender was named the 2018 Colonial Athletic Association Defensive Player of the Year and wore the captain’s armband for Hofstra, where he started 69 matches in four seasons.
The 22-year-old is the first of the Red Bulls’ 2019 draft class to earn a contract.
“Sean has come into camp and earned this contract,” Red Bulls coach Chris Armas. “He has grasped the defensive tactics quickly, is athletic, and has many of the qualities we look for in center backs. Sean has a great attitude and we look forward to working with him to help him develop.”
Nealis, who earned an invite to the Red Bulls college combine in December, has impressed during the preseason with fellow Long Island, New York native Tim Parker taking him under his wing. He scored his first goal in a Red Bulls uniform in a 2-2 draw against the Portland Timbers in the Mobile Mini Sun Cup in Tucson, Ariz. Saturday night.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to get the chance to play for the New York Red Bulls,” Nealis said. “The coaching staff has been exemplary at helping me come along, and I am looking forward to growing as a player for this organization.”