By Quin Welch, LouCity Insider
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — In life, people have few opportunities to make their dreams a reality. Some get only one chance at capturing their dreams. Louisville City FC midfielder Kyle Smith seized his chance.
Smith graduated from Lexington’s Transylvania University in 2014. The Cincinnati native had a great deal of success with the Pioneers, winning the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year award in 2012. But since his graduation, Smith looked for professional soccer opportunities. He’d be lying if he said the search was an easy one.
“I’ve been trying to do this for about two years now,” Smith said about turning professional.
His search for an opportunity led him to Louisville to try out for Louisville City FC in December as the Club prepared for its second-ever season. The former Pioneer said he tried to keep things simple and play his game at the open tryout in front of O’Connor and his staff.
He was attempting to get noticed in a crowd of nearly 100 tryout participants.
“It was a pretty crazy experience,” Smith said. “There were like 100 people there. There were some good players, and some bad players too, but I just tried to do my best and show off my talents.”
After the open tryouts, O’Connor invited a handful of players to a week-long invitational trial, where about 20 players competed. The intensity of the trials was apparent to anyone who saw them. Everybody on the field wanted to play for LouCity. For Smith, going hard at every moment was key.
“I just tried to work hard and show the coaches that I have a good work ethic,” Smith said. “If I lost the ball, I’d try to get it back immediately.”
After the trials, O’Connor invited Smith to Bradenton, Fla., to participate in the team’s preseasontraining at IMG Academy. Smith impressed in Florida as well, returning to Louisville to receive a contract. The Cincinnati native was thrilled to officially become a Louisville City player.
“It was a dream come true,” Smith said. “When I got the information, it was a dream come true. I’ve been praying for it and working hard, so it meant a lot.”
When Smith signed his deal with LouCity, the real work began. Practice before the season was certainly a test, but one that he passed with flying colors. O’Connor made the decision to start Smith in LouCity’s first game of the 2016 season on Saturday at Charlotte.
Despite his first-game jitters, Smith played a solid shift. O’Connor likes his fullbacks to push forward to create chances, and Smith did plenty of that, making Charlotte’s efforts to defend the right side of the field a nightmare.
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In addition to the attacking threat he presented, Smith made sure to track back and help his team keep a clean sheet in the 1-0 victory. After playing for Transylvania, Smith said playing professionally in front of almost 2,000 people was a bit of a shock.
“It was a pretty crazy experience. The level of competition and the intensity … I’ve never really competed in a game like that in my life with all the fans,” Smith said. “The most people I’ve ever played in front of was probably a couple hundred. I’m sure this Saturday, if I do get the chance to play, will be another crazy experience in front of the supporters at Slugger Field.”
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As Smith continues to settle in as a part of Louisville City FC, he said he’ll never forget the strugglehe faced to reach his dreams.
“I think it will make me realize that I’m blessed to have what I have because it’s hard to get to where we all are as players,” Smith said. “So I think it will make me feel fortunate and blessed and it will make me work hard every day.”
Entering 2016, Louisville City FC has returned 13 players from the 2015 roster — including reigning USL Goal of the Season winner Aodhan Quinn and former English Premier League striker Cameron Lancaster. New additions include MLS Cup-winning forward Chandler Hoffman, University of Louisville alumnus Paolo DelPiccolo and University of Kentucky alumnus George Davis IV.
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Following the season-opening win against the Charlotte, LouCity now returns to Louisville Slugger Field on April 2 to host New York Red Bulls II in the home opener, with a special 3 p.m. kickoff.
Fans can stay up to date with all of Louisville City’s breaking news, roster updates and ticketing information by following the Club on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Season tickets are available for Louisville City’s historic second season via the Club’s official website.