FiftyFive.One: Hi Alex, thanks for speaking with us! Congratulations on signing your first professional contract, how does it feel to be a pro?
Alex Kapp: It’s a great honor that’s for sure. It’s exciting to sign my first contract and start with such a great club in their first season in MLS and become part of history. It’s really exciting to get to start getting to work.
We believe you are the first person in history to have trained with both 2017 MLS expansion clubs, Minnesota and Atlanta United! Tell us about your experience down there.
AK: Atlanta was great. I was coming back from an injury so I just don’t think the timing was right in terms of me coming back as they were signing Guzan. They brought me out to training there for two weeks, and I absolutely loved the guys — they were great, great facilities, great coaching staff. Unfortunately, the timing just didn’t work out. So, at that point, we decided to part ways and I had to look elsewhere.
How did you get from there to Minnesota?
AK: I was just at home training and staying in shape with my goalkeeper coach back home, and I got a call from Minnesota United saying they wanted to bring me up.
Minnesota has a big Creighton connection, do you feel that connection now?
AK: When I was at Creighton, Minnesota United wasn’t something that I thought about, but soon after I got here, Ethan [Finlay] came in as well, and so now there’s three of us [Ed. Note: Brent Kallman is the other], and it’s pretty nice.
You started your college career in Boston, before coming out west. Take us through that.
AK: Yeah, I spent four years at Boston College. I redshirted my first year, and just decided to take my fifth year and get a better soccer experience. I wasn’t aware that I was eligible for another year until my junior year, and by that time BC had another goalkeeper coming in for after I left.
So, at that point, I figured it was best to find somewhere else where soccer was at their forefront. At BC, we had a big football team, a big hockey team, a big basketball team… but since there’s no football team at Creighton, in the fall we were the main priority. I think you see it game in and game out with the fan support.
When did you know that you had what it took to play professionally?
AK: You know, it’s always been a goal of mine, that’s for sure. You’ve got to believe, because it’s always up to you. There was never a single moment where it hit me that, “yeah, I can play in the pros.” But going to Creighton and becoming an All-American with the pedigree of players that came to that school, and speaking with the coaches who told me I had a good opportunity to keep playing; those were the moments that allowed me to think that I could really do this and make my passion my job.
Back to Minnesota. What was it like when you arrived, training with the team, the staff, and the other goalkeepers?
AK: I came in on a one-way ticket, and it was basically a trial. In my mind, I just had to make the most of every practice I was in and try to make a difference any time I could. I had to stick out and try to prove to them that I could belong there. Being with Bobby [Shuttleworth], Patrick [McLain], and Marius [Røvde], they’ve been great. They’ve helped me out and I’ve learned a lot from all of them. I came in with open arms and the transition was pretty seamless.
It also helped at the same time with the club signing Sam [Nicholson] and Brandon [Allen], who are some of the younger guys and we all came in at the same period. We can hang out with each other back at the hotel and that kind of stuff.
What are the major differences between college and the pros? What are the first things that you pick up on or learn at the next level?
AK: First of all, the speed of play is definitely going to be faster. It forces you to have to think a little faster as well. Back there, you’ve got to be communicating to your defenders and also worrying about yourself. The faster pace forces you to start thinking more ahead. But it’s been good so far for me.
What about in terms of mechanical or physical ability?
AK: I think it’s different for every person. At the end of the day, it comes down to fundamentals, and what makes you a great goalkeeper is what you’ve built up on. There’s nothing about me as a goalkeeper that’s changed drastically. I think it’s about fitting in with the team and getting used to the speed of play.
Can you talk about your style of goalkeeping? Watching your highlight video, we were struck by the several kick saves you made while doing a split.
AK: I was a gymnast up until 12-to-13-years-old, so maybe that has helped me out. So I’m definitely more agile and flexible. You need to find a way to save the ball no matter what — whether with your hands or your feet — and that’s a reaction for me. On the other parts of the game, to some extent, it depends on the team. At BC, we were a team who liked to kick it long, but at Creighton we were focused on playing out of the back. So that part depends on the coach and the style of play.
What kind of expectations do you have as a developing player?
AK: Personally, I just come out every day wanting to work hard and get better and make the team better. If I do that, things will fall into place.
What kind of goals do you have in your career?
AK: Well every player on an MLS roster is there because they want to play. That’s the goal. But as a goalkeeper you often have to wait your time. Sometimes there’s a bit of luck. You talk to a lot of starters and they’ve got their chance because maybe there’s been an injury or the coaching staff wants to give someone else a chance. So it’s about being ready for your opportunity when it does come.
What kind of advice have you gotten from Bobby Shuttleworth and Pat McLain?
AK: They’ve been great so far helping me adjust to the style of play and everything. Any time I really need something they’re open to giving advice and that’s really helpful.
Thanks so much, and best of luck!
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