Cary-Grove grad gets his shot in the MLS
Cary-Grove High School graduate Drew Conner set a goal in his youth that he's reached before that youth even faded.
At 23, the lifelong suburban soccer fan joined the Chicago Fire in Major League Soccer (MLS) in 2016 after signing a homegrown player contract. He made his regular season debut in March in a 1-1 tie in extra time when the Fire opened their season at Columbus. Since then, he's played 216 minutes in seven games.
When Conner stepped onto the field to sub for the injured John Goossens, it was something of a dream come true for his entire family.
"My dad was the one who introduced me to the game when I was too young to even remember,” Conner said. “He played collegiate soccer and always had passion for it, and just passed that on to me and my sister Katie, who just committed to play for Lindenwood University. He would take me to Fire games along with any big European friendlies that happened to be played in Chicago. I fell in love with it from the beginning and never really stopped enjoying it.”
Conner played on his first organized team, the Fireballs, before he was 9. It developed his fundamentals, gave him some experience and ignited his passion for the sport.
"I remember pretending to beat defenders or shooting on empty nets, as well as visualizing playing in front of thousands of people I always dreamed of being a pro, and that dream just became more and more realistic the older I got, especially with the support of my family and close friends," Conner said.
Conner talked about role models like Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, wishing he could play against them, but also appreciates what someone like Ronaldinho brings to the table, saying, “You have to enjoy yourself.”
Although Conner credits his versatility and passion for playing on both ends of the field for helping him succeed, it hasn't been an entirely easy transition into the MLS. He said adjusting to game speed and staying mentally focused have been tough.
"When you're a professional and your livelihood depends on your daily performance, a bad training session can ruin your day, as well as weigh on your spirit,” he said. “So, last season I started doing flotation therapy, meditation, or reading to get my mind off the game, which has had some amazing results. It's all about staying level-headed.”
Right now he's focusing on being a positive person and teammate, and genuinely enjoying competing on the field. He's eyeing a 10-plus-year career and wants his legacy to read that he gave his all and helped his team reach new heights.
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