There’s still an entire semester of courses left to pass if Kyle Fisher wishes to finish his undergraduate degree in Business Management at Clemson University in South Carolina.
But life has taken a different turn for Fisher ever since Jan. 14 when he was selected 14th overall by the Montreal Impact in the MLS SuperDraft. With his home and career path now changed, those classes can wait for the six-foot 180-pound defender, even if they are all available online.
“I’m going to take this chance that I have and put everything into it,” Fisher told Sportsnet about his budding pro soccer career.
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Going into this year’s draft, the Impact were looking for more than just depth in central defence. With Laurent Ciman, last season’s MLS defender of the year, potentially being named to Belgium’s squad for Euro 2016 this summer and Wandrille Lefevre starting to be called into the Canadian team on a regular basis, Montreal needed a player who would be capable of offering an important contribution in his rookie season.
Fisher, who was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year for 2015 and was largely considered one of the most “MLS-ready” players of the draft, explained the Impact didn’t take their pre-draft interviews with him lightly.
“I was really ecstatic about how in-depth they took the interviews and how serious it was for them,” Fisher said. “From the other interviews I went into it was just about getting to know you as a person, but what stood out for me with Montreal was how they brought tactics into it as well and wanted to see how knowledgeable you were about the game.”
Coach Mauro Biello and his staff were equally impressed. Already from Fisher’s first day of training camp, Biello was full of praise for the rookie.
“He looks like a player that’s been here for five years already,” Biello said. “He speaks and communicates like a veteran.”
After two weeks of training, Fisher says he hasn’t experienced a dramatic difference from the college game and that he already feels very comfortable with his new MLS teammates. He’s focused on building chemistry with starting central defenders Ciman and Victor Cabrera, two players, he says, who possess similar playing styles to his own in the way that they like to anticipate oppositions’ plays.
“Training with them has been good; the anticipation and playing on their instincts is what I like to do too, so what we’ve been working on a lot down is just being in sync; just making sure that our line is together,” Fisher said.
“That’s what a lot of pre-season is about for the back four: squeeze in and reading pressure on the ball and staying together. You don’t want to have one or two people dropping too early and stuff like that.”
Like many Americans, Fisher played a variety of different sports during his childhood while growing up in South Carolina. By the age of 13, however, he was playing soccer year-round; and by the time he was in his first season with Clemson, a team he had rooted for since he was a boy, playing soccer professionally became a real possibility.
“When I got to college, my freshman to senior year I started in every game,” Fisher said. “And in freshman year you see some guys get drafted, and it might be forwards that you marked up against before, and then sophomore, junior, senior year, you see other forwards that you’ve been able to do well against and or shut down, and you see they have a future in MLS, and that just builds confidence, and each year I got progressively better.”
Fisher has been following MLS closely and admitted he was already an admirer of Ciman’s play before joining the Impact. Last year he signed up for MLS Live, the league’s online game streaming service, and gave particular attention to the progress of former Clemson teammate and defender Amadou Dia, who played in 22 games for Sporting Kansas City in his rookie season.
Fisher says Biello hasn’t spoken with him yet about the sort of playing time he can expect this season, but the young defender says he’s not thinking that far ahead.
“I just want to take it day by day and not rush to put that extra pressure on myself,” Fisher stated.
“I just want to continue to do what I do. The rest will work itself out and when the time is ready and the coach is confident in my play back there hopefully I’ll get my shot and I’ll make the most of it.”
Nick Sabetti is a Montreal-based writer. Follow him on Twitter