2017 NCAA Soccer Bracket Challenge

If you're on your phone, click here to see the standings in a pdf.


The Deadline to play is
1:00 PM (ET) Thursday, November 16th.

Welcome back to Everybody Soccer's fourth annual NCAA Soccer Bracket Challenge. Last year Sarah was one of three to pick the correct champion as her bracket ran away with a new all-time record in the bracket challenge. Fortunately for you, there are no roll over points and everyone sets back to zero. Admission is free and the only prize is bragging rights. Student-athletes and the elderly are all welcome to play!

What Is the NCAA Tournament?

Every year NCAA soccer concludes their season with a 48 team tournament. 24 conference representatives are selected by either winning their respective conference or tournament. The remaining 24 spots are filled by teams earning at-large bids, regardless of conference affiliation. The first round features 32 teams facing off while the second round introduces the 16 seeded teams who were given a bye past the first round.

Click here to see the 2017 bracket

What Is the Bracket Challenge?

The bracket challenge is a free-to-enter competition with no prize so anyone can play. Simply make your predictions on each game in the national tournament then submit it before the first game kicks off, on Thursday afternoon. The winner will be determined by who scores the most points. You can score a maximum of 176 points total (32 each round, except the first which is only 16). The rounds are weighted as such:

Round 1 - 1 point (16 games)
Round 2 - 2 point (16 games)
Round 3 - 4 points (8 games)
Quarterfinals - 8 points (4 games)
Semifinals - 16 points
Final - 32 points

How to Play

There are a couple of different ways to submit a bracket.

1. I have created a fancy interactive tool through Microsoft Excel but unfortunately does not work on phones. (You can only use it on a desktop or laptop computer.) 

  • Click here to go to view the bracket template.
  • Underneath "2017 NCAA Soccer Bracket Challenge Template" in the top left, click
    • File > Download As > Microsoft Excel (.xslx)
  • The spreadsheet will download to your computer. Fill out column D, the blue and green cells. The rest of the document will automatically update itself. The spreadsheet has formulas to double check accuracy and spelling, so make sure you end up with smiley faces in the purple column.
  • In the green column at the top, enter your name, state or country you represent, bracket name (can be anything serious or silly), and your twitter handle to appear on the scoreboard.
  • Email me the file at: everybodysoccer@yahoo.com or tweet me @letsallsoccer
  • If something goes terribly wrong or you mess up the document, just go back to the link to re-download the document and start over.


2. You can either download the bracket and edit it on your phone or computer. You can email me the final product at everybodysoccer@yahoo.com or tweet a picture @letsallsoccer.

Click here to view the printable bracket


3. If you're having trouble downloading the bracket, you can always write down all your picks on a napkin, take a picture of it, and send it my way. It doesn't matter if you write it in crayon or spell it out with macaroni art, as long as I can read each pick, you're in!



Send in brackets to:

Deadline Is 1:00 PM (ET)
Thursday, November 16th.



RPIs and Schedules - Dan Gaucho has a great site for all your RPI and scheduling needs.

Media CoverageTop Drawer Soccer has multiple articles on the tournament, rankings, and players to watch for.

History - Take a look at each school's history with the tournament. Teams were given points for how many rounds they went (Round Pts) and if they held a seed (Seed Pts).  "+/-" is gauging if they overperform or underperform in the tournament given their seed history.

Selection Show - Watch a brief recap on each team's season as they unveil the bracket.

Lastly, here are a few stats on how far average seeds advance in the tournament. Second seeds are the most successful while 14 seeds (who start in the second round) only advance half the time.

Performance by Seed
avg number of rounds completed, 1 to 7

1 - 4.2
2 - 5.7
3 - 4.3
4 - 3.4
5 - 3.7
6 - 3.3
7 - 3.3
8 - 4.1
9 - 3.2
10 - 3.0
11 - 3.1
12 - 3.2
13 - 3.0
14 - 2.5
15 - 2.6
16 - 3.2
unseeded - 1.7

Everything You Missed From American Goalkeeping Last Month (October 2017)

cover photo belongs to Jane Gershovich / Seattle Reign FC

Easily the biggest news that slipped by most was the announcement of Madalyn Schiffel's retirement. Earlier this summer I rated her as not only a top USWNT prospect, but also a top U24 goalkeeper in the world. Schiffel had played at nearly every level of the USWNT youth programs and was a standout collegiate goalkeeper. After watching her highlights, it's easy to see why.

