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Exclusive: A Matured Chris Seitz Faces New Challenge In Dallas

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Chris Seitz will back up FC Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman after starting 22 games for the Philadelphia Union in 2010.  (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
Chris Seitz will back up FC Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman after starting 22 games for the Philadelphia Union in 2010. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
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It appeared all was well for Chris Seitz. Despite an up and down year for the Philadelphia Union, Seitz was prepared to enter into his second year with the team and win the starting job back from former back up goalkeeper Brad Knighton

By the end of December 15, 2010, Seitz's mind had moved onto other things. He was no longer an Union player.

"I was a little disappointed at the time. The fans were great and were incredibly passionate," Seitz told BrotherlyGame.com. "I wish I would have shown them more. With that being said it's a business and I'm excited for a new step in my career."

Though still young for a goalkeeper, the 23-year-old has already experienced more team movement and lost opportunities than some players do in their entire careers.

Drafted fourth overall by Real Salt Lake in the 2007 MLS SuperDraft, the former University of Maryland star was thought to have one of the highest potential ceilings of any goalkeeper to enter into MLS play.

His first three years in Salt Lake were split between backing up 2010 Best XI snub Nick Rimando (27 games started, 14 shutouts and only 18 goals against - second in goals against average to Kevin Hartman - in 2010) and loans to the Cleveland City Stars and (then an USL-I team) the Portland Timbers

"I was behind a very good goalkeeper in Nick and I used that time to grow and become a professional. I look at Salt Lake as a positive in maturing as a player," said Seitz.

With only 10 starts over three seasons with Salt Lake, three of which came while on loan, the then 21-year-old became expendable to the team. Instead of leaving players that had contributed to the team's 2009 MLS Cup victory unprotected for the 2009 MLS Expansion Draft, Salt Lake traded the goalkeeper for allocation money and Philly was to not select any Salt Lake players in the draft.

Piotr Nowak and the Union had the first starting goalkeeper in Union history. Almost right after turning 22, Seitz made his first start for the Union, eighth of his MLS career, against the Seattle Sounders. Toni Stahl and his red card helped to spoil the Union's debut, as it fell to the Sounders 2-0.

The rest of the 2010 MLS season wasn't much better for Seitz, though he did have bright spots along the way in his 22 starts (23 appearances) for the Union. Though gaining fans amongst the Union faithful in the River End by the halfway point of the season (the Sons of Ben had turned the song "Shots" by LMFAO into "Seitz"), the goalkeeper turned into the name used to describe the disappointing state of the Union's back line corps.

"Philadelphia was rough for me and it was my first opportunity as a starter," Seitz said. "I haven't lost confidence in my ability. I continue to train hard and well. I know it's just a matter of time before I show that."

A demotion to back up behind fellow net minder Knighton followed Nowak's loss of faith in Seitz. The eight of the final nine games of the season saw the San Luis Obispo, California native on the bench and Knighton in net (Seitz started the season finale loss against the Columbus Crew).

During the SuperDraft, Seitz's college coach, Sasho Cirovski, told reporters that part of the reason why he believes Zac MacMath (drafted fifth overall by the Union in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft) has a better chance than Seitz at transitioning into MLS is because of playing time. Seitz came to the Union with very little competition playing time. There was no Reserve League for him to benefit from during his time with Salt Lake.

Nevertheless, Seitz headed into last November's 2010 MLS Expansion Draft confident that he had a future with the Union. He did not expect that he would not be taken by either the Portland Timbers or Vancouver Whitecaps, the new MLS expansion clubs.

"They talked to us about it and they made it pretty clear they weren't going to protect either goalkeeper. The Union knew the two teams in the draft had already signed goalkeepers or didn't want one in the draft," said Seitz.

The day of the Expansion Draft was an eventful one, with the Union trading a second round SuperDraft selection - which turned out to be the second rounder received in the trade with the Kansas City Wizards for center defender Shavar Thomas - for Crew midfielder Brian Carroll. Shea Salinas, who was told only 24 hours previous that the Union would protect him in the draft, found himself on the way out of the team as a result.

