Goalkeeper Upbeat After Irish Breakup

Goalkeeper Upbeat After Irish Breakup

Winnipeg Free Press Article – Jason Bell

Tyson Farago prefers not to dwell on the Irish stew that scuttled his pro soccer career in Europe, setting his sights instead on a possible future with a Winnipeg squad set to debut in 2019.

Until 10 days ago, the 27-year-old from Wolseley was tending goal for St. Patrick’s Athletic, a Dublin-based team that competes in the League of Ireland’s premier division. He became expendable when keeper Brendan Clarke, a longtime former member of St. Pats, left a rival squad to rejoin his good buddy, coach Liam Buckley, and his old teammates.

Farago had no desire to be a third wheel, so he parted ways with the club by “mutual consent” and headed home last week.

“The coach and I agreed on a breakup; it was best for both sides,” Farago said Tuesday. “I wanted to go home and try to find a league here.”

His dream now is to be the saving grace for Valour FC of the Canadian Premier League, slated to begin play in April.

“There are other options, but as a Winnipegger, I’d love to play in my backyard,” he said. “As a young Winnipeg soccer player, I can remember it didn’t seem like there was a light at the end of the tunnel. But now there’s Valour and it’s definitely a way to go. It’s an exciting opportunity.”

Rob Gale, former head coach of the Canadian men’s U-20 national team, was named the inaugural head coach and general manager of the Winnipeg team last month.

“I’ve spoken to Rob and we’ve talked about the possibility of it happening,” Farago said. “It’s something I want to pursue. For young players, we’ve had the WSA Winnipeg program getting us ready for pro soccer, and now there’s an actual opportunity right here at home.”

When he got back, Farago immediately signed with WSA Winnipeg of the Premier Development League for the final few games of the season, including this Friday’s season-ending clash with Kaw Valley FC, based out of Kansas City. It’s a nice homecoming for Farago, who is no stranger to head coach Eduardo Badescu’s young team.

He starred with WSA Winnipeg in 2013, making 14 straight starts and leading the league in saves as well as saves per game — despite the squad’s finish in the division cellar — and was named to the all-conference team.

That was the launching pad for a four-year stint with the now defunct Edmonton FC of the North American Soccer League and a tour of duty in Dublin, which began in late March. Farago backed up St. Pats’ starter Barry Murphy for much of the season, but did make four appearances, preserving a 1-0 shutout of Waterford in late April.

He was one of a handful of Manitobans playing pro soccer aboard this year. Others include midfielders Marco Bustos of CA Zacatepec in Mexico and Kianz Froese, currently with Fortuna Düsseldorf II in Germany.

Farago lived in a one-bedroom flat in downtown Dublin, just across the street from teammate Jake Keegan, a New York-born forward. The two also played together in Edmonton.

They had a car to share and did some touring on days off.

“We drove to see all of the cliffs and we went to all the Game of Thrones sites. It was cool,” he said.

While he’s disappointed he couldn’t stick with the Athletic until the end of the season, Farago has no regrets, savouring every memory from his nearly four months in Ireland.

“There’s nothing better than playing in a football-crazed city,” he said. “Playing with 5,000 fans watching us every game, it was a great experience.”

The behaviour of Irish soccer fans is the stuff of legends, he said.

“I had people right behind me screaming every name in the book at me,” Farago recalled, laughing. “There was one time where they actually stopped the game because things were just too crazy. People were throwing flares onto the pitch. It was actually our fans who travelled to an away game (in Sligo).

“I was on the sidelines, but I loved seeing it.”

That makes perfect sense because — and he makes no bones about it — goalkeepers are not like regular folks.

“We’re a different breed,” he said. “You have to be a little weird. You have to be so mentally engaged at all times and there are little tricks to keeping your brain focused on the game. You don’t touch the ball for 10 to 15 minutes and somehow you have to stay engaged.”

Bad plays happen all over the field, but when one occurs anywhere near the goal, there’s no disguising it; standing between the posts, there is no room for error,” he said.

Yet over the course of a pro career, some balls sneak by that shouldn’t, while some, miraculously, stay out.

“In Ireland, I had one little slip-up. I got a short back-pass and I went to kick it out and a guy got his foot in between me and the kickout and it hit off his foot and went into the net,” Farago said. “I knew he was there and I tried to get it off as quick as I could, but he had long legs.

“The year before in Edmonton, I had a couple of saves — diving full out, fingertips — and just thinking, ‘Thank God I saved that.’ There’s nothing like that, making a save where it’s like, ‘What the heck did I just do?’”

jason.bell@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @WFPJasonBell