For those that are worried about the USMNT's player development, they may also want to take a hard look at the 22-25 year old bracket on the women's side. Players are graduating college only to find themselves out of luck when it comes to meaningful playing time in the United States. Schiffel is a great example of a talented goalkeeper who had to leave the country to get games under her belt. She earned 22 starts for Avaldsnes in 2016, finishing second in Norway's top league and qualifying for the Champions League. She would return to Seattle where she made one only start for the Reign in 2017, in the last game of the season.

The NWSL is not a viable league for rookies to earn playing time yet the USWNT does not reward young players for plying their trade overseas, as USWNT rosters are continually filled without one European-based player. Until there is a clear path for continued development for college grads, expect more early retirements from promising players who can't find playing time.

Most are familiar with Bill Hamid's departure for Denmark, which I gave my thoughts over on ASA about why fans should be weary of expecting Hamid to still be around in 2022. David Bingham is another goalkeeper who is looking like he is on his way out. Chicago, Montreal, RSL, Minnesota, and Los Angeles are probably his best options in MLS unless he wants to follow Hamid's path overseas.

Haley Kopmeyer and Britt Eckerstrom are heading to Australia for the winter. A handful of players going on loan to the Australia's W-League has occurred fairly consistently over the past couple years and is a great way for players to get another 10-12 games into their seasons. Kopmeyer has already played one game for Canberra United, in a 2-1 loss, while Eckerstrom is 2-0 with the Newcastle Jets.

Adrianna Franch earned two back-to-back rewards for her recent stellar play. First, she was named the NWSL's Goalkeeper of the Year and then was immediately invited into the USWNT's camp for the upcoming games against Canada. The USWNT has been fickle when it comes to playing goalkeepers not named Naeher or Harris so it's unlikely Franch will see time, although the Thorns goalkeeper is currently playing very well so she may be able to edge out some aging competition.

A number of American goalkeepers are doing well overseas. Both Alyssa Gianetti and Katie Fraine were in the running for top goalkeeper of the year in Norway's premier league, the Toppserien. Bryane Heaberlin has made seven starts for fourth place FFC Frankfurt. Emily Dolan and Medyk Konin fell 14-0 on aggregate to Lyon in Champions League play but Dolan held her own despite being constantly under siege. Jillian McVicker (Olimpia Cluj) and Libby Stout (Apollon Limassol) both ended their Champions League run in the round of 16 while Megan Dorsey (AC Sparta Praha) is the last American goalkeeper in the tournament. Adelaide Gay and IBV won the Icelandic Cup Final, in large part due to the American's saves. CJ dos Santos trained with Benfica's first team at the end of the month.

Audrey Baldwin wrote two articles for Women's Soccer Zone (first and second) on her time playing in Kosovo. University of Virginia and US U20 goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell recently spoke on his season in a podcast. Andrew Dykstra was featured on this site as we talked earlier this month on his goalkeeping style and off-the-field hobbies.

Butler goalkeeper Eric Dick made a fantastic double save last month that deserves your attention.

Lastly, some goalkeepers provided some lighthearted news in the wake of the biggest USMNT collapse of all-time.

Ranking the Eight Goalkeepers Left in the MLS Playoffs

It’s been a long time coming but we’ve finally dwindled down to the final eight teams in the MLS playoffs. While I’m disappointed we won’t see a Guzan v Melia final, as both Atlanta United and Sporting Kansas City have already been eliminated, we’ve already witnessed some great goalkeeping in the first round. Luis Robles, Tyler Deric and newly acquired Stefan Marinovic all posted shutouts, with Deric and Marinovic playing in their first career MLS playoff games. And despite ending up on the wrong side of the scoreboard, Andrew Dykstra and Brad Guzan played 240 minutes with only one goal conceded between the two (a GAA line of 0.375).

But the one goalkeeping performance that can’t be left out is Zack Steffen’s shutout and two penalty save night.

