Friday, February 12, 2010
A giant change in latitude is in store for Greg Eckhardt who has agreed to terms with Vaasan Palloseura (VPS) of the Finnish Veikkausliiga.
Eckhardt joins fellow American Brian Pope as newcomers to the club this season as VPS look to improve on last year's disappointing eighth place finish.
The former Clemson University standout said his coaches at the South Carolina school helped facilitate his move to the Scandinavian country which resulted in a signed contract earlier this week.
"I did sign with VPS [Thursday]," Eckhardt confirmed to YA. "I arrived in Vaasa by a recommendation through my college coaches at Clemson, Phil Hindson and Mike Potempa. We felt Finland was a good opportunity to begin a professional [soccer] career – a good level, good coaching, good exposure and being in a professional environment."
The defender added that, while on trial, he played in a match that apparently earned him rave reviews in the front office and an offer to spend the 2010 season with the club.
"I was on trial here for a week and played in a League Cup match this past weekend. I played well and was asked to stay and I ended up signing a couple days later."
Playing in Finland will be a drastic change for the Orange Park, Florida native however one should not expect Eckhardt to be intimidated by the transition.
The well-traveled ex-Atlantic Coast Conference star has already achieved many goals in his young career, especially on the international level.
Eckhardt was named to various US youth national teams while at Clemson and competed in several overseas matches including a tournament with the U-18 team in Brazil and a cup competition with the U-20 team in Manchester, England.
As for this season, Eckhardt is keeping his personal goals simple and straightforward while trying to help VPS make a run to its first Veikkausliiga title since 1948.
"I currently have a few different goals for the season," he explained. "In the short term, I am hoping to earn the respect of my teammates and coaches. This means playing well in practice every day and earning a starting position on the team. This season, I want to continue to develop and contribute to the team's success."
"Last year in the league, VPS finished around mid-table. For me, I would always like to see an improvement and hopefully we can finish above that," he concluded.
Eckhardt and Pope kick off their Veikkausliiga season on April 18th when they square off against JJK.