Lucky Mkosana ’12 seeks better fortune with Philadelphia Union
By Emma Willems
Published on Thursday, November 1, 2012
After a disappointing start to his post-collegiate soccer career, Lucky Mkosana ’12 has found the light at the end of the tunnel. After a successful stint with the Harrisburg City Islanders, Mkosana has been training with the Philadelphia Union in hopes of signing a Major League Soccer contract with the team next year.
Few players in Dartmouth men’s soccer history have matched the achievements of Mkosana. During his time with the Big Green, the Zimbabwe native earned several accolades, including Ivy League Player of the Year and four All-Ivy First Team selections. He also became Dartmouth’s all-time leading scorer with 34 goals, breaking a record established in 1953.
After graduating last winter, the 5’9”, 170-pound forward was drafted by the Chicago Fire in the 2012 Major League Soccer SuperDraft but never signed with the team. Mkosana subsequently joined a United Soccer League Professional Division team, the Harrisburg City Islanders, an affiliate of the Philadelphia Union MLS team. USL Pro is the third tier in the professional men’s soccer hierarchy, below Major League Soccer and the North American Soccer League.
Although Mkosana is satisfied with his current situation, his post-Ivy career had several speed bumps along the way. After being selected as the 23rd overall pick by the Fire, Mkosana spent his senior Winter term juggling schoolwork with soccer as he divided his time between Dartmouth and training with the MLS team.
“I was going back and forth, and whenever I got back [to Chicago], it felt like I was starting over,” Mkosana said. “The other guys were training all week, but even when I was there, I still needed to think about school.”
In the end, balancing a four-class Dartmouth course load and intensive training proved to be too overwhelming for Mkosana.
“I think the hardest part for him was that he couldn’t focus on that one sole thing that he wanted to accomplish,” former teammate Kevin Dzierzawski ’13 said. “I think that made playing at the next level that much more difficult.”
Ultimately, the Chicago Fire did not sign Mkosana to an official contract, temporarily ruining his dream of playing on a Major League Soccer team.
“It was definitely the hardest part for me, but at least I got my college degree,” Mkosana said.
Although Mkosana was disappointed to end his time with the Chicago Fire, he maintained a positive attitude and did not give up on his professional soccer career. In the spring, he began playing with the Harrisburg City Islanders, a team located in central Pennsylvania. Mkosana began playing with the City Islanders mid-season, but it was fairly easy for him to fit in since he already knew some of the players from his time playing in the Ivy League.
“It was one of those situations where I quickly started feeling like I’d been there for awhile,” Mkosana said. “It was fun to play there, and the players and coaches were all really great.”
Mkosana finished a successful season with the City Islanders with seven goals and two assists and led the team in scoring. He was named to the USL-PRO All-League second team and was a finalist for the USL-PRO Rookie of the Year title. Mkosana attributes a large portion of his success after Dartmouth to his time playing with the Big Green.
“I think [head] coach [Jeff] Cook did a good job helping me push myself fitness-wise and mentally, and I’ll always be grateful to him for that,” Mkosana said.
Cook said he focused on improving vital parts of Mkosana’s game during his time coaching Mkosana.
“Lucky showed great determination to improve even though he was already very skillful when he came to Dartmouth,” Cook said. “We worked on his fitness and on his tactical side of the game, and I think that all of those things made him even more effective.”
Mkosana’s stellar performance with the City Islanders helped him advance toward his goal of playing at the MLS level. For the past six weeks, Mkosana has been training with the Philadelphia Union. He plans to practice with the squad until next year’s preseason, when he hopes to be officially signed to the team.
“It’s been a little harder than when I played with the Islanders, but it isn’t bad,” Mkosana said. “It hasn’t been hard to fit in here.”
As Mkosana continues to strive for his goal of a MLS contract, he remains close with his teammates at Dartmouth and his former coach. According to Cook, the two speak at least every other week as Cook has advised him with handling new teammates, coaches and agents.
“I think he’s doing very well,” Cook said. “It’s hard to get a contract in Major League Soccer, especially as a non-American. I think if Lucky takes everything one step at a time, he can have success at every step along the way.”
Mkosana’s teammates also remain confident that he’ll have a successful soccer career.
“Everyone who knows Lucky knows he’ll be able to make it to the MLS level,” Dzierzawski said. “It’s just a matter of time and a matter of what team finds the right fit for him.”
Although Mkosana’s main focus is currently on playing in the MLS, his longer-term goals include playing in Europe. Wherever he ends up, it is clear that the Big Green faithful will offer him support every step of the way.