As if the eight saves in the 120 minutes wasn’t enough, Steffen put the icing on the cake when he saved two penalties and would have made it a third had it been on frame. Steffen was already receiving some USMNT shouts but after Wednesday night’s performance, he seems to be the frontrunner for the majority of fans.

Moving into the conference semifinals, there are eight goalkeepers all eyeing the prize of lifting the MLS Cup. While records reset, certain teams are certainly more favored than others. Mytopsportsbooks.com has Toronto FC and New York City FC as the frontrunners while Houston and New York are outside looking in. But for a team to reach the final, their goalkeeping will either make or break them down the final stretch, as we witnessed last year. Here are the top eight remaining goalkeepers in the playoffs and what to expect from each every one of them.


1. Stefan Frei - Seattle Sounders

(Lindsey Wasson/The Seattle Times)

(Lindsey Wasson/The Seattle Times)

What to expect: Many remember his save in the final last year but most forget that the save came largely after doing nothing all game. The save was a great testament to how focus and dedication can reward a goalkeeper. Frei comes in prepared, probably more than ever, and with a 7-3-3 playoff record under his belt. It’s exactly the type of goalkeeper you want in net this time of year. Don’t expect his saves to be mechanically clean, as Frei is known to be a little unorthodox, but he’s willing to put his body on the line any way possible to help his team. If Seattle aren’t repeat champions, it probably won’t be because of Frei’s mistakes.


2. Luis Robles - New York Red Bulls

(Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

(Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

What to expect: Entering the conference semifinals, Robles and Frei combined for over 84% of career playoff games between the eight starting goalkeepers, although Robles is 5-7-3 (W-L-T) in postseason play. The Red Bulls are currently on an odd note, with only two wins in their last 11 regular season games but also a 4-0 stomping over the Fire in quarterfinals. For a team who has talent but not the consistency, added pressure is typically put on the goalkeeper for setting the right tone. Robles showed up Wednesday night and it’s fair to expect more clutch saves from Robles against Toronto.


3. Zack Steffen - Columbus Crew

(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

What to expect: Steffen possesses a certain amount of poise that’s incredibly unique to not only his age bracket, but also MLS goalkeepers. He rarely gets riled up on a big save. Instead he keeps his cool, acting like he’s done it a million times already. It’s a fascinating display and the Crew really seem to feed off of it. He’s already made noise with his penalty heroics but his 1v1 and aerial game aren't his strong suits. His athleticism typically overtakes any shortcomings in his game and it's worked well for him in most cases. If a team can catch Steffen in an unconfident position, they won’t have to face him in a penalty shootout, but it won't be an easy task.


4. Tyler Deric - Houston Dynamo

(Trask Smith)

(Trask Smith)

What to expect: Out of all of my favorite lateral movements, Deric has my favorite. It’s akin to Oliver Kahn’s two footed hop, instead of the more popular step and drive method. Both Deric and Kahn's dive pushes off with their back leg but without taking power away from the lead step. It’s a tough mechanic but it’s why Deric has a Michael Jordan gravity defying leap. (Yes, I just compared Deric to both Oliver Kahn and Michael Jordan in the same paragraph.) However Deric, like many others, doesn’t have the playoff experience to fall back on and has yet to build a resume of clutch saves. It’s a great platform for Deric to show the league that he’s been underreported, but it’s also new territory for him as well.


5. Alex Bono - Toronto FC

( Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports )

( Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports )

What to expect: After some less than outstanding seasons in the USL, the 23 year old Syracuse alum has put the pieces together in his first year as a starter with Toronto. Bono’s defense have done a wonderful job of letting Bono focus on his game without giving him added headaches. Bono still has room to grow when it comes to close range reactions and priority managing in awkward situations, as displayed in his 5-3 loss to Montreal back in September. If Toronto can continue to play their defense and Bono keeps his consistency he’s gained throughout the year, the Toronto goalkeeper’s first playoff run can be a strong highlight in his career


6. Stefan Marinovic - Vancouver Whitecaps


What to expect: The league isn't too familiar with the New Zealander, outside that he’s taken over the starting spot from David Ousted. Marinovic isn’t as near as flashy as Ousted but it works well for him. He’s not going to be coughing up any major mistakes as he’s already been capped by New Zealand 22 times. While I don’t think Marinovic is going to make any major mistakes, I’m curious how his communication is going to hold up in pressure situations with the language barrier, especially for a defense that’s known for leaking shots.


