Prep Soccer

Iowa native Kyle Zobeck worth more than just a backup keeper for FC Dallas

Kyle Zobeck — who played for Iowa City West and Valparaiso — trains with FC Dallas, a Major League Soccer team, this season in Frisco, Texas. (Kyle Zobeck)
Kyle Zobeck — who played for Iowa City West and Valparaiso — trains with FC Dallas, a Major League Soccer team, this season in Frisco, Texas. (Kyle Zobeck)
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FRISCO, Texas — FC Dallas goalkeeping coach Drew Keeshan doesn’t consider Kyle Zobeck his third keeper because the Coralville native means much more to FCD than what his current spot on the depth chart signifies.

“He’s somebody that younger players can see and look up to,” said Keeshan, now in his 12th season as FCD’s keeper coach. “Just his whole approach, when we get in our little group and we talk about who we’re about to play, you can tell he’s already watched not just one, but two, three games. He’s got that level of professionalism, dedication to what he does. It’s really impressive.”

Zobeck, 29, is in his second stint with FCD. He first came to the Lone Star State in 2013 after Dallas drafted him in the MLS Supplemental Draft. After one season in Frisco, he landed in the NASL with the New York Cosmos, making eight appearances between the posts for them between 2014 and 2017.

However, when the opportunity to return to Dallas arose in 2018, he capitalized, playing last season under Oscar Pareja, now coaching in Mexico, and currently under Luchi Gonzalez, FCD’s former development academy director.

“Yeah, it’s a great organization,” said Zobeck, who has yet to make a first-team appearance with Dallas. “I was so happy to be drafted here back in 2013. To make my way back, it’s been a special experience. Luchi was the academy director back in the day and I had some really good conversations with him over the years. When he got the job, I was ecstatic. It’s been a great experience.”

One reason he wanted to return to FCD was the opportunity to again work with Keeshan, considered one of Major League Soccer’s top goalkeeper coaches.

During his first stint in Frisco, Zobeck made a strong and lasting impression on everyone in the organization, including Keeshan, so bringing him back into the fold was basically a no-brainer once the opportunity arose. “No (he hasn’t changed). He was a mature person when he came in (before),” Keeshan said.

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“His understanding of the game has probably gotten better. We loved him here, absolutely loved having him here. If he hadn’t had such a strong impression with us back then, I don’t think we probably would have brought him back. But the fact is that he did, so once things worked out the way they did, he became available and we needed a keeper, it was an easy decision. I love working with the kid.”

And that respect is clearly mutual.

“Drew just has a knack for getting the most out of guys. He’s a great coach,” Zobeck said. “When you show up here, you know you’re going to work hard. He’s going to make you work hard and you’re going to get better. I think that’s why he’s been able to develop so many goalkeepers in this league. It all starts at the top.”

Zobeck shares the roster with Jesse Gonzalez, 23, considered one of MLS’ top young keepers who played for the United States in the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup, and Jimmy Maurer, 30, a fellow veteran who Zobeck was also teammates with in New York.

But Zobeck has one thing his fellow keepers don’t — a mechanical engineering degree from Valparaiso, a fact which Keeshan constantly teases him about, reminding him not to overthink things.

“Drew says I think too much. It’s definitely a discipline though,” Zobeck said. “It was a very time-consuming subject. It really taught me time management. If nothing else, it did that.”

All kidding aside, Keeshan loves Zobeck’s analytical nature and sees that as another strength in his already impressive skill set, an additional reason why he considers him a “model pro.”

“A model pro sums him up, what he does. You can always rely on him,” Keeshan said. “His day off, he’ll come in and do a treatment, a (regeneration), a gym workout. That’s just how he’s wired. He looks after his body and he does the right things off the field. I don’t think we would ever have a problem putting him in a game. When he trains, his level is really high. Luchi loves him too. That’s down to him and how he trains and what he shows us day in day out.”

Zobeck considers such heady praise from someone he immensely respects like Keeshan an honor, but he feels his strong work ethic was forged during his formative years in the Hawkeye State.

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“Yeah, I think that just speaks to my roots a little bit,” Zobeck said. “Iowa’s not really a soccer hotbed. We’re not known for producing a lot of pros and my path just to get to this point has just been a lot of hard work and determination. That’s the message that I preach to the younger guys, too — just work hard, stick with it, believe in yourself and you’ll go as far as you want to go.”

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