City midfielder Ian “Steve” Smith sat down and talked about his journey with the club in his own words:
I’m currently entering my third season with Minneapolis City, and, at a whopping 20 years of age, I’m only just past my teenage years. I don’t think I can truly describe how beneficial the last two summers with MCSC has been for me in my development as a player on and off the field.
I have gathered information in facets of soccer I never thought would be necessary, yet here I am; conducting interviews, forming relationships with fans, holding kids hands as I walk on to the pitch even though I was them a mere 6-8 years in the past. It really is a special thing to be able to say I play for a unique club in the city where I was born and raised, while still gaining the vital elements I need to further my career in soccer.
It really is a special thing to be able to say I play for a unique club in the city where I was born and raised, while still gaining the vital elements I need to further my career in soccer.
First things first, I want to make it clear to all City fans how honored I am to play in front of them every week, in a city that I have called home since the day I was born.
I was born in south Minneapolis, raised in the same house my whole life and went through Minneapolis public schools until graduating high school, so I am as Minneapolis as it comes.
Being able to pull on a jersey for the Crows at such a young age has been one of the highlights of my young career. Thank you to all the Citizens especially, you are truly the greatest group of supporters I have ever witnessed, from following us to ramshackle pitches in La Crosse, to flooding the stands at Augsburg every week, you are there for it all, and your passion and dedication definitely doesn’t go unnoticed by me or the rest of the squad. I haven’t had a stage to voice that before, so I thought I would just take a quick second to show you all the respect you deserve.
Being a local kid who listened to Atmosphere, watched the Twins at the Metrodome, and eats a Jucy Lucy at Matt’s, it seems ever-so-fitting to be able to play for a home town team, and you all are the reason it is so special.
As a player, I love to keep things simple and efficient; that’s my job as a holding midfielder, isn’t it? Making sure everything’s calm, facilitating with the ball and acting as a metronome for your team, being that quiet presence that everyone outside the pitch overlooks.
From my time at City, I feel I have improved at doing just that, through the proper training and match environment, while also receiving fantastic tips from all the staff at the club.
Having the opportunity to play at such a high level every week at a young age has forced me to improve as a player. I now see the game quicker, and more fully, from playing with City. I am not an athletic specimen, and never will be, and know that as I elevate to higher levels of soccer such as NCAA or NPSL, the players I face will only continue to improve.
With that being said, I have learned from many of the experienced players at City, especially Dan O’Brien in the holding midfield role, on how to be an average athlete but an above-average soccer mind: Simply watching how a player of his caliber uses the space given, occupying a pocket equidistant from 3 on-rushing defenders to maximize his time and space, utilizing the ball properly and keeping it moving. Or on seeing how a player like Martin Browne never shows the ball to a defender when he turns, constantly putting his body in between the ball and the defender, making it virtually impossible to dispossess him; he is either fouled, or escapes with the ball.
These are things you don’t learn from playing in men’s league over the summer, or in U19 leagues.
As a young player trying to make it as far as possible, you want to be in the environments where you have the greatest chance of learning, as well as playing.
Going into my first season at City, I was 18 and fresh out of the Academy system. I have only great things to say about my experience at MTA and how the coaches there furthered me as a soccer player, but I needed something more to help push me to the next level before I headed off to my freshman season with the Green Bay Phoenix.
City was the perfect place to get my growing pains out of the way, to learn the hard lessons before my first year in college.
I remember every game my first year at City felt exponentially quicker than my games prior, and although I never felt out of place, I was forced to adapt constantly to my new environment. I was a kid who just graduated high school, now expected to play against D1 college players and ex-professionals; quite a big ask for a young man.
I am forever grateful for the adaptation period I experienced with City that first summer. I shot into my first college preseason already used to that high level of play. I felt very comfortable at the D1 level and acquitted myself nicely throughout my freshman year.
When it came time to come back to City for my second season with them, I had higher hopes and bigger expectations of myself, and from the coaching staff. Last summer I felt a big rise in ability from the year before, I saw the game better, and became more vocal in the process, telling my teammates what I saw, giving instructions. I formed a better relationship with the fans, making more of an effort to be visible to them, showing up to more club events.
I truly believe that the form I had in the summer carried on to the fall, where I was able to help Green Bay to a fantastic season as first-time Horizon League Regular Season and an appearance in the conference tournament final. But the lessons I learned were not simply on the pitch, but off them as well. A modern-day footballer is an all-encompassing player; good with people, and good with a soccer ball.
This was something I would not have learned if it wasn’t for my time with City.
As corny as it sounds, the memories I have made playing for City have been second-to-none.
Winning with 11 players in 90-degree heat in Madison, winning in Sioux Falls 3-2 with our backup goalie playing forward, scoring a simple tap-in against La Crosse and proceeding to celebrate with Chairman Hoedeman like we won the Champions League final, playing against the Des Moines Menace in front of 2,000 fans, playing an MLS side like Minnesota United… all of these times are unforgettable to me, and they hold such a deep place in my heart. These are the types of opportunities you don’t get playing somewhere else, and they have all helped me better myself as a soccer player, and a person. For a young player, playing at this level, and for a club like this, the only way you can go, is up.
So, I guess it’s safe to say City has helped transition in ways I could have never imagined.