7. Sean Johnson - New York City FC



What to expect: It’s bizarre to think that Johnson has only one playoff game in his seven years with Chicago until you remember he was playing for the Fire. Johnson has seen a resurgence in his career since coming to New York but, similar to Bono and Deric, he doesn’t possess a history of playoff experience and years of consistency under his belt. Johnson relies on his quick reactions and long frame to produce saves and it's worked well this year. While he definitely has sped up his footwork, Johnson’s limited lateral footwork can still get him into hot water. If there’s a low shot to his side that requires him to move his feet or make quick decisions in the box, he may have a hard time keeping the ball out of the net.


8. Jeff Attinella - Portland Timbers

(USA Today Sports Images)

(USA Today Sports Images)

What to expect: Yet another goalkeeper without any playoff experience. 29 year old Jeff Attinella has only 43 MLS games to his name, less than Johnson has over the last two years. Attinella is a really interesting case because he shares similarities to a young goalkeeper who still needs to figure out awkward, sprawling situations. However Attinella carries a chip on his shoulder as a goalkeeper in his position must have. After being told you’re just the backup for a number of years, a goalkeeper either fights through it or fades out. Attinella’s frame of mind is sharp and if the Timbers defense lets Attinella do his job without any Omar Gonzalez-esque shots on goal, then the veteran keeper will have a fine playoff run.

Andrew Dykstra Interview: SKC Goalkeeper on Home Brewing and Overcoming Setbacks

cover photo belongs to Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The interview occurred earlier this month before Dykstra started for Sporting Kansas City at the end of the season. Dykstra subbed on for an injured Tim Melia on October 8th and played the last four regular season games for SKC, as well as performing well in the 1-0 extra time loss to Houston in the MLS quarterfinals. Dykstra discusses his home brewing, overcoming injuries earlier in his career, and dives into the details on his "goalkeeping style".

I was tweeting with someone a couple days ago in DC and he said they missed you on the Loudoun Brew Trail?

Down in Richmond or DC?

Well he’s a DC fan so I guess I just assumed. But he might be in Richmond.

Oh yeah, I got a lot of beer love when I was in DC. *laughs* It was nice. So all my brewing, that’s kind of my hobby. So I met a lot of DC fans. Beer and soccer tends to go well together.

Would you just make batches and take it out to games? How would that connect with fans?

I ruptured my Achilles in 2014 and I actually did a beer called “Achilles Pale Ale”. Our staff found out about it so they did a little thing on it. Put it on YouTube. Steve Goff did an article on it. So people thought that was really cool. So I started actually trading beer with fans. There were a couple of guys I started to trust. They would bring me something cool that they would pick up at whatever their favorite brewery was and I’d give them one of my homebrews. But I only ever do one gallon batches so I don’t have, like, a hundred beers to pass out. So if I kind of got to know somebody we would do beer trades.

Would people generally shoot you straight on if they liked it or not? Surely no one would tell you they didn’t like it to your face, right?

There was the occasional person that would say, “Well I didn’t like this part or aspect of the beer.” Or “It was a little too rich” or something like that. I don’t know if I ever had any bad reviews necessarily. I’ve been doing it long enough and read enough books that I knew I didn’t make bad beer but maybe something that wasn’t for some people.

How do you go about figuring out direction with the next batch? Where does that come from when deciding which way to go?

It can come from anything. Sometimes I visit craft beer stores and just kind of peruse and see what certain breweries are putting in their beers. Sometimes I get dessert ideas. My wife has a big sweet tooth so she comes across and goes, “You know what would be cool is if you did this type of beer” and then I think of what I can add to a beer to simulate or get close to that. Some things just flat out don’t work. She’ll say “You could do a bubblegum beer” but… I can’t put bubblegum in. There’s just no way to do it unless you use an artificial flavoring of some kind.

