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Konopka Leaves Foot In Door For EPL Dream – Soccer365
February 14, 2007

Konopka Leaves Foot In Door For EPL Dream

Soccer365 – 14/02/07
by Andrew Rogers

Former Providence College keeper Chris Konopka has given himself an excellent chance of achieving his EPL dream after impressing Charlton Athletic’s coaches at a week long trial in London, England last week.

The 6’5, 215 pound New Jersey native received quite a shock when he landed in the capital. Having arrived from training camp in the desolate, frozen tundra of Kansas City, Konopka found himself immersed at The Valley in the noise and chaos of a London derby, within hours of stepping off his flight.

The atmosphere was heightened by the fact that both teams were utterly desperate for points in their respective predicaments. Chelsea were refusing to give in to Manchester United’s early charge, and Charlton’s, very existence as a top flight club was in question- since needlessly parting of ways with Alan Curbishley.

Despite the sheer scale and intensity of English football, Konopka was not overawed by the experience, but now appreciates MLS is worlds away from arguably the strongest league on the planet, he said:

“I came in on Saturday morning and went to see the side play against Chelsea within a few hours, it was an amazing experience, I had never seen crowds like that before or the levels of passion from the fans. The whole country is focused on football, England is mad about the sport. When I walked into the stadium and felt the atmosphere it made me determined that this was definitely something I wanted to be part of.

“Against Chelsea they were really unlucky it was the first game I had seen live in the Premiership, Charlton had as many chances as Chelsea and could have at least won it or drawn. Charlton are second from bottom and Chelsea are second from top and yet they could have so easily won, the competition between the teams is intense and the line between winning and losing very fine. If they continue to play like that I can’t see how Charlton will go down this season.”

Konopka got his chance on the Monday and found himself in the surreal position of playing along side the stars he has previously been watching on ESPN and FSC. However, he was not overawed and grew into the experience, he added:

“I had been training with Kansas City for the previous week, I have been drafted but am not under contract during the pre season, before I came here, the training is actually very similar but the standards is slightly higher, basically the play moves a little quicker and the minds are a little sharper.

“After the first day I felt comfortable fitting in with the first team, especially in the small sided games. It’s a little more intense and up a level, but I certainly didn’t feel out of my depth once I got used to the pace, I have been happy with my performances.

“Mike Kelly has been coaching me and he has been amazing, I have learnt so much this week, I’ve been staying in a hotel and commuting to Charlton’s training ground.

Konopka also offers some interesting insight into the most sacred of soccer sanctums- the training ground. Unfortunately he was not able to hook up with fellow American Cory Gibbs, but was left in no doubt about who the big timers were on the team, and the quality of Alan Pardew’s ability as a head coach:

“Unfortunately Corey wasn’t around he was in the US getting knee surgery its been troubling him for a long while now, and while he is out there he has stayed a couple of weeks to get some surgery on his eye.

“Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is the big gun on the squad, he is a big and tough guy and the shots he unleashes are simply unstoppable. They have so much power, when I played against him in the small sided games it was a real learning experience, he was a serious contender and just by looking at him you could tell he was the man on the pitch.

“Pardew doesn’t get on anyone’s case and has a good rapport with the players obviously at this level a lot is expected of the players but they respond to that and want to meet his expectations of them, he knows what he’s talking about and is a great person to learn from.

“He did nothing drastic and certainly wasn’t reaming anyone out. When you’re a fan like me you see the manager just as that, managers, you forget or later find out that someone like Alan Pardew had a great career as a player also.

Trialing at Charlton will have sent tongues wagging in the EPL community, especially given his size and the US’s reputation for producing first class goalies. Furthermore, his name is familiar with Championship clubs as well after he trained with Cardiff City. Konopka future looks set but as with any American trying to make it abroad a slice of luck and timing are everything if you’re going to make the big time, he revealed:

“Right now they are in a situation where they have four keepers including one on loan from Liverpool, Scott Carson. He could be possibly be heading out after the end of the season they are ensure if he will be heading out at the end of the season, it depends on whether they get relegated or not. If they go down he may go back to Liverpool but they are not sure yet.

“But as things stand at the moment they are impressed with me and want to see more of me so they will keep monitoring my progress. I’m very pleased with the situation I’m so glad they have not shut the door on me, and rate my ability as a goalie.

“So I’ll take it from here, I’m legible to in Europe from next season, so I’m looking forward to the future. I wasn’t nervous going in to the meeting I’m very laid back and listen to a lot of reggae music nothing really fazes me.

“I’m not shutting any doors lets see what happens at Kansas. They have a great program, coaches and players. Also I know Kevin Hartman is there right now and a great person to learn from, and if that’s where I’m at I’m really looking forward to it. If anything comes up in the next couple of months, I’ll defiantly give it some consideration.”

By Andrew Rogers