DeKALB – On the final night of the second season of DeKalb County United soccer, Patrik Smith recorded another shutout, putting an exclamation point on a season of growth for both the 19-year-old Sycamore graduate and the organization as a whole.
Smith, who played on the Elmhurst University soccer team last fall, is tranferring closer to home and will attend NIU this fall, but he still plans on being visible in local soccer for years to come. DKCU fans should expect to see him in front of the net come next summer.
“As long as I live in Sycamore, I can’t see myself anywhere else,” Smith said.
[Mary Beth Nolan]
That’s music to the ears of DKCU coach Mike Gecan.
“The fact that he’s got youth behind him and he’s already taking this on at the age he’s at is pretty impressive,” Gecan said. “His shot saving and super-saves ability, as I like to say, is spectacular. He keeps us in games because he’s capable of making super-saves.”
In Smith’s eyes, the on-field improvement comes from the team coming together more on and off the field, as well as from how prepared the unit has been for each contest this season. He also credited goalkeeper coach Tim Smith with helping him to improve.
“Our coach did a great job at scouting everybody. We never came into a game not knowing what their strengths were, not knowing what their weaknesses were,” Smith said. “And we just played around it. I would say every single game we had a different gameplan developed for every week that our coach came up with. I think our guys, like I said, how we came together [with] our chemistry and everything, we just knew what we were doing. I think that’s what brought us success.”
The overall step up in on-field communication and trusting his instincts led Smith to take on more responsibility.
“I take it upon myself. I’m fully responsible. I’m the first one,” Smith said. “If anybody is to blame for anything, it’s going to be me. I’ve got to be talking 100 percent of the time.”
DKCU came in second in its division of five teams, the United Premier Soccer League’s Midwest Conference Central Division, and posted an overall record of 8-4-3
For club president John Hall and Gecan, the focus going forward continues to be better establishing the relationship between the club and the community.
“Our whole mission is united through soccer. We talk about it internally, that if you can have a small number of fans that exist, is that good enough? And to us, it’s really not,” Hall said. “We’re not uniting the community if the community isn’t here. We obviously need to be financially stable to operate, but this is what’s important, when you see fans and people engaging and things like that. We’re in a great position.”
Last year, DKCU ran two camps, a striker’s camp and a goalkeeper’s camp. Smith said he was looking forward to being part of more camps this offseason, fitting with the mission that DKCU has laid out.
“I know we’re planning on implementing more and more camps to get the kids involved because they’re our future generation,” Smith said.
With the end of the season, right back to the drawing board DKCU’s leaders go.
“We had success this year, record-wise, but our fans dropped a little bit, and this is about them. Without them, there is no point doing this,” Gecan said. “We need to get back to doing more stuff in the community, making sure our players are involved; and ‘uniting our community’ is the club’s motto. Making sure that’s our focus moving into this offseason is getting more involved in the community, and hopefully it helps us to get fans out to the game[s] again.”