One day she said “You should do a french toast beer” and I said “Actually, if I use cinnamon, vanilla, some nutmeg, and maybe some maple syrup and put all that in a stout, you could technically do that.” And I did. I figured it out and it was probably one of the best beers I ever made. My mom makes black forest cake, which is just chocolate cake with cherries. And I’m like, “You know, why don’t I do that? Make a beer with cocoa nibs and ferment it with cherries just to see what happens.” So I kind of get my ideas everywhere. Whenever I get an idea I just put it in my notepad in my phone and over time I’m gung-ho about some of them and others I cross off and I’m like “Nah, that’s too much work” *laughs*

So what’s the next one you have lined up? Or are you in the process of brewing one right now?

So right now I have a hefeweizen brewing and I’m going to brew tomorrow a dunkleweizen. So I’m kind of doing German stuff right now. It’s Oktoberfest time. Kind of German-inspired at the moment. But as we get into winter, I want to try an orange chocolate stout. I haven’t done that before. So a stout with cocoa and orange zest. You got to play around with it. I have to read all my notes from previous brews to see how close I can get to flavors.

Thinking back to DC and 2015, it was kind of an up-and-down year for you. Obviously the Champions League game was a rough start to the year but you did really well when you came in during the year, specifically a really wonderful game against Chicago in June.

We hear it a lot from goalkeepers about just pushing past bad moments. So how did you go from that Champions League game to not letting it tank the regular season and being prepared the season?

I think a big part of it is not over thinking too much. From my experience, the guys who don’t think too much or some of the guys who are super confident, they tend to be the guys who overlook that sort of stuff. Either the guys that say “Couldn’t do anything about that” or the guys who is just going, “You know what? I’m just going to do better next time.” They tend to be the guys who get over it quicker. I have my ups and downs with confidence like any normal person but I am definitely not the guy who says “Oh this is someone else’s fault.” I tend to take losses and performances super hard. I don’t know how many people know that. Probably my mom *laughs* is only the one who really understands how much I can beat myself up.

[Heading into the 2015 Champions League game against Alajuelense] I had done my Achilles and Bill Hamid was actually hurt in preseason. So it was actually between me and Travis Worra, who at that point was a brand new rookie and they hadn’t found their trust with him yet. The physical therapist told me I wasn’t going to feel right until ten months after surgery and I think that game was six or seven months after surgery. So I’m coming off a serious surgery and I didn’t have the spring in my leg but I wanted to play so damn bad *laughs* I kind of convinced myself I was okay. You know, training was alright and I could get through what I needed to and I did enough to convince the coaching staff but after that game I realized how far in terms of the strength and the rehab I still needed to complete.

At the end of the day, when that game happened, Ben Olsen had my back. He’s said, “Look, we set you up for failure.” I said, “No, I wanted to play. I wanted to do this. I thought I could and I screwed it up.” But needless to say it was nice that I had a coach who backed me up instead of just, you know, kicking me to the curb or making it more difficult on me by being a jerk or something. *laughs* That part of it, to know that Benny had my back, was nice.

Dykstra earned 14 starts with DC United from 2012-2016. (Photo belongs to USA TODAY Sports)

Dykstra earned 14 starts with DC United from 2012-2016. (Photo belongs to USA TODAY Sports)

I saw stuff all over the internet and my Facebook and everything else, with people criticizing the way it went, and I just stopped reading and didn’t pay attention to it. I said “You know what? My goal is to get my calf strong and to work on that each day.” I kind of buried my head in work because at the end of the day, you only have so much control. I just tried to make my life simpler by saying “What can I do today to make tomorrow better?” And that’s just all I try to worry about. That’s all you can really do if you think about it, whether you’re a soccer player or anything else. So just consuming yourself with that mentality, you just make life easier and you tend to ignore the distractions. Fortunately enough I did well enough on my rehab and training that when they needed me during the year it was a completely different me.

As you’ve gotten older and your family keeps growing, has your approach to the game changed? Or is it just soccer at the end of the day?

No, it’s definitely changed. I mean, before when I first started as a rookie, I liked to read all the articles and I liked to know what people thought about me and I was always trying to impress people. But as I got older, like I said before, I consumed myself with just “Where do I need to pick up weak parts of my game?” It’s just all about work. Again, I don’t read anything. I don’t read Facebook stuff. When I watch an MLS game I put the commentators on mute because I don’t want to hear people’s opinions. I just want to do my work and know what I have to do for my teammates.

