From playing at the highest levels in youth soccer to playing for two perennial NCAA powerhouses, our latest blog interviewee has plenty of goalkeeping experience to share with you. We recently got to speak with UNC Charlotte goalkeeper, and former Clemson Tiger, Daniel Kuzemka. See the full interview below!
1.What was the US Development Academy like for you? How did it prepare you for the jump to Division I soccer? The US Development Academy really helped me grow as a player. I made the transition to the Development Academy my junior year of High School and it was where I made my most growth as a player. The level of play was a night and day difference from playing club soccer. It got me playing at a faster speed and higher level which prepared me extremely well for college.
2. You started your college career at Clemson University. What was the recruiting process like? How did you make your final decision to choose Clemson? The recruiting process was hectic for sure. Playing in the Academy Showcases and Playoffs in front of hundreds of coaches brought quite a lot of pressure on those games. Outside of playing in games with my US Development Academy team, attending college ID camps helped showcase my ability to college coaches. Out of high school, I had a number of options to choose from on where I wanted to play college soccer and I ended up committing to Clemson University. Clemson was a dream school to me in the moment. The big school, playing in big games and playing for one of the top 5 teams in the country; that was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down.
3. Describe for us the college season. What are some of the big differences from youth soccer to college soccer? What is it like physically? Mentally? The college season is like no other. It is such a compact season and it really is only about 3 months. There are some weeks where you will play 3 games in 7 days and that is extremely draining on your body mentally and physically. On top of all of that, we are still students! So being organized with your school work and preparing/playing 3 games in 7 days is not an easy task. 4. What went into the decision to transfer from Clemson to UNC Charlotte? After my junior year at Clemson, I decided I wanted to transfer and find a new home. I had an unbelievable experience at Clemson and played in some big games and had big moments but I needed a change. I wasn’t playing as much as I felt I deserved and I have very high goals and dreams I want to accomplish. So, I made the move to UNC Charlotte and I couldn’t be any happier with my decision. 5. What was the adjustment period like coming into a new environment at UNC Charlotte? How did you settle into a new team, school, and city? It was a bit awkward at first since I joined the team in the spring semester of 2020. Everyone else on the team at least knew each other for a semester and I was the only new face within the team. I have to give my teammates and coaches a lot of credit because they welcomed me with open arms. They made me feel a part of the team immediately and showed me the ropes around the program, school and new city I was living in.
6. What training advice would you give to younger goalkeepers aspiring to reach the high level of collegiate play that you have? You have to push yourself extremely hard to get to this level. Being a goalkeeper is a unique position and you can’t show your work rate out on the field during games. So where you get better and show your character is during training. You have to push yourself every day and every session. Us, as goalkeepers, are the hardest working players on the team and if you aren’t fully committed to working hard and getting better you’ll never make it to a high level.
7. How do you handle your goalkeeper gloves throughout the season to make them last? Training pair and game pair? How many do you typically go through in a season? I always have multiple pairs of the same glove when I’m in season. Ideally I like to have 2 training pairs I rotate through and a game pair. I like to make sure that they’re the same type of glove so I have that same feeling every time I’m training or playing in the games. Also, something that has helped me a lot with keeping gloves in good shape is washing them after each session. By washing them you get all the dirt out of the glove and helps keep them stickier. 8. How do you like your goalkeeper gloves to fit? Tighter or a little more finger room? Is there a certain cut of glove you prefer? I like my gloves fairly tight on my hand. I feel like when they’re tighter I have more control of the ball and it feels more natural. Also, I prefer negative cut gloves because they are designed most similar to the shape of your hands and fingers. Other cuts on gloves can sometimes be too bulky and that bothers me.
9. What is your favorite goalkeeping memory? It could be winning an award or making a big save. My favorite goalkeeping memory was my first game with UNC Charlotte. We played Duke on the road and we played them to a 0-0 tie. I had 6 big saves and some other plays that contributed to the shutout. After the game, I ended up getting a number of awards that week, like CUSA Defensive Player of the Week and College Soccer Team of the Week. It was a great way to have my debut with UNC Charlotte and it couldn’t have gone much better.
10. Who is your favorite goalkeeper in the world and why? My favorite goalkeeper is Kasper Schmeichel. I love his approach to the game. He is so dedicated and has gone through a lot to get to where he is at. I have listened to a number of podcasts of his and he really inspires me to chase my dreams.