Chiduku’s story is a game-winner

A second chance.

That’s all St. John’s forward Tafadzwa Chiduku needed to prove himself to the University’s soccer brass.

Last season as a freshman, Chiduku, typically referred to as Trevor, wanted to try out for the men’s team as a walk-on but was turned away.

An old adage says to always go with your first instinct, but in this case, the program is lucky they changed their mind.

“At first, they didn’t give me a chance,” Chiduku said. “I came to practice and they said we have a full roster, we can’t take you in.”

After Saturday’s 1-0 win over USF in which Chiduku scored the game-winner, the sophomore looked back at the situation when his talent was stored on a shelf for a year.

“That was a big mistake,” he said with a laugh.

It may have been a huge one. In his first year with the team, Chiduku is tied for the team lead in goals with five – two of which were game-winners – and has added an assist in an already 12-win season.

Red Storm fans appreciate him for his boundless energy. He has been seen running on offense, supporting on defense and streaking through the midfield throughout his 849 minutes this season. He constantly beats his opponents to the ball and his hustle in the opponents’ box has led to countless scoring opportunities.

He has even earned himself a partial scholarship.

“It’s been a nice surprise,” head coach Dave Masur said. “He works hard defensively to come back in midfield a lot from his forward position. He’s got an endless engine and he keeps moving. He’s done well to stay with it and keep working hard.”

Certainly, it seems St. John’s needs Chiduku’s goal-scoring abilities. And now, more than ever, Chiduku needs his team.

Last New Year’s Eve, Chiduku’s mother, Gertrude Jokonya, died of heart failure at age 43. She brought Chiduku and his three siblings to New York. Chiduku said he admired his mother more than anyone in the world, and with his father not around, he found a haven in St. John’s soccer.

“The team has been a family to me,” Chiduku said. “They’ve supported me all this time.”
The team accepted him and began to count on him regularly, as early as when the Red Storm first entered the national ranks this year.

“He came out of nowhere to a team that’s trying to win a national championship,” junior Nelson Becerra said, who assisted on Chiduku’s game-winning goal against South Florida.

Masur has seen the integral spark the young forward brings to the team. He has started eight games this year, including the last three. And he’s scored a goal in each of those three consecutive starts. Chiduku could be starting many more as the season winds down toward playoff time.

“Starting a game, that means the coaches have confidence in you,” Chiduku said. “If the coach has confidence in you, then it gives you some confidence in yourself. So when I’m starting confident and comfortable, I do what it is that I have to do.”

The No. 4 ranked soccer team may be feeling comfortable sitting atop the Red Division in the Big East with two weeks left to play in the regular season.

Of course, there is plenty of work yet to be done, but they can be confident they have an unfaltering young athlete who is willing to lead them.