Story by Joe Caulfield
Ask San Francisco head coach Brian Silcott about what sets midfielder Tom Zummo (nicknamed Zoom), apart from other midfielders, and you’d be surprised by the first thing out of his mouth.
“Height,” joked Silcott. “Most midfielders these days are over 6 feet tall, and I think he’s like 5’2”. That definitely sets him apart from the rest of them.
“The midfielder of style now is kind of the big guy that is quick and gets the big split, and is just powerful and explodes by people and gets their arm really extended. Whereas Zoom isn’t like that at all. He’s got much more of a really subtle approach, and just an explosive little quick step from one side to the other, a little stutter step. But he can get his hands free right away. Then on top of that, because he’s not really tall, he’s very physically strong running through a defender’s stick. If he gets an inch, he can then power his way through. He’s got really strong legs, and he’s very quick on his feet.”
There aren’t many midfielders in the MLL that received All-American four times in college. There’s also not many players from the Division II level period. Zummo received 1st-Team honors three times and 2nd-Team honors as a freshman at New York Institute of Technology. He led NYIT to two Division II championships and one runner-up finish. Jack Kaley, Zummo’s college coach, has been around the game for a long time. He places Zummo in an elite class.
“I’ve coached on many levels. I coached Team USA in the early ‘70s. I coached Long Island Lacrosse Club when we had Hall of Famers like Allan Lowe, Dick Finley, Ron Fraser, and Tommy Postel. I had Tommy Postel when he was young on an all-star team,” said Kaley. “Zummo is in that same caliber. The only thing is that other people haven’t seen him yet. I had predicted that if he’s given a fair tryout three or four years from now, he’s at the caliber of playing on Team USA.
“He’s exceptionally quick. I’ve been coaching 45 years, and of all the players he’s in the top three in that area that I’ve had in 45 years.”
Zummo’s quickness and subtleness are both areas of his game that he prides himself on, and they’ve both helped shape him into the player he is today.
“Run-and-gun is definitely the type of game that I like to play. I like unsettled situations instead of 6-on-6 situations. It’s easier to break down a defense when you’re not settled. That’s the type of player I am,” said Zummo. “I’ve never really been a person to sit there and control the ball. I feel as though if I have a match-up I would go to the cage every single time. I don’t have a problem with that.”
His ability to attack a defense has proven pretty valuable for San Francisco. After a year sitting behind some big names in Long Island, the opportunity for him to shine came with the expansion of the league.
“Doug Locker [San Fran GM] really liked him a lot. I didn’t know much about him. I was a little skeptical; I had never seen him play and thought he looked a little small,” said Silcott. “Doug said he’s a great player. Four times All-American team means you’re a pretty darn good player no matter what level you’re playing at. So we drafted him fairly early on to make sure we got him….We had a good feeling that he was going to be a solid offensive midfielder for us from the start. I think he’s been a little better, but there’s definitely things he still needs to work on to really become the full player he could become, but he’s doing a really good job for us.”
Zummo’s vision is also something that opens up the offensive front for the Dragons.
“He has a coach’s mind. He reads the defense well; he knows what’s open. He knows how to attack a defense. He doesn’t only attack his man, he’s attacking the defense,” added Kaley. “He’s very good at that, and he’s quick enough to make his move to get open. So it was just a matter of time; he just needed more exposure.”
The situation in San Fran has been good for Zummo. He’s had a chance to step out of the shadows of the Long Island Lizards’ bench and make on impact on the field for the Dragons. Zummo is quick to recall the phone call from Doug Locker that provided him the opportunity to be part of a new team in San Fran.
“The General Manager told me that the team that he’s putting together isn’t like a normal team. He’s not looking for the top 10 players in the MLL,” Zummo said. “He’s looking for 23 guys that can act and bond as though they were a college team, and be friends on and off the field as well in everything else they do in life. Once I heard that, it was exactly where I wanted to be because I can mold into that type of person with the people I play.”