Photo by Jersey Express
Last year, David Greczek made some saves he will never forget.
The Jersey Express goalkeeper has already had a handful of standout performances in the PDL regular season and 2016 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, but he had the unique opportunity to train with MLS’s New York City FC in 2015. Greczek, who stepped in as the team’s goalkeeper on the practice squad due to an injury, remembers the two-week training stint vividly, especially the saves he made against Italian midfielder Andrea Pirlo and Spanish attacker David Villa.
“I learned a lot – not just from a physical aspect or a technique aspect, but I learned a lot from the psychological aspect of what it is to live the life of a pro,” Greczek said.
“The highlight of my time there was saving a couple of free kicks on Pirlo, and then I got to play against David Villa and make a few saves there. Same thing with Frank Lampard. I did a few shooting drills with him, and a lot of the other guys, like RJ Allen and Poku. It was just nice to get a little taste of the pro style of play. … When you train with an MLS team, it’s a lot quicker and you’ve got to adjust to the pace.”
Greczek nearly had the opportunity to play against NYCFC in the Fourth Round of the U.S. Open Cup this year, but he and the Express fell just short against the New York Cosmos during the Third Round at Belson Stadium in Jamaica, New York. While his side may have bowed out of the competition with a 2-0 loss, many were left impressed by Greczek’s performance in goal.
“A win against Cosmos would have been an amazing experience and amazing for the team, the players and coaching staff, but I think we were all pleased to get to that Third Round with the Cosmos,” Greczek said. “I think all of the players got to get a little taste of the next level of play. … I think most of the players will be happy with their performance in the Open Cup, and now it’s about translating that into the PDL season.”
The Express have started their regular season with a 2-3 record, most recently earning a 2-0 shutout win against Lehigh Valley United Sonic on the road. Greczek has started and played all 90 minutes in four of the team’s five contests thus far, making 16 saves.
For the Polish-American netminder, performing well and working hard during the summer is what he thinks will help him and Rutgers succeed this fall. Greczek thinks Rutgers, which reached the Second Round of the 2015 DI Men’s Soccer Championship in 2015, has what it takes to go far in what will be his final semester at the university.
“We have the potential to be top competitors in the Big Ten Conference,” Greczek said. “I think we can win it and find ourselves a bid into the NCAA Tournament.
“But that’s not going to happen until November, so I’ve got to concentrate, my teammates have to concentrate on putting the hard work in during the summer. If they do that, it pays off in late November when you’re in the final four.”
Greczek has put in many hours in the PDL, and thinks it is a great stepping stone to realizing his ultimate goal of being a professional soccer player.
“Realistically, my goal is to get myself in MLS, get to the combine, get myself drafted, get myself on the first team and get myself in the starting position,” Greczek said.
“I personally believe it [PDL] is an outlet to get to the next level. It’s an opportunity that players get, and they need to take advantage of it,” Greczek said. “What separates the pros from the average Joes is the sacrifices that you’re willing to make, and if you’re willing to sacrifice your summer to play for a team and take it seriously – work and train during practice and go to the weight room before and after training – it pays off. I believe if you take the right measures and you make the correct sacrifices, you’ll get to the next level. I’m sure those players that have made it to the next level have done what they’ve had to, made those sacrifices and worked harder, and that’s what gets them there.”