Let’s settle the debate once and for all, do you prefer Nick, Nicky or Nikolai? Why?
I’ve had so many people pronounce my name in so many different ways, I just kind of let people choose for themselves. I’ve also had a lot of nicknames throughout my life. My college teammates used to call me franchise. I would just say whatever is easiest for people to say just go for it.
Just finished up your 2nd year playing with SF City FC, you’re one of our longest termed players, you’ve seen the club evolve… thoughts on how the club has progressed?
Oh man, it’s been unbelievable watching this club grow over the past year. I actually heard about the club after my Mom brought home a local paper after the 1st Round U.S. Open Cup loss in 2015. I showed up to a few Sunday league games (doing twice the running because I had Paddy playing right back behind me 😉 and the rest is history. But, I don’t think us players realize how much hard work has been put in by the board, Jacques and of course our amazing fans off the field. I’ve talked with Jacques a few times and he’s very educated about how everything needs to work to run a successful sports franchise. He’s so organized and you can tell how much this club means to him. As far as on the field goes, Paddy and Seany do an excellent job managing the players. They don’t play any favorites, and they are always honest with us. For me, this is the most important attribute a coach can have. I love playing for Paddy, he’s the kind of coach a player wants to win for. With Jacques as President and Paddy as head coach this club is in amazing hands. Hopefully next year we can get those college players back like Christian De Luna, Ash, and the Beast up top DG and some of the others. With the older guys as the core, we can hopefully deliver a playoff birth for you guys next year!
Last summer, you played in a match that our goalkeeper was sent off you stepped in… played keeper, Danny Kirkland scored (a free kick, obviously) and we won 1-0. You also may or may not have sustained a concussion. Walk us through that day…
Hahaha, some of the guys still bring that up. To be straight up with you, I don’t remember too much. Apparently, I got hit in the head with the ball right before our goalie got sent off, obviously wasn’t thinking too clearly and told Paddy I’d play in goal. Apparently, I made a few saves, and I banged every goal and drop kick to the other 18. My Pops told me I did an excellent job time wasting.
Legendary story by the way, it’s fair to say that you’ve play in multiple positions for SF City, pretty much anywhere except the back-line, where do you like to play the best and why?
My favorite position is probably the 6 or the 8 just because that’s what I grew up playing, and where I’m most comfortable. However, when you have players who are as good as Donkey Kong (Danny Kirkland) and Abercrombie (Dylan Murphy) it’s going to be hard to get a game for anyone. I just told Paddy he can play me wherever he needs me, whether that be the 10, 9, 7, 11 or even right or left back, which is where I played in college. The bottom line is I love playing ball and I love competing. Every position is different and I have to try to take what Paddy and Seany tell me and try to deliver to the best of my ability.
Your college experience includes playing at Santa Barbara City College and Gonzaga University… Different? Similar? What were the key things you learned about the game and yourself at each?
Very VERY different haha. Everything from the weather, to the people, to the soccer. My first 2 years at SBCC was the time of my life. Santa Barbara is an amazing town, where I really grew up while I was there not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. The game is so different from the two levels. I was fortunate enough to be on a great SBCC team lead by John Sisterson and current USF Women’s Assistant Coach Paul Hart my sophomore year. We made it to the State Final Four, which the college hadn’t done in over a decade. Some of the Southern California City College teams were the best teams I played against in college. The game is so much more technical down there then it is at the D1 level. I’m a fairly technical player so I enjoyed it much more than the D1 game, which is extremely physical and so direct. My time at Gonzaga was very up and down. I struggled with ankle injuries my junior year, the team didn’t do very well and the coaching was very sub par to put it lightly. My second year was going amazing until I tore my ACL against USD midway through the season. We had a great group of players that year and some of my Gonzaga teammates I consider to this day, as some of my closest friends. It’s a shame because if the coaching was better, we could’ve made a very deep tournament run as we had so much talent that season (2013).
It’s a bit of a family affair for you with the club, your Dad, Michael is always in the stands rooting for the club and you since Day 1…
My Pops has always been so supportive of me and my soccer. I think he’s really taken a liking to the environment the club encourages. He has helped the Northsiders with their community service efforts and I know he lives every second of the game with them.
You’ve got an affinity for Liverpool and your Dad’s a Portsmouth fan. How did that all shake out?
Haha I do support Pompey as well. They will always be my second team, but I became a Liverpool fan at first because I was a big Michael Owen fan when I was 5 or 6. As I grew older, I started learning about the history of the club and I fell in love with not only the team, but the city of Liverpool as well. All the success the team has had with former and current players including my boyhood hero Stevie G. The city of Liverpool has a lot of similarities to Oakland where I grew up. It’s a City with so much culture, history, and very hard working people. Both cities’ heartbeat revolve around their sports teams. In Liverpool you have Liverpool FC, and Everton… likewise in Oakland you got the Raiders, Warriors and A’s. When you come from Oakland you really appreciate another city with similar values even though nothing can ever beat Oakland in my eyes. Sorry SF 😉
Fans know Danny can hit free kicks, but you’ve had your fair share too too, (btw your Stanford belter was terrific between the two of you) how do you decide who takes them? Flip coins after, before or is it first round on who misses?
You won’t find too many players around the world, let alone the PDL who can hit a dead ball the way Donkey Kong can. Basically, when Danny lines it up, I line up on the other side and if he ain’t feeling it, he’ll tell me to hit it. Unfortunately, I didn’t bury one during the PDL season, but hopefully next year!
What do you do when you’re not playing for SF City?
Usually getting swole in the gym 😉 Haha, I do a lot of different stuff. I work for a temp agency who finds different jobs for businesses who need a little extra help. I also do some personal training for a couple of very promising youth soccer players from the East Bay who play for the SJ Earthquakes and De Anza Force Academies. Both have very promising futures in the game. I also drive Lyft which is actually a great way to make some extra money. If anyone is reading this and is looking to hire somebody, hit me up!
Anything else fans should know about you…
Yeah, Go Raiders!