The Official Site of Jersey Shore Boca Jr. FC

A USA Cup Return
July 18, 2007

It was seven years ago this month, during the summer of the year 2000, when the Jersey Shore Boca U16 boys team took on the world at Schwan’s USA Cup at the National Sports Center in Blaine, MN. Soccer America’s Greg Hutton details a feature story on a former Boca standout, Chris Konopka, who returned to play at the USA Cup again this summer, however, this time as a professional.
Schwan’s USA Cup Alum Chris Konopka Returns as Pro Player

By Greg Hutton
Soccer America Tournament Edition
Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Back in the 2000 SCHWAN’S USA CUP, Chris Konopka, a young, up-and-coming goalkeeper led the Jersey Shore Boca U16 boys to the championship game against Denmark’s Sollerod.

He also watched the Kansas City Wizards take on the Chicago Fire in a special Major League Soccer (MLS) exhibition game during the tournament.

Little did he know that, seven years later, he would return to the same field, this time as a professional player for the same team he watched in that tournament.

Konopka, now a towering 6-foot-5 goalkeeper for the Wizards, entered the SCHWAN’S USA CUP Soccer Challenge between Kansas City and the Minnesota Thunder (United Soccer League First Division) Tuesday night in the 56th minute.

“It’s kind of funny – I remember wanting to get [the players’] autographs after the game,” Konopka said of the Wizards vs. Fire exhibition game. “And now I’m one of those players.”

The 22-year-old Toms River, N.J., native was taken 29th in MLS’ Supplemental Draft this past January after a successful career at Providence College.

He’s been with the Wizards since then, despite not officially graduating until May.

Konopka keep a clean sheet in his 34 minutes of play, and Kansas City’s crafty play provided for scoring opportunities regularly throughout its 5-0 shutout at the National Sports Center Stadium.

It took the Wizards less than five minutes to get on the board and they headed into the locker room at halftime carrying a 4-0 lead.

A pair of first-half goals from Yura Movsisyan and Ryan Pore provided for the comfortable margin.

Minnesota had its first real scoring opportunity in the 31st minute, but Keisuke Ota’s shot from a tough angle was smothered by Kansas City starting goalkeeper Eric Kronberg.

Kansas City’s third goal – a penalty kick – was converted in similar fashion to Zinedine Zidane’s famous tally in the 2006 World Cup, as Ryan Pore chipped Thunder goalkeeper Joe Warren down the middle.

A spectacular volley in the 52nd minute rounded out the Wizards’ scoring and enabled Kurt Morsink to add his name to the scoresheet.

The announced attendance of 7,241 at the National Sports Center Stadium was the largest home crowd of the season for the Thunder.

Tuesday night’s game was actually Konopka’s third visit to SCHWAN’S USA CUP, as in addition to playing in the 2000 tournament, he also came to Blaine to watch his older brother, Mike, play in the 1997 tournament.

Konopka’s squad stayed at the University of Minnesota dorms in 2000, which allowed him to meet many new people from a variety of locations. He remembers that as one of the highlights of the tournament.

And apparently Boca’s 3-1 loss in the title game that year didn’t have an adverse effect on Konopka’s opinion of the tournament.

“It was an exciting atmosphere,” he said. “It was like the youth World Cup. I had a great time and was pretty excited when I found out that I would be coming back [to play with the Wizards].”

By Greg Hutton
Soccer America Tournament Edition
Wednesday, July 18, 2007