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Kyle McLagan’s Underdog Mentality: From College Walk-On To Champions League 

Kyle McLagan, an American defender for Víkingur in the Besta deild (Iceland’s First Tier) joined Footwork to analyze the rocky road which led to unforeseen heights. 

Every week, Dylan and Sean at Footwork Podcast bring you original interviews from players and coaches making their own path around the world. Below we have a short excerpt from their latest podcast guest Kyle McLagan. You can find the full interview on your preferred streaming platform here (Footwork Podcast).

“I’ve always felt like an underdog,” Kyle tells us from his apartment located in Iceland’s capital city Reykjavik. “I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder.”

A city where he has spent the last two years enjoying some of the brightest highlights of his career. He spends his days rehabbing from an ACL, MCL and meniscus injury which occurred during a lightly snow-filled preseason game on March 18th of this year. 

One which put him in a boot for six and a half weeks even before surgery. But one which will also hopefully be a memory of the past, come next season. 

An underdog makes complete sense. He hadn’t played for a notable club team in his high school years, which essentially paved the way to a D1 scholarship. 

Yet another U.S. Soccer formatting failure says this writer. An article for another day. 

He had even wrestled with the idea of moving on from the sport. He ultimately decided to try his luck at Furman University where he had been ‘kind of sort of’ asked to join the team after a successful open tryout. 

But, without a scholarship. An invited walk-on if you will. 

Both parties were essentially testing each other out, with uncertainty about how the future would materialize.

An injury to the starting center-back provided Kyle with an unexpected chance to prove what he was really capable of. And that scholarship, once out of sight, now provided him a place to develop and continue convincing any skeptics. 

Four years of progress would hopefully open up new doors and new possibilities. Yet, draft day comes and goes. No calls from agents. 

The path to pro at this moment is admittedly hard to see from his position. But even harder from the outside. 

That didn’t deter McLagan however, as he ventured into countless combines and USL Tryouts, both open and invite-only. 

The no’s would deter many. And have deterred a large population of college graduates. But Kyle’s balance of persistence and patience kept his road open. 

And because of that, he proved himself yet again at an AX Soccer Tour combine. Earning a two-week trial for Danish 2nd Tier side FC Roskilde.

Another whiff at being an underdog. This was a level he admittedly didn’t feel ready for, even after earning a contract. 

Doubt and imposter syndrome were de facto opponents during his first season abroad. One which he admits as one of his “most difficult moments.”

“I had a very tough adjustment period,” reveals the Furman University graduate. “What was expected of me from a footballing sense, was a lot more than I’d ever been asked of before.”

It took time, probably longer than he had hoped, but he demonstrated once again, to those around him and himself, that he was capable of this and more. 

He established himself at FC Roskilde. He then established himself in Iceland at Fram Reykjavík. And then at Víkingur. 

He showed he could play higher than many thought. He’s played in front of 20,000 plus in Poland, in European qualifiers.

“The highs have been quite high,” admits the defender, “and to be honest, I aim to take them higher.”

He’s proven he could play in a European first division, and improve each season, in each country. 

And after each moment, it resets that he’s a dark horse in a race to whatever was thought unreachable. 

Because he’s done it before. So why not? 

He had plenty of training for this theme. He had experienced doubt from all around him. Even from within. 

“I’ve always just kept moving forward. Maybe that’s a really simple way of putting it.” Kyle can’t quite put his finger on why but he knows it’s the truth. “But I’ve always found a way to adapt, to adjust, and conquer things. I just keep moving.”

In the end, it all just fueled the fire. 

Kyle McLagan. The underdog from Kansas City, who’s made his mark on the sport.

Ready to make another. 

author

Dylan Williams (Footwork Podcast)

Another Yank Abroad himself and one-half of Footwork Podcast. Having finished his collegiate soccer career at SUNY Oneonta, Dylan wanted to join the ranks of Americans pursuing their dream of playing abroad. Stints down under in Australia, in small Swedish towns, and now at the Hamburg docks in Germany, have allowed him to enjoy a crazy semi-pro and professional career thus far. On the side is a passion project called Footwork Podcast. It has allowed himself, and his co-host Sean, to interview countless players around the world. Jay DeMerit, Terrence Boyd, and Janice Cayman are just a few examples. If he’s not running box to box or creating new episodes, you can surely find him in the supporters sections at St.Pauli home games. Because Hamburg ist Braun und Weiß! You can check out more from Dylan at Footwork.club and by searching Footwork Podcast on all socials.

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