* Brian Jennings has covered the Rapids for Soccer365.com since 2002. He has also written Know Your Rapids" features on Clint Irwin, Dillon Powers, and Deshorn Brown. Please feel free to direct any questions or comments to Brian Jennings on twitter @MLSfrom5280.
Chris Klute has come a long way in one year.
After being 'discovered' on the Atlanta Silverbacks' reserve team by Eric Wynalda, he was loaned to the Colorado Rapids late in 2012 - joining a handful of his former U.S. U-17 National teammates as a top flight professional. Last month, after Klute clearly established himself as the first-choice left back (has now started 21 straight through Aug. 12), the Rapids completed his full transfer from Atlanta, making him a full-time member of the MLS side.
The young man from the hotbed of youth soccer in the Dallas area has the size, pace, and the motor that Rapids fans have been waiting on to grab the left back spot and run with it - literally. Media have started talking about him as a future U.S. National teamer, with at least one announcing Klute as the best left back in the country right now.
Assist: Klute sets up Rivero vs Chivas
Only 23, Klute is a thoughtful, quiet young man who likes a low profile in keeping to himself. He looks you in the eyes when conversing and listens intently to the coaches on the pitch.
He has also followed an underdog path from a player almost out of the game he loves, similar to goalkeeper Clint Irwin, to starring in the Rapids starting lineup.
The team's assist leader (now with seven) took a few minutes to give Rapids fans some small insight on how he got hooked on soccer, the start-and-stop path his career has taken to now, and how he’s adjusted to Colorado and MLS.
Has it felt like you’ve been an “official” Rapid up to this point or has the loan been something that has been hanging over your head?
Chris Klute: "To be honest I haven’t been thinking about it being on loan. When I first got here last year that’s when I was thinking more about it, but through preseason with the team I kind of forgot all about it. I’ve really felt like part of the team through the season."
Assist: Klute sets up Castrillon vs RSL
Growing up, why soccer, how did you get into this?
"When I was younger I was in daycare and I had a choice between football and soccer so I chose soccer. I grew up with it, grew to it, and kept with it."
When did you start thinking you’d give it a go and make soccer a profession?
"I think when I made the U-17 National Team, because before then I wasn’t really sure who was looking at me or if I was going to be able to go to college. It’s tough getting scouted from high school. It was a different level - I liked it, and I knew it was what I wanted to do. I knew from then that with training the players every day, that I wanted to work at it."
How did you get into that program?
Assist: Klute sets up Brown vs NY
"I did Disney with the Regional team and that’s when I got scouted. It was also kind of luck because it was my first year joining ODP (Olympic Development Program) so I ended up making State, Regional, and National in one year. It was kind of unexpected for sure."
How did the path lead from Grand Prairie out of high school?
"My junior year I decided to go ODP because I thought it would look good on my applications for college so I did that. I ended up making the National Team at the end of my junior year and leaving high school in Texas and moved out to Florida for (U.S. Soccer's U-17) residency (IMG Academy in Bradenton).
"From there I went to Furman right after I graduated. It was a year and a half and I had a good time, but I really wasn’t focused on school. I didn’t want to be there and not be happy. So I left Furman and came here (Colorado Rapids) for a tryout for a week or two in 2009. That kind of fell through. I pretty much took my time off for a while. I did nothing and I went back to Texas for about a year.
Assist: Klute sets up Brown vs Montreal
"I keep thinking it was a year but it was two years. The first year I didn’t work and the second year I started doing oil-changes with my friend’s father. That was fun (smiling) - early mornings, late nights, long days every day. When you try to do a business of your own you really try to get your name out there so we were trying to do a lot of things.
"The next summer came around and that’s when I went to Atlanta (Silverbacks of USL) because someone gave me a call about the team. It was starting back up so I went there, but it didn’t really go so well. I didn’t touch the ball for a whole year. I was just playing video games being lazy. I was so used to being on a schedule and now I had so much free time relaxing and took advantage of it I guess.
"I ended up making the reserve team that summer (2011). The reserves coach kept me around and said ‘I hope you get back on your feet’. We ended up playing Clayton State (GA) for their Spring Game and that’s how they saw me. Their coach knew our reserve coach and they talked about me. He said I’m willing to give you an opportunity. Then I tried out for the first team (in Atlanta in 2012) and made that and then I came here."
NOTE: Klute played one match for the U.S. U-17s at the 2007 FIFA U-17 World Cup. Check out who else was on the U.S. roster.
Assist: Klute sets up Harris vs Dallas
Growing up, personally, did your family encourage you?
"My mother was there and really helped support me in soccer, but she really wasn’t like ‘you have to do this or do that’. She knew I liked the game and she pretty much pushed me to my limits in soccer. She made sure I went in and did my best. That was the highest expectations from my mom was just to go in and do good. She paid for all the traveling and stuff like that so she didn’t want it to be worthless paying all that money."
Last year, what were your expectations coming into Colorado?
"Just to adapt, I guess. I knew it would be a higher level, the speed was different, and I knew about the altitude when I got here for the other tryout. I just wanted to get in and do the right things off the bat. I was nervous every training session, every time I was on the bench I was nervous because I knew any opportunity I got was going to be that one chance."
Assist: Klute sets up Harris vs Chivas
"(Coaches said) just be organized. That was one thing I was lacking with the defense, I was drifting off on my own. Playing smart because when I came in I was over-thinking things and that was one thing they really emphasized was just relaxing. If I see a play just make the play and don’t overthink."
When you’re out of the “office” what do you do at home?
"Just go home and sleep for a little bit. Game up-video games. I stick to that life. Now it’s the summertime so I go to the pool for an hour or two and just relax. Then I just watch some TV. That’s how I live - pretty chill. I live on my own. I’ve just gotten so used to it. Those two years doing nothing I was on my own, so I just got used to that."
Anything you’re looking forward to doing here in Colorado now?
"I haven’t done any of the mountain things-hiking the trails. I haven’t really been downtown much either - just hung around Commerce City, so hopefully by the end of the season I’ll venture out a bit more."