It's always a pleasure to speak with goalkeepers who have played at the international level. Representing your country is a feeling very few get to experience but Steward Ceus is one of the lucky few. He took some time out recently to give us some insight into his journey through MLS and USL as well as his international experience and how it has helped him develop as a goalkeeper. Read all about it below!
You were a multi-sport athlete growing up, what made you choose soccer? Do you think playing multiple sports helped you become a better goalkeeper once you decided to focus on soccer?
Soccer was my first passion in life. As early as 4 years old I was around the soccer field because my dad loved the game and started my brother in rec soccer at an early age. I ended up learning and playing a lot of different sports in my backyard and around town as a young kid. Between travel soccer, youth basketball leagues, and tennis training (and school) I was a really busy kid. I always had a gift for soccer, but I became really serious about a future in soccer when I converted from playing in the field to being a goalkeeper in High School. I fell in love with the position and I knew if I worked hard and stayed focus there would be opportunities to play in college and beyond. Being a multi-sport athlete was one of my biggest assets as a goalkeeper. Having been a field player for the majority of my youth career was also a strength. Basketball, tennis, and soccer were all so different but they had so many things in common; including fitness, footwork, and mentality, and competition. I think my hand eye coordination, foot eye coordination, reflexes, and spatial awareness were challenged in different ways in each sport helping set a foundation for what I would need to be a successful keeper in the future.
You were an exceptional student as well as athlete throughout high school and college, was professional soccer always the goal or did that passion arise as you continued to excel throughout school?
I always was taught by my parents and firmly believed that education is the gateway to great things in life. That being said, I always equally prioritized studying and training. I always knew I was going to go to college to get a degree and become a professional in some field. While on the college search, I was very clear that I wanted to go to a University that would further my career and set me on a professional soccer path. As a Presidential Scholar and an Athletic Scholarship Athlete, I had pressure to perform both in the classroom and on the field. I worked tirelessly in the gym and spent late night hours in the library because I alway wanted to exceed expectations, and I really did enjoy doing both.
You were drafted by the Colorado Rapids in 2009. How did your five years there help you develop as a goalkeeper?
My years in Colorado were instrumental in giving me the physical, technical, and mental foundation I would need not only be a good goalkeeper, but also a good profession athlete and business man. I was fortunate to have a coaching staff and players around me that believed in the hard work and dedication it takes in training, in the gym, and in your own time to be a good teammate that can contribute to the team's goals. I was eager to listen to the veterans, who had played all over the world and in World Cups, on the things they did to be 30+ and still playing at the highest level. Playing with and against them every day also gave me the confidence I needed to know that I was in fact ready to play at any level of the game.
In 2010, you won an MLS Cup with the Rapids. What was your role on that team and how did that championship impact your career?
2010 was an really interesting year for me. I went out on loan to the Charlotte Eagles at the beginning of the season because the previous season was so successful there. Early into the season, I broke my wrist in a training session and was called back to Colorado for surgery and to do my rehab. I spent most of that season rehabbing my injury and working on my fitness and strength. The coaching staff at the Rapids were clear that they still wanted me involved with the team even though I had a broken wrist. They included me in training as a field player until I was cleared to get back to goalkeeper activities. This was a turning point in my career because it gave me confidence I never had before playing with my feet and I was more comfortable with the ball than ever. Soon after I was cleared to play I received my first international call up with Haiti and was thrown right into World Cup Qualification matches.
Once I reunited with the Rapids the playoffs were just about to start. At the time, I was the third goalkeeper on the squad. Fortunately, it was all home games for us and they were some of the most exciting games that I have ever been a part of. The Championship was amazing. It was the culmination of a year of getting through a major injury, and I was riding high off of my new role at the National Team. It was the best way any year could have ever ended.
What was your experience like when you were on loan with the Charlotte Eagles? What was your mentality being an MLS guy on loan in the USL?
The experience at the Charlotte Eagles was very good. I went there with the same mentality I take everywhere. I was ready for the work it would take to perform, and I knew that being an MLS player on loan in the USL, I would be expected to perform. I also knew how valuable real game experience is, so it really was a good situation and I made sure to leave everything on the field every training session and game.
You've spent time overseas as well as with various clubs in the United States; what attributes have allowed you to be successful in multiple environments throughout the years?
I think a major part of being able to travel and succeed in multiple environments is being open to learning. I am an eager student of the game, and I think everyone has knowledge to offer so I am always happy to get to know the people around me and that just leads to a positive training environment and great game chemistry. I think that was another major reason for the success of the 2010 Colorado Rapids, the locker room was a great bunch of guys.
Describe your first call-up to the Haitian National Team. Was it expected? Were there nerves?
I remember being contacted by one of the representatives for the team when I was home one evening. I always hoped that Haiti would notice me, but I just never knew the day would come that I would get the call. The first games were surreal. I was a bundle of nerves, but I did my best to not show it. I will never forget my first international home game in Haiti. So much energy in the stadium and the fans screaming and celebrating the entire game.
Haiti is a small country but they have been able to do some big things on the international stage recently. What is the competition level like within the squad (specifically at the goalkeeper position) and how has this international experience helped you develop as a goalkeeper?
The competition level within the squad is pretty strong. For the majority of my time with the squad, I was the 2nd keeper to Jhonny Placide who played most his career in Ligue 1 (France). I think training with a starting Ligue 1 goalkeeper that early in my career gave me the opportunity to see the differences in our game and what the strengths of his game were. It helped me focus my personal goals on the areas of my game that I needed to improve on and also gave me confidence knowing that I was always knocking on the door for the starting position.
As well as being a professional goalkeeper, you work with a lot of youth goalkeepers. How has the coaching side of the game helped you to improve as a professional goalkeeper? Do you analyze yourself in training/games more now than before you started coaching?
I love working with the youth goalkeepers because I never had a specific goalkeeper coach when I was young. I think it is important for kids to get that training as early as possible. Coaching helps me break down goalkeeper techniques in ways that help me understand them further. I also am required to do a lot of kicking in my sessions, and it has directly improved my accuracy and striking ability for training and games. I think one of my strengths as a player is match analysis. I learned to study my performance early in my soccer career, and I am always looking at ways to improve my game as well as the on-field chemistry between me and my defenders. Being able to objectively analyze games and be brutally honest with myself and teammates enables me to make the adjustments necessary day in and day out to have more success in the long run.
Your career has spanned over 10 years now. Where is your favorite place you've played?
Colorado. It is easily the best place in the country to be.