If there was any advice you would give to someone coming into the league new as far as balancing family life and on-field performance, what would you say to them?

It’s tough. So we have twins and they just turned one and they were preemies too. So we had to get up every three hours probably until… at least six months, trying to get their weight up. So I went without sleep and it’s hard. The best advice I can say is when you’re at work, you’re at work. As much as family is important, when you’re at work that’s time you put everything else aside and you concentrate at that. Because at the end of the day that’s what’s going to get you your income. *laughs* That’s what’s going to keep them afloat and keep diapers on their butts and milk in their bottles. You know, you’re actually benefiting them when you learn to put them aside and focus on what you’re doing while you’re at work. That’s probably the best way I can put it. We’re fortunate enough that when we’re done [training], we’re done at 1pm. So you’ve got more time than the average Joe to go home and take care of your family. But with that limited time, that focus needs to be on your work for sure.

There’s a lot of “style” with goalkeeping but it’s rarely covered in detail. Can you give us one goalkeeper whose style you’ve tried to emulate?

Yeah for sure. I try to steal little things from everybody. So obviously Neuer is a big goalkeeper in the world so one thing I wanted to take from him is just how he moves in his goal and his timing on his diving, for instance. He plays like he’s German. A lot of those guys do a lot of arm swinging and trying to time their jump with the shot. My entire life I was taught “Be set. Keep your feet on the floor.” So I tried to incorporate a little bit of a hop to see if I could get jumps on balls but then my timing wasn’t good. So I’d tried less of a hop and kind of found a middle ground with it. And sometimes, to be honest, it changes from year to year, especially when I’ve had injuries. I kind of have to train around things and do things differently.

Recently, as I’ve seen Petr Cech get older, if you watch his film now compared to when he was younger, he tends to get set a lot of higher [closer to the striker, away from the goal], kind of like we were always taught about cutting down angles. When you cut down angles, you have less reaction time but for a guy who’s a little bit older and probably doesn’t have the legs that he used to, cutting down angles and learning to trust his reactions, that’s kind of where he’s taken his game. So I like to watch the older guys because it’s almost like they’ve found secrets that kept their careers alive. Buffon is another guy I try to - I want to - emulate anyway. When the ball is at his feet, he plays super simple and he’s just so calm. I mean, he’s not a guy who’s going to do anything tricky or sneaky but when it’s at his feet he earns the trust of the players around him because he’s so calm and composed.

Can you give an example where you saw a goalkeeper do something and thought “That’s fine for them but that’s not for me”?

I’ve worked with de Gea’s old goalkeeping coach, Eric Steele. I worked with him in the offseason a couple times. A lot of his work is on the evolution of the goalkeeper and where the game is going and how goalkeepers need to adapt to it. So it was interesting to hear what he had to talk about with de Gea in terms of where he likes to be on his line and how he stays big. Joe Hart is a guy when he sees a 1-on-1 he flies into balls and he does it very well but there are other guys who do that and it leaves them susceptible to balls underneath them. Their feet aren’t on the ground so they can’t react to a shot. That’s not for me. I like to have my feet on the ground and I like to have the chance to react to something instead of just giving myself up and hoping it hits me. De Gea is a guy who is going to keep his feet on the ground and he’s going to stand you up. Many times he puts a knee on the floor, spreads, and it works for him. That’s one thing I learned from Eric and tried to put in my game, being more patient with 1-on-1s.

I’m definitely not a ter Stegen kind of guy. He’s a guy who takes a lot of risks with the ball at his feet and there are times where gives some silly balls up but there are other times that he makes some unbelievable plays where no other goalkeeper does these things with his feet. For me personally, I don’t want to be a risk taker, necessarily. Since I’ve been at Kansas, we’re more of a “build out of the back” kind of team. At DC, it was all about shot stopping and finding the guy up the field. And here the thing Peter [Vermes] said to us on the first day was “I don’t give a shit what pressure looks like. This is preseason. You play out of the back at all costs because I’m trying to get our players acclimated to showing up and learning how to play.” This year above any I’ve made some massive strides with the ball at my feet and learning to play out of the back. Before, if a guy was kind of open but might be under pressure kind of quick, previous teams say “Don’t risk it. Put it up the field.” But here, I’m knocking the ball around. I’m getting it back. I’m playing it around the forward. Doing things that I wouldn’t have done on my previous teams.

