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Other Sports

Soccer: New semi-professional team hopes to spark excitement around DeKalb County

Players listen to instruction from DeKalb County United Soccer coach Mike Gecan during tryouts in the Chessick Center at Northern Illinois University Saturday January 27, 2018. Mary Beth Nolan for Shaw Media
Players listen to instruction from DeKalb County United Soccer coach Mike Gecan during tryouts in the Chessick Center at Northern Illinois University Saturday January 27, 2018. Mary Beth Nolan for Shaw Media

DeKALB – A new semi-professional soccer team is getting ready for its debut season in DeKalb. The club, known as DeKalb County United, is the first of its kind for the DeKalb area.

The United Premier Soccer League said the recently formed DeKalb County United will join its Midwest Conference for the 2018 season. The nonprofit team kicked off the year by hosting tryouts Saturday evening at the Northern Illinois University Chessick Practice Center.

Among those in attendance Saturday was Sycamore native Tim Smith.

“This was extremely professional,” Smith said. “I played overseas years back, and this was very similar to a combine for a professional team. A lot of the guys who came out here gave us their all. There’s talent all around the DeKalb County area. It was great to see.”

Smith is one of the few players who already have secured a spot on DeKalb County United’s roster. He was part of the initial discussions when team president John Hall sparked the idea of creating the team last year.

Smith has plenty of soccer experience – he played youth soccer at a Sycamore soccer club before starting on the varsity team all four years at Sycamore High School. After graduating from Sycamore in 2003, Smith had several playing stints around the region and even played with U.S. National Team goalkeeper Brad Guzan. He played collegiately at the University of Dubuque and then later returned home to play at Kishwaukee College. While at Kishwaukee, Smith jumped at an opportunity to leave and play soccer professionally overseas in Iceland.

“I’m very fortunate to have been to many places through soccer,” Smith said.

Other than his one season at Kishwaukee College, every team Smith has played on throughout his career has had one common theme: the team was far from home.

Now, a member of DeKalb County United, Smith, 33, said it’s like a dream come true.

“I have a lot of loyalty to the area I grew up in,” he said. “This is an incredible opportunity for our city and county. Home has always had a special meaning to me. Whatever I can do to help this club, I will. It’s given me a lot of confidence about myself.

“There’s a lot of excitement being built up. The turnout is greater than I expected, which is really good to see. I think we’re going to build a really good team.”

Smith works full time at the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office and is confident he’ll be able to fit playing for DeKalb County United into his schedule.

Genoa-product Anthony Parra, another player expected to sign with DeKalb County United, is a parole officer in Kane County. He’s also confident the team’s schedule of two practices and one game a week will fit in seamlessly.

“If you love the sport, then you make time for it,” Parra said.

Players who tried out included ex-professionals and current college players who are looking for extra practice and exposure during the summer months. The fourth-tier league’s season runs from May to July.

DeKalb County United will hold its games at NIU’s Soccer and Track & Field Complex, which has a capacity of 1,500. The team will be coached by Michael Gecan, a physical education teacher at Burlington Central High School.

“Coach Gecan impressed us with his vision for what the club can become and his understanding of the local soccer landscape here in DeKalb County,” Hall said in a release on the team’s website. “He has a comprehensive plan for identifying, recruiting and developing players, as well as engaging with local youth players year round. His vision aligns with our club’s mission to unite our community through soccer.”

Hall is hopeful DKCU will create excitement about local soccer with the county’s youth.

“Our ultimate goal is to get kids to our games and get them to want to support our players,” Hall said. “We want kids to see our players out in the community and know that’s somebody they look up to.”

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