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Soccer

Goalie guards net for three top-level teams

By MARY COLLISTER
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 18, 2003

From 50 feet away, you can see the intensity of his focus, the concentration etched on his face. Chris Sedlak is in "the zone."

After 13 years of soccer, almost seven of them standing in front of the net, Sedlak knows that a brilliant save or a misread strike could decide the game.

Watch him play or talk to him about soccer and you quickly realize he takes his keeper responsibilities seriously. Perhaps that is why Sedlak is one of the best 17-year-old goalies in the Southeast.

The Bloomingdale High School junior was recently named to the Times' First Team All-County Boys Soccer Team.

In February, Sedlak traveled to Brazil as a member of the Southern Regional pool for the Under-18 U.S. National Team. While there, he played against some of that country's top youth club teams.

Roberto Lopez, the former Florida Youth Soccer Association boys 1985 head coach and current U.S. Soccer national staff coach, first saw Sedlak at age 12 or 13.

"Chris has always been a hard worker, very driven," Lopez said. "From an under-13 player at Brandon he has come a long way."

Jim DiNobile, U.S. Soccer national goal keeping staff coach and U.S. Youth Soccer Association regional staff coach, sees Sedlak competing on the national level. "He has established himself as the starting keeper on his regional team and belongs in that elite group of the top 20 keepers in the U.S.," he said.

Sedlak may be competing on the national level now. But he had to start somewhere, and that start came at age 4. "I played baseball for one year, but didn't like it," he said.

He was top scorer as a field player on his under-11 team, but switched positions when the team's keeper quit. It's a decision he hasn't regretted.

He now guards the net for three top-level teams.

The Bloomingdale boys soccer team, the Brandon Flames (an under-17 competitive team with Florida Youth Soccer Association), and the Region III Olympic Development Program (ODP) team keep him busy.

The Bloomingdale team is consistently one of the best teams in Hillsborough County and, at one point this season was ranked No. 6 in the nation by Student Sports magazine. The Brandon Flames under-17 club team has won the state title four times and advanced to the world finals of the 2000 Nike Cup in the Netherlands.

Sedlak went to Brazil as a keeper for the U.S. Region III ODP team. There he trained, played, attended professional games and did some sightseeing.

The speed of play surprised him. "The players look fast on TV but they are even faster when you see them in person, especially when they're running down the field toward you," he said.

Competition was tough at the Torneio Aguas de Lindsia de Futebol Internacional (Futuro Cup). The Region III ODP team lost the first two games, 3-1 against Guarani FC and 5-1 against EC Corinthians. But in the third game, the team trounced A.L.E.C. 5-0.

"The competition was great and it's always good to play different teams," Sedlak said.

Sedlak is not just a player, but also a student of the game. A keeper is similar to a quarterback in many ways, he said. "I'm in a position to see the entire field during a game. I just have a better view of the field than the other players. Just like a quarterback I have to be vocal and a leader on the field."

What he likes best about being goalie is "the training. It's different than if you're a field player. I don't have as much running, but it's a great workout in other ways."

The position also can be frustrating. "It's hard if I'm having a good game and the defense isn't. It's a lot more work for me."

While enjoying his soccer career, Sedlak also has eyes on the future. "My dad and I just made a list of 15 colleges that I'm interested in," he said. Most of the colleges on the list are in the Southeast.

NCAA regulations do not allow college coaches to call Sedlak now, but you can bet his phone will ring in July. "College soccer is important to me, but I have to pick a strong school (academically) also," he said. "You never know what might happen in soccer."

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