Patrick O'Toole recalls visiting the University of Michigan when he was about 12 years old and saying that someday he would be on the Ann Arbor campus, when it was his time for college.

Well, that will be the case for O'Toole, albeit a little delayed, especially in terms of his play on the pitch.

O'Toole, an All Super Essex Conference American Division first-team soccer player, will take a half-gap year at the University of Michigan, so he will be entering the Big Ten school in January and target playing for Big Blue in the fall of 2023.

It makes sense. The University of Michigan men's soccer team has a dozen seniors for the fall 2022 season, so the chances were slim for him to get playing time.

"They didn't have spots for my class but still wanted me, so they figured it best if they took me a half a year later and considered me to be the Class of 2023, to give me an extra year of eligibility," he said.

Instead of playing for the Wolverines, O'Toole will be playing this fall in the MLS NEXT, which is the youth development league for the country’s top professional league, Major League Soccer.

"My goal always in my training is to better my odds of having a strong and worthwhile four years” in college, he said. 

"Everything I've given and sacrificed in my life has revolved around the game, and I want to make sure I can further push myself past boundaries to have that hard work and sacrifice pay off. I'm working to become a flex outside back that's able to play either on the left or right side."

O'Toole pointed out the position because the University of Michigan will be graduating most of its defenders after the 2022 season.

Talking about Major League Soccer, his older brother, Kevin, also a Montclair High School alum, is with the league’s New York City Football Club (NYCFC). Kevin was drafted in the first round of the 2022 MLS SuperDraft by NYCFC but has been battling injuries to start the season, Patrick O’Toole said. He has recently been playing for NYCFC 2, the reserve team and minor league affiliate, to get up to speed. 

His brother was a two-time Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year at Princeton University, Patrick O’Toole said.

"He was telling me to pick a college that I would want to get to, not one that others might choose for me or encourage me to essentially follow my gut," he said.

In his final year at MHS, O'Toole scored five goals and had four assists, but it was his overall play anywhere on the pitch that made him an All Super Essex Conference American first-teamer.

"Patrick O'Toole is a complete player and has a great soccer IQ," Montclair High School boys soccer head coach Toure Weaver said. "Throughout his playing career for us at Montclair High School, he played multiple positions and always at an exceptional level.”

MHS’ Patrick O'Toole (8) is targeting the 2023 fall season to play soccer for the University of Michigan. O'Toole is taking a half-gap year and will enter the school in January. (EDWARD KENSIK/STAFF)
MHS’ Patrick O'Toole (8) is targeting the 2023 fall season to play soccer for the University of Michigan. O'Toole is taking a half-gap year and will enter the school in January. (EDWARD KENSIK/STAFF)

In his last couple of seasons with the Mounties, Weaver said, O’Toole was his “glue guy.”

"As a junior Patrick played wherever we needed him to fill in," the coach said. "As a senior he stepped up even more and was able to step into the role as the engine of the team. In possession and defensively he was always consistent and led our team. Even more than his ability on the field is the teammate and person that he is."

Weaver said O’Toole's versatility will give him an edge for playing time when it comes to the fall of 2023 at Michigan. "At the next level I know he will find success, as he will do whatever the team needs from him and is willing to earn his minutes," he added.

O’Toole agreed. "Versatility is a big part of what makes me unique as a player, so I want to continue to strengthen that to give myself the best chance possible to step on the field in any scenario and fight for a spot," he said.

Looking back on his years at MHS, he said his biggest moment came in his junior year, when the Mounties came back to defeat Kearny, 4-2, in the North East G, Group 4 semifinals. O’Toole did not start, but came in halfway through the first half. Montclair went down 2-0 to Kearny, only to score the final four goals, including O'Toole's score that tied the game at 2.

"Watching from the bench, I was eager to get on the pitch and make something happen," he said, noting that his team scored three times to take the lead at halftime, 3-2. 

"Our team had taken ahold of the game and started bringing it to them… The team had a fire lit within every individual’s body that refused to lose that game, and so we won it."

Montclair would go on to win the North East G, Group 4 title, 3-0, over Livingston.

For his senior season, in the fall of 2021, he points to a 2-0 win over Northern Highlands on Senior Night under the lights at Montclair State University.

"Being able to play with guys that maybe hadn't seen the field as much as they would've liked in front of a massive crowd of high schoolers was pretty special even for me," said O'Toole, who would score one of the two goals.

Unfortunately for O'Toole, his senior year did not end like his junior year. The Mounties lost to Kearny, 2-0, in the North 1 Group 4 state quarterfinals.

This summer, O’Toole has had a plan of training: "Since I am not joining this fall and rather in January, this summer has been me focusing on sharpening the edges of my game while maintaining a proper level of fitness."