For Seitz, however, the day was one of great elation. Surprisingly, the Union chose to protect him after Salinas was taken by the Whitecaps with the second pick of the draft's fourth round (eighth overall).

"The fact that they protected me made me think that they were interested in developing me and that I was a long term deal," Seitz said. "That they wanted to show faith in me." 

But the process of retaking his starting role was not nearly finished. He still needed to agree to a new contract with the Union. At this point Seitz still believed that he was set to return to the Union. With the first hurdle of the Expansion Draft conquered, Seitz entered into negotiations to extend his time with the Union.

"I really thought I was going back to Philly. We were in contract discussions at the time before the reentry draft," said Seitz.

A contract failed to emerge and Seitz was thrust into a situation he had not wanted. Instead of returning to the Union on his own terms, Seitz was forced to endure the uncertainty of the MLS Re-Entry Draft.

The first stage of the Re-Entry Draft happened on December 8, 2010 and Seitz was not chosen by any team. During the first stage teams could take players, but had to renew the player's contract at the previous rate (Stage Two allows teams to negotiate with the selected player). Seitz was paid $100,000 in base salary last year, which would count fully against the cap because he graduated from the Generation Adidas program.

Then on December 15, 2010, the Union chose to pass on its selection with the fifth pick of Stage Two of the MLS Re-Entry Draft. That was all but the end of Seitz's time with the Union.

"I left Philadelphia with a positive situation. I didn't leave it with a sour taste. Every day I trained hard and got better. First year is a tough year, for an organization in general," said Seitz.

"I leave it with a mindset that I learned a lot. I definitely am going to take the positives away," Seitz added. "I think that us as a whole team learned a lot from the negatives, especially me myself. I learned to take the ups and downs." 

Seitz and his agent had discussed the future for the goalkeeper prior to the Re-Entry Draft. FC Dallas appeared to have a good deal of interest in Seitz. By the time of the draft, the team had made its interest clear to the young goalkeeper.

"I knew from the beginning that it was going to be Dallas. They made a deal with Seattle prior to the draft for a fourth rounder," Seitz said. "I knew within five minutes of the start of the Re-Entry Draft that I wouldn't be heading to Seattle but rather Dallas."

Seitz added, "But when Seattle took me there were those five minutes that I thought I was going there."

That leaves Seitz in another back up role with another top MLS goalkeeper blocking his path. Dallas' starting goalkeeper is 2010 GGA leader, and former Sporting Kansas City player, Kevin Hartman. Seitz continues to keep a good attitude about his situation, despite the trials and tribulations he has gone through.

"Kevin is a great goalkeeper and I hope I can gain some knowledge off of him. I want to get better. There's Champions League, the Reserve League and the [Lamar Hunt] US Open Cup. Dallas has a lot of games this year and there are a lot of opportunities for me. Obviously any goalkeeper wants to play," said Seitz.

Learning from his time in Philadelphia and the players around him is something that Seitz believes is key to developing in MLS and succeeding in Dallas and beyond. Recollecting his influences on the field with the Union, Seitz thought highly of the more veteran players from the inaugural Union squad.

"Everyone learns from each other and everyone learns to player together, tendencies," said Seitz. "Playing with players like Stefani [Miglioranzi], Alejandro [Moreno] and Danny [Califf] you pick up stuff from them. You learn little habits from them. At the end of the day it's the most important thing." 

That mindset is something that he told MacMath to have during his time in MLS. 

"I'm friends with Zac and I talk to him. I told him to go in with the mindset and with open ears. He should go in and learn from people who know a lot and have a lot of experience. He needs to continue to listen and has great people around him in Danny Califf and Jordan Harvey. The one thing I learned is that you become a better player," said Seitz.

The thought of being able to finally put together his game and earn a starting role for an MLS team is something that is always on Seitz's mind but he keeps a cool head about his aspirations. Dreams of Europe and possibly a second call up to the USMNT do not interest him at the moment. 

"The goal in soccer in general is to represent your country. That's really anyone's goal in general. The next step for me is to develop," Seitz said. "The next opportunity I have I will take it. I don't worry about Europe or any of that. I focus on my situation here and be best prepared when my opportunity comes."