I know you probably can’t say a ton but I’m curious if you were involved with the 2015 CBA? Was there anything you were really pushing for two years ago?

I was not [involved]. So our union reps would go to union meetings, get the information back to us, and we’d kind of have a locker room discussion and vote on do we want to strike? Do we not want to strike? I don’t want to say too much, but I can probably say as a whole, from all the players I’ve ever talked to, they’re pretty disappointed with the results of the CBA. I personally felt like it’s going to be steps over time. You’re not going to get free agency overnight. That was kind of my mentality. I voted to, if we had to, strike. I was behind everybody else. I wasn’t going to be the guy that was saying no. *laughs* But I’m glad the league continued. I’m glad we’re playing and I’m glad to have a good job.

When you heard the idea of striking for the first time, what went through your head?

Well the league had made some serious leaps at that point so I think that’s why a number of guys were a little down. They thought “If there’s a time to strike, do it now while the iron’s hot.” But yeah it sunk in. I even called a couple USL teams and said, “Hey, if this strike happens, I’m interested in playing for you to stay sharp.” That was in the back of the heads of a couple coaches and I was prepared to go do that. But... it never happened. *laughs* At the time I was married and no kids, fortunately. My wife was behind me in terms of where we we’re going to take steps in my career but I was more worried about “How am I going to get some income?” *laughs*

Well let’s wrap up with this. You’re obviously closer to the end of your career than the start of it but you still have a lot left in the tank. So what’s your outlook in the next five or ten years where you can look back and say “I was really happy with that”?

Yeah, it’s kind of funny you ask that because I was pretty unlucky with the injuries I had. So the Achilles happened [in 2014]. That was in the middle of my contract and they take me back and I turned it around and whatever. But when Bill [Hamid] was hurt last year, he was going to be out half the season. We went to LA and I ended up slipping the disk in my back. That was kind of devastating. Because every backup waits for that one opportunity, and some guys get one opportunity and some guys get ten opportunities. That was probably the first time really in my career that I thought, “If I do well, either DC is going to want me back at more money or they’re not going to take my offer and someone is going to 100% want to pick me up as a starter or as a competing starter.” Unfortunately I got hurt and that was actually probably just as bad as my Achilles in terms of the rehab because my nerves shut down and I had muscles that wouldn’t work.

So I really had to work and work and work and I said, “You know what? I will be very, very grateful if I just get to be on a team. If I can just do this as long as I can, I’ll be happy.” Fortunately I got picked up by one of the best teams in the league. I made leaps and bounds again with my rehab and got back to a place where I’m impressing coaches and I’m doing well in training. Now that thought of “Oh I’m just glad to be here” has kind of pushed itself out of my head and now I’m on “Damn, I want to be a starter again.” *laughs*

Highlights from Dykstra's standout performance against the Chicago Fire in 2015

So right now, I’m trying to find a way to earn game time. And I’m just waiting for my next opportunity. Right now my goal is to be the best backup in the league and when that next window rolls around, hopefully I’ll be healthy for it and show what I can do. If it means staying here or moving on, I want to play and I want to compete. Sometimes it’s up to agents. Sometimes it’s up to coaches and timing, just like any other job. It’s kind of like there are so many things that play into it that you can’t just be like “Oh man I wasn’t good enough” because I think I can play. It’s just a matter of waiting my time and I’ve had spurts at DC United where I showed what I can do. Now I’m back in good health and better feet, thanks to Kansas City.

But yeah, I want to take this as far as I can go. Obviously we’re not at the point where we’re making millions. *laughs* It’s a job that pays the bills and it’s an awesome job to have but at the end of the day I have a family. If New York or LA says “Hey you can come here for minimum” then there’s nothing I can do. I literally can’t do that. But I’m just going to keep going with my head down and see how far we can take it. I want to play as long as I can and as long as I’m healthy.