With Atlanta United in its second season, the franchise boasts a roster with talented players from all over the world, and one of these players happens to be one of our very own: goalie Alec Kann.
Time At Lakeside
Since graduating in 2008, Kann has gone on to compete on the collegiate, developmental and professional levels of United States Soccer. Before that, he helped contribute to Lakeside’s only state championship in the past two decades. “When people ask me about my fondest soccer memory, I would definitely put that [the state championship] up at the top,” said Kann, “I was playing with all my best friends at the time and the community and the school really got behind us.” While Kann played goalkeeper his freshman through junior year on the varsity soccer team, his senior year he played out at center midfielder. “I had already committed to college and I wanted to play out in the field and have some fun.” said Kann. If a game happened to go to penalty kicks (which two of their playoff games did including the state final), Kann would put his gloves back on and get in goal.
Kann went through Oak Grove Elementary and then through what was Shamrock Middle before reaching Lakeside. “Lakeside had a really close student body, athletes were close, everyone supported each other” said Kann, “I still keep in touch with 10 to 12 guys on the team.” In addition to soccer, he was a member of several clubs including National Honors Society and Newspaper. During high school, Kann spent some of his time coaching at a local soccer club in Clarkston while also working as a busser at Taqueria el Vecino.
Photo courtesy of Alec Kann
Transitioning from High school to College and the Pros
After his time at Lakeside , Kann took his talents to Furman University to continue his academic and athletic career. “I played for a small club so I wasn’t super highly rated coming out of high school,” said Kann, “Furman was the best fit for me in terms of the size of the school along with a pretty good soccer program at the time.” Once arriving at Furman, he was met with some challenges when it came to a college-athlete lifestyle. Lakeside offered him a multitude of AP classes which allowed him to get 12 college credits which helped reduce some of the stress of being a freshman student athlete balancing soccer while trying to have a social life with academics.
Transitioning to collegiate soccer brought new challenges for Kann. “Every time there’s a step up, there’s a couple weeks or months where you’re like, ‘I don’t know if I really belong at this level’, ” said Kann, “It’s more of a full time job in college whereas in high school it was mostly for fun.” It wasn’t until after his senior year, during which he earned National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) All-South Region honors, All-Southern Conference honors and NSCAA Scholar All-America accolades after guiding Furman to a NCAA Division I Tournament berth, that he seriously set his eyes on the pros.
Photo by: Mark Rotolo
After going undrafted and talks with the Chicago Fire not working out, Kann signed a deal with a developmental team called the Charleston Battery. He spent the first 10 months of his time in Charleston sidelined with a knee injury that he thought might signal the end of his soccer career, but he stayed in touch with the coach at Chicago Fire where he ended up for preseason training. It ended up being what he called, “a war of attrition” for his spot on the team. The players Chicago intended on signing went to other teams for more money or other reasons and he ended up staying in Chicago for three years. After Chicago, he signed with Sporting KC where he played for an additional year. The MLS (Major League Soccer) conducted an expansion draft in 2016 in order for new teams, like Atlanta United, to pick up players. “It’s pretty much a roll of the dice for where you’ll end up, said Kann, “I happened to have a connection in Atlanta and they wanted to bring me here.”
Atlanta United began its first season in January 2016 and since Atlanta was unable to get the current starting goalie until the end of the season, Kann got to start for his hometown team from March up until an injury cut his season short in June. “When the team was getting started, I was kind of the only local guy contributing which was really special for me, and I’m just really fortunate to have the opportunity to play in my hometown,” said Kann, “That’s pretty much everyone’s dream.”
While Kann was thrilled to be playing for his hometown, at the time of his selection, he was unaware he would be picked at all. “My agent called me and said, ‘Hey, you’re moving to Atlanta,’ and I was overjoyed,” said Kann.
Soccer has opened many doors for him that he says he wouldn’t have open otherwise. He travels a lot, saying, “I get to see all these cities on someone else’s dime which is really nice.” He has travelled to places like England, Brazil, and the Caribbean to play games and made close friends with people he would have never met if he didn’t play soccer.
His daily schedule consists of practice from around 10 am to one or two pm every day, and then after that he has the rest of the day to himself depending on their game schedule. “The first couple of years that I played I wasn’t very good at budgeting my time, but that was because I was living in a city where I didn’t really know anyone,” said Kann. Now that Kann plays back in Atlanta, he spend most of his afternoons and evenings coaching. “I enjoy influencing young players who aren’t getting the level [of] coaching that they need,” said Kann. He also spends his free time going to coffee shops, reading, and spending time with his brother who also went to Lakeside.
Once he decides to hang up his gloves, Kann plans to use his sociology degree that he earned at Furman, and enter a career where he can help athletes. “There’s a lot of mental demands that go into today’s game that people don’t really think about, and there’s not a ton of infrastructure there for players to get the help that they need mental health wise,” said Kann. While he says now that he wants to do that, he emphasized that this was a tentative plan and that it could change at any time.
The Grind: “It’s a long haul, it’s a mental battle, but hey I get to play soccer for a living, it could be a lot worse,” said Kann. He started the first 18 games of the 2016 season and recorded four clean sheets.
Photo by: MLSsoccer.com