Gunnar Studenhofft has speed that would make any scout impressed. Dating back to the summer, word began to spread on what his upside looked like. Studenhofft leveraged that athletic profile and goal-scoring potential to become a third-round pick in the recent Major League Soccer Draft by the Colorado Rapids.
By hearing his name called on Dec. 19 in the third round, junior forward Studenhofft cemented his legacy in the Manhattan men’s soccer program, joining Francois D’ulysse as the only Jaspers taken in the draft in recent years.
Dulysse was selected by the New England Revolution at 51st overall in the second round of the 2021 MLS Draft. His career with the club never got off the ground, but it did provide an interesting case study for future Manhattan players with similar ambitions. Studenhofft happened to be the next prospect to land in that position, thanks in large part to his breakneck speed that was once clocked at 4.27 in the 40-yard dash.
“I’ve been around players that have his size and power,” Manhattan assistant coach Andrew Santos told The Riverdale Press. “But Gunnar is that complete version of an athlete. Good size, speed, and agility.”
It’s a trait that rivals the likes of high-level football wide receivers, a sport and position he once briefly entertained. Instead, soccer was always the end goal for Studenhofft, a Cayman Islands native who grew up around the sport.
“I didn’t have any knowledge of the game,” Studenhofft told the Press back in September about how he wasn’t ready to sacrifice soccer for a little known sport where he is from. “I stuck to what I was good at and that was soccer.”
Studenhofft stuck with trying to score goals, and the exposure that comes from having a nose for the goal. Studenhofft tallied five goals in 2022 and increased that mark to seven this past fall to lead Manhattan. Unfortunately, the timing of his strikes could have been better, and Studenhofft ultimately fell short of reaching double digits while Manhattan was eliminated in the semifinals by arch nemesis Iona for the second year in a row.
“He’s so dedicated to being the perfect athlete,” Manhattan head coach Jorden Scott said, while acknowledging that it could sometimes lead to self-pressure on the part of the passionate Studenhofft.
Once the disappointment of the end of the season died down, the focus became getting ready for the draft. The whole process was a whirlwind for Studenhofft.
“I knew there were clubs that were interested in me but I didn’t know that I would be selected this early,” Studenhofft said. “I didn’t know I would be selected this early.”
According to Scott, multiple teams reached out to the Manhattan program to gather data on Studenhofft.
It was all aggregated in Manhattan’s player technology they had used to track certain performance metrics. Ultimately, Colorado liked what they saw the most.
“Player tech has been huge because we have been able to build our program scientifically,” Santos said. “We want our boys to be the best version of themselves.”
It goes back to the support of the program and the money raised in recent years to make amenities like the Gaelic Park Athletic Center possible, as well as the Jaspers Soccer Supporters Club which gives exclusive access to those who join as members. This has created a buzz in the air to want to go see budding stars such as Studenhofft.
Santos graduated from Manhattan in 2015 and didn’t get nearly the same experience as the current student-athletes get today.
“We always say we crawled to make this program walk because we were around when it wasn’t really elite,” Santos said.
Studenhofft will play one more year of college soccer at University of South Florida before hopefully breaking into camp with the Rapids.
“I’m really happy for him and his family,” Scott said.
“I am proud of him because I think this was always his dream to be a professional soccer athlete.”