Andrew Dykstra, a graduate of the Osbourn Park Class of 2004, is now a goalkeeper for D.C United.
Dykstra recently completed a trial with Major League Soccer team D.C. United. After a week of practice, Dykstra signed with the local team.
Dykstra was an all-around athlete in high school; he played football, wrestling and soccer. In his junior year, he was selected for the all-state honorable mention, and in his senior year he was selected for the all-state honorable mention team for both football and soccer.
“Sports were something that was always there for me and I knew it was something that would get me into college,” Dykstra said.
Dykstra received offers from numerous colleges for both football and soccer. It ultimately came down to two in-state university soccer programs: Virginia Tech and Virginia Commonwealth University.
“I ended up going with VCU because it seemed like a better fit for me and offered programs that appealed to me,” he said.
Dykstra committed to VCU under a partial scholarship that increased every year, so by the time he was a senior it became a full scholarship. Plus, he was now a part of nationally ranked soccer team.
While at VCU, Dykstra received several accolades, the most prominent being named to the CAA-All Rookie Team. He later went on to become a dominant component of the squad.
After graduating from VCU, Dykstra failed to receive an invitation to the Major League Soccer Combine—a moment that Dykstra said felt like his only shot to play in the MLS.
Living the Dream
“The failure to get an invite to the combine really crushed me," Dykstra said. "I thought after that there was a little chance of me playing in the MLS."
He did receive an invitation to the Infosport Combine in Florida. Directing the combine was Chicago Fire’s goalkeeper coach. Then came the call he spent 23 years training for.
Dykstra received an invite to a Chicago Fire practice session. He was told that only two goalkeepers were to be kept. When he arrived, there were three.
“I performed well throughout the tryouts and in the end, they decided to keep all three goalkeepers,” Dykstra said.
The Fire would later drop the second-string goalkeeper and push him up to the number two spot. Excitement filled Dykstra and his friends and family when they heard he was officially a player for the Chicago Fire.
“It was great to see my hard work pay off,” Dykstra said. “My mom was extremely happy with the news. She has been supportive of me since I was a toddler."
Most were not surprised with the achievement. Dykstra was one of the most talented and hardest working players on many of his teams.
“He was one of those kids a coach dreams of coaching," said former high school coach Larry Nemerow. "From his work ethic to understanding of the game, he was just an all-around player."
Dykstra was appointed the starting goalkeeper for the Fire after the release of Jon Busch; Busch was the 2008 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year. Many critics doubted whether or not Dykstra was ready or would ever by ready to fill his shoes.
“I was both shocked and humbled by the release of Busch. He was more experienced, but certain attributes can differ in strength and it is ultimately down to what the coach believes will make the team stronger,” Dykstra said.
His debut ended in a tightly-contested 1-0 loss against the New York Red Bulls.
Shortly after the defeat, Dykstra faced his hometown team D.C. United. In the game, Dykstra recorded his first ever assist as a goalkeeper—the only goalkeeper to do so the entire season.
Dykstra went on to have five shutouts in his first season with a goals against average (GAA) of 1.22.
A Time for Reflection
Early 2011, Dykstra was released by the Fire after two years with the club and he was contacted by teams from United Soccer League and Europe about joining their squads.
Though Dykstra’s time in the MLS was over, he still enjoyed the time he spent playing for the Fire.
“From playing against Ronaldihno and A.C. Milan, trading jerseys with Dida, being rushed by fans in Mexico, a great homecoming in D.C., I can’t say I regret a single moment,” Dykstra said. “Not many people get the opportunity to play professionally and it's definitely a surreal moment, but I am the type of individual who doesn’t dwells on it too long."
Dykstra has become a role-model for many local athletes who strive to reach his level of success.
“He has been a great role model for me," said OPHS senior Adam Coolbaugh. "Despite his success, he still comes back to our high school practices to help out with goalkeeper training."
Dykstra believes that his success is due to his work ethic and mentality. He believes anyone who wants to reach the professional ranks, must be willing to put in the time and effort required to succeed.
“...It is year-round work which starts from keeping fit in the summer to maintaining your fitness in the winter,” Dykstra said.
But Dykstra also thanks others for his success.
“My mom did everything from driving from practice to being my number one fan. I also thank Sean Scales and the Young brothers for their help in the weight room,” he said. “And how can I forget my high school soccer coach Larry Nemerow."
A New Beginning
Dykstra made contact with the United Soccer League’s Charleston Battery soon after his release from MLS.
Dykstra had little experience while playing for the Fire. The USL offered him needed experience to excel on the next level.
“I wanted to play where I could play and gain needed experience,” he said.
Heading towards the close of the season, Dykstra led the USL with the fewest goals allowed, 16, and the lowest GAA, 0.98.
Despite his excellent performance in the USL, he still had his sights set on returning to the MLS and even Europe.
A Second Chance
Dykstra began reaching out to clubs in Europe following the season for the possibility to play abroad, but was was contact by Sporting Kansas City, Seattle Sounders, and D.C. United.
Dykstra went to the D.C. United training session to compete against another goalkeeper for the third roster spot, but that did not effect him.
“There’s a point where you feel in control and not worried about other things because you don‘t have control over it,” he said.
Dykstra was picked up by United after an impressive trial and was now a member of his hometown team.
“It’s strange to play for a team I grew up watching. I remember seeing Eddie Pope and Jeff Agoos...and it is great to be a part of that now,” Dykstra said. “Being on D.C. means a lot to my family.”
Dykstra will face stiff competition in Bill Hamid who is performing well and playing an increasingly larger role for U.S. Mens National team.
Still, Dykstra remains ready for any playing time afforded to him.
“I’m a guy with experience in two leagues. If they [D.C. United] need me, then I’ll be ready,” he said.
Dykstra’s recent accomplishment is just one of a few success stories to come out of Prince William Soccer Inc. in recent months.
This past summer, former PWSI player and Forest Park graduate Ali Krieger anchored a U.S. Women’s National team that placed second in the 2011 FIFA World Cup. Krieger’s famous game-winning penalty kick secured a quarter-final win against Brazil.
Forest Park graduate and Sporting Kansas City forward C.J. Sapong was named the MLS Rookie of the Year for his efforts last season.
“PWSI has got the right mentality and is headed in a good direction,” Dykstra said.
Dykstra has already thought about life after soccer at the age of 26. He has a Masters in Education and Administration and an Undergraduate in Exercise Science.
"I have different things to fall back on, but then again I could just stick to soccer,” he said, laughing.
From the success he has enjoyed so far, that seems to be the perfect fit.