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Konopka: A Wizard in goal – The Cowl
May 3, 2007

Konopka: A Wizard in goal

(A feature article on former Jersey Shore Boca and Providence College goalkeeper Chris Konopka – Published in The Cowl – PC’s school newspaper)

By: Erin Redihan ’08
The Cowl
Published: 5/3/07

Almost every young athlete dreams at one point or another of going pro. Some entertain this aspiration more seriously than others and pursue their sport in high school or prep school. Even fewer athletes are driven-and lucky-enough to be able to turn their passions into careers.

Providence senior goaltender Chris Konopka is one of the select few able to play his favorite sport and get paid for it. Though some luck inevitably goes into being drafted for a pro team-i.e. Konopka being selected by the Kansas City Wizards of Major League Soccer-determination and hard work are the keys to making it to the elite level.

Konopka’s soccer career began in the same way as any average kid-playing for the youth leagues in Tom’s River, N.J., where he grew up. It was not until Konopka reached high school and was contacted by recruiters that he realized that he was fairly talented.

Although scouts from several East Coast schools-including Big East foes West Virginia and Seton Hall-contacted Konopka, he had only one place in mind. From his first recruiting trip to the Ocean State, the goalie knew that Providence College was the place for him.

The Friars were ready to welcome Konopka as well. Providence College Head Soccer Coach Chaka Daley called him “a good prospect for a young kid.” He played five games in the net his freshman year, allowing five goals, only one of which came in Big East play. Konopka played every minute of the season in 2005 and recorded six shutouts. He matched that number of shutouts in 2006 along with posting an 0.94 goals against average.

The last two seasons have been some of the best in Friar Soccer history, due at least in part to Konopka’s solid play in the net. With him in goal, the Friars have now played in the Big East Tournament Semi-Finals in consecutive seasons and in two straight NCAA Tournaments-the first time PC has done this.

Along with impressive team accomplishments, Konopka’s play in goal has won him some solo honors. In 2005, he was named to the second team All-Big East, making him only the second Friar goalie to earn this distinction.

“He definitely was a huge part [of the team’s success],” said Daley. “We were delighted for him to be considered…It’s a lot easier to be a player on a Big East team because there are more spots, as opposed to the goalie where’s there’s only one spot.”

Konopka’s impressive stats in 2006 earned him an invitation to the 2007 Adidas Major League Soccer Combine-one of only 58 college seniors and five goalies from all over the United States to be selected.

“Being a goalkeeper is a difficult job,” said Daley. “Ultimately, you’re the last line of defense. If the ball gets through you, then everyone is looking at you.”

At the Combine, Konopka participated in drills and played in games while scouts from various Major League teams evaluated the talent.

Though he was not selected in the MLS SuperDraft on Jan. 12, the Kansas City Wizards picked up Konopka in the Supplemental Draft on Jan. 18.

“To be drafted is not only a huge accomplishment for Chris but for the whole program,” said Daley. “To have our first players be drafted-me being the first and he the second-we’re delighted. We hope to have some more going forward.”

Life got a little busy after the draft for the Friar goalie. He only had a week to finish up at PC and get down to Kansas City for the start of spring training.

Konopka spent a few weeks with the Wizards before setting off to England to pursue another opportunity-a tryout with Charleton of the English Premier League. In his time overseas, Konopka played for scouts of various European soccer clubs. He has since returned to the states to continue preparing for his rookie season in MLS. Though he has yet to showcase his skills in an actual pro game, the future looks bright for Konopka, just the second Friar ever to be drafted for the MLS.

A good work ethic and strong soccerability are not all that Konopka has going for him-Daley points to his character as one of the goalie’s best attributes.

“His personality is contagious,” said Daley. “He’s really a nice young man. He’s very spirited and well-liked among the players, but he can be demanding of them as well, which was extremely important in the role of being a goalkeeper.”

In his four years at PC, Konopka has proven that one can be a winner both on and off the field. There are many athletes who would be satisfied with just gathering individual honors, but that is not the case for Chris Konopka. Maybe it is because he did not come in as an immediate star, that he spent two seasons on the bench, watching those ahead of him and biding his time until it was his turn to step into the goalie box on Glay Field.

Though he has moved on to a bigger athletic stage that might eventually lead him overseas to block shots from some of the best soccer players in the world, all will hope that Konopka will hold on to his work ethic and leadership qualities that have taken him from the youth soccer leagues along the Jersey Shore to the Big East and, most recently, to the MLS.

It is his winning ways in and away from soccer that make him a senior standout and a worthy ambassador for Friar Athletics.
© Copyright 2007 the Cowl