First-years reunite after time with Sockers FC

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Kacper Chrapczynski (8) celebrates with teammates after scoring on a penalty kick (Photo courtesy of U.S. Soccer Development Academy.)

First-year defender Joey Fitzgerald, who is a Liverpool fan, showed up to a soccer tryout one day with a Manchester City jersey on. First-year forward Kacper Chrapczynski, who was already a member of the team, found it both ironic and funny that Fitzgerald had pulled up to practice supporting something other than the Premier League club out of Liverpool, England.

Little did they know, that one interaction would make for a great story in their first year of collegiate soccer together.

Fitzgerald and Chrapczynski were teammates on Sockers FC, a Palatine, Illinois-based U.S. Soccer Development Academy team. Since the two played their last season in 2019-20, the Development Academy ended all operations due to unanticipated financial circumstances that stemmed from COVID-19.

Despite the Academy’s untimely end, Fitzgerald and Chrapcynski’s careers kept moving forward, and both made their way to Milwaukee to play college soccer at Marquette.

Chrapcynski said the two never initially had plans to play together in college.

“I don’t think we knew we were going to play together. I committed quite early (and) just kind of stayed with it,” Chrapcynski said. “And then Joey decided later on, too, that he would come, so once that happened, it was cool.”

Chrapcynski started playing with Sockers FC during the 2016-17 season as a member of the U-14 team. He was the fifth-highest goal scorer in the country in 2018-19, scoring 20 goals in 23 games. Fitzgerald joined the U-16/17 team during the 2018-19 season after playing 27 games with FC United.

“First I had to play on the MBL team, which is kind of like the step under Academy for that half year,” Fitzgerald said. “And then they brought a few people up on my team for tryouts for Academy and then from there, I made the team.”

Fitzgerald played in 37 games for Sockers FC and started in all but three of them. Even though he was playing on the defensive side, he also posted two goals.

Through team trips, practices and rooming together, the two were able to build a tight-knit relationship during their time in the program. Chrapcynski said chemistry was also built outside the lines of the pitch.

“Overall we were just a really close team, on and off the field,” Chrapcynski said. “So it was easy for us to have a good bond.”

For the program’s Florida showcase, the team would rent out an apartment complex and had the opportunity to spend time with each other for about a week. Fitzgerald said they would always go to the beach, since they were so close, and it was always one of his favorite memories.

Making the move to college soccer is often not only a physical challenge, but a mental one as well. Players are introduced to an entire roster of new faces from all around the country and a brand new system. But after building chemistry and playing a couple of years together, the two first-years from Illinois were able to find some level of comfort knowing they were able to still play alongside each other.

“For me coming in, it was good because I always had someone I could talk to after practice,” Fitzgerald said. “It was also good to have someone I already knew socially so it was easier to get to know the other freshman with Kacper there because he’s probably a little more comfortable.”

Chrapcynski said the program also got the duo ready for the workload that Division I BIG EAST soccer had in store.

“Being on the Academy (team) kind of playing at a higher level already, when you come into college you already know what the demands are and what to expect,” Chrapcynski said. “So you kind of come into college knowing what to do.”

Both have yet to make their college debuts, but said that they have been handling the adjustment well as they look to make future impacts within the program.

“I think it wasn’t that big of an adjustment for us because we had coaches, we had two coaches, that were really involved with us and really helped us out a lot,” Fitzgerald said. “I felt like the main difference was that our head coach — he wasn’t as vocal as … Louie is and I thought it was just better getting more opinion from everyone.”

This story was written by Nick Galle. He can be reached at nicholas.galle@marquette.edu or on Twitter @thenickgalle.