KENYA BROWN - Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Goalkeeper Markus Dickerson has dreams of one day playing in England, but he has decided to start his professional career in Norway with second division side Kongsvinger IL.
The California native was not selected by any teams in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft after finishing his college career, but as he told Yanks Abroad, it was what he wanted.
"I didn't want to play in the U.S. so it had no effect on me at all," he said. "My goal is to eventually play in England, and I don't believe I would get there if I started my career in the U.S. There is a lot more upward mobility in the soccer systems in Europe."
Growing up in California Dickerson was involved in various sports such as basketball and football. However, it was soccer that would have his attention at a very young age. According to the 6-4 netminder, despite the interest in those sports, his love for soccer would take over and lead him down his current career path.
"I played football and tennis as well in high school and during most of my junior and senior years I thought I was going to play college football instead," he said. "Luckily I was never offered a scholarship for football so I stayed with soccer. Even with the talk of football I always knew in my heart it would either be soccer or basketball. Since they are both during the same season in high school I had to make that decision my freshman year, and I loved soccer so that's what I went with. My club soccer years were very formative and my love grew more and more. My Mom's from England so I think it's in my blood."
After focusing his attention on soccer full-time, the 24-year-old would move to the college ranks at California State University Dominguez Hills. His time at the NCAA Division II school was fruitful as he earned many individual honors and became the school's all-time leader in shutouts in his senior year.
"Playing college soccer was one of the important steps in achieving my dream. I loved it," said the former Toros player. "My freshman year I came into a great squad that I learned a lot from. We won the D-II National Championship that year. I redshirted but I was on the roster and traveled to all the playoff games and the final four. I think this was one of the most important times in college."
"All the experience, confidence, and soccer IQ I gained helped me get to this level. The Coaches Joe Flanagan, Jeff Tuttle and Drew Rea were a great help my whole time there. Most of all Mike Littman who took me under his wing and taught me everything on and off the pitch. He was a key factor in my success as a player."
Prior to the end of Dickerson's college career there were thoughts of turning professional. While only some can take their game to the next level, he knew from a very young age that he would be a professional athlete based on the encouraging words people said to him during his formative years.
"My mom told me I could do anything I want if I worked hard enough so I think that's what really made me believe my whole life," said Dickerson. "During club and high school I was told by coaches that I could go far. I remember my club head coach, a former pro keeper from England, told me after a specific game that I made a top class save and he could see me playing professional. As well as one day I was walking with Joe after practice and he said, ‘You know we believe you can play at the next level, just keep doing what you're doing.' Hearing that from him was a great moment."
Having ended a stellar career at Cal State and keeping the encouraging words from his family and coaches in mind, Dickerson would forge ahead with finding his first professional team in Europe.
Norway would be his first destination in his pursuit of finding a team. After going through a trial with first division side Strommen for several days and not earning a contract, he would head over to Kongsvinger for week-long trial.
It was during this trial that Dickerson would come across former United States national team head coach Bob Bradley and Tippeligaen side Stabaek as the two teams played against each other in a March preseason game.
Little did he know that his performance in the game would be more than enough to guarantee him a contract.
"I trained well that week and played the last 20 minutes, with the score 1-1, in a game against Stabaek. I had two good saves as well as saving a PK in the 85th minute; we went on to win that game 2-1," said Dickerson. "When I heard they wanted to sign me, I was the happiest I can ever imagine someone being, finally obtaining a lifelong dream is amazing."
In Dickerson's first season with Kongsvinger he has worked very hard to earn playing time - and he has played in some games. While the team will miss out on the chance of gaining promotion to the first division, he is gaining a great deal of experience that will become vital as he aspires to have a career similar to Everton's Tim Howard and former MLS goalkeeper Kevin Hartman - two players Dickerson admires.
Off the field, Dickerson continues to get adjusted to life in Kongsvinger. While the town is nowhere near like his life in California, he seems to be very happy where he is at the moment.
"Kongsvinger is a great place. It's a bit small and since I haven't decided to buy a car yet I'm not as able to go other places like I was at home. So in that sense I am a little limited here, but I am here to play so it's ok," he said. "The teammates are great and I am working on breaking that language barrier. Everyone here speaks great English but it's still not the same. The supporters are amazing and at every match!"
Dickerson's professional career may have just started, but he has big ambitions. One of those ambitions is to play in England. As he holds a British passport along with his American one, the Norwich City supporter believes he has what it takes to make it over there. He is also aware of what he must do if he wants to reach that level.
"Just continual upward progress is my goal. That's a dream I have to achieve. I have to eventually play in England," he said.
In addition to club ambitions, he also aspires to one day represent the United States on the international level. While the goalkeeper position has always been one of the most highly competitive spots on the national team, Dickerson is confident that he can earn his way in.
"I must one day represent my country. It's part of my dream so I will achieve it," said Dickerson.
"I don't really know what else to say about these goals besides the belief I have in myself that I will conquer them as long as I continue to work harder and harder. When I talk about my belief I don't want it to sound arrogant or rude, I just don't doubt myself."