Dykstra's long journey comes full circle

By Paul Tenorio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 16, 2010

After recalling step-by-step the journey that took him from honorable mention All-Met as a junior at Osbourn Park in Manassas in 2003 to his current job as starting goalkeeper for the Chicago Fire, Andrew Dykstra took a deep breath.

"It was a long road," he sighed.

Indeed, Dykstra's ascent to the top job in net for one of Major League Soccer's top franchises was not one that involved much fanfare and, as a whole, might be considered as surprising as the Fire's decision to give the second-year pro the starting nod ahead of veteran Jon Busch just prior to the season.

Dykstra was not a heralded prospect, he wasn't even invited to the MLS combine. He did not play for a premier program, instead spending five years at Virginia Commonwealth, where he was a second-team all-CAA selection as a senior. And his hometown team, D.C. United, passed him over in the draft in favor of Loyola goalkeeper Milos Kocic, whom Dykstra had worked out with at a combine with United prior to the draft last season.

Then again, every other MLS team passed over Dykstra as well.

But on Saturday when the Fire takes the field against winless United, around 100 friends and family will be in the stands supporting Dykstra in his fourth career league start -- a fact that seemed so far away not two years ago.

"It's a tremendous accomplishment all the way around," said Dykstra's mother, Heidi Dykstra. "As parents we're very proud of him but it's still somewhat surreal like, 'Did this really happen?'"

Dykstra's path to this point really began in high school, when he started playing with local club team Herndon Arsenal and coach Irad Young.

At the time, Dykstra was a Division I football recruit as a wide receiver -- he was ninth in the area in 2003 with 42 catches for 662 yards and five touchdowns for Osbourn Park -- but Young urged him to focus on soccer. Dykstra was eventually spotted by both Virginia Tech and VCU during a VYSA State Cup game for his Herndon club team and offered scholarships to play goalkeeper, and the former football star elected to head to Richmond.

After redshirting his freshman year, Dykstra was named the starter -- a position he would hold over the next four years.

"It was great because it gave me game experience, which for goalkeepers is huge," Dykstra said. "It allowed me to get caught up in areas I lacked in development when I was younger. Every summer I never went home, I stayed to take classes and I played [Premier Development League] for the Richmond Kickers, where I was a starter for four years, and surrounded by professionals and good people."

Yet even with the success he was enjoying at VCU, Dykstra faced an uphill challenge as he looked toward a professional career. The Rams were just 8-8-2 in 2008 and though he started all 18 games and posted a 0.97 goals against average and .795 save percentage, Dykstra was not even named a first-team all-conference selection.

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