"The more things change, the more they stay the same."
I think that pretty well sums up my situation. I've got a guaranteed contract this year, but in this League, there are no guarantees from one year to the next. So even though I'm starting now, and playing with a lot of confidence, I have no expectations for the future.
I have run into this throughout my career. In college, I wasn't progressing like I wanted to. At the University of South Florida, I didn't feel like I was learning something every day. There wasn't really a focus on making me better in every training session. I wasn't going where I wanted to go. I left, but I didn't really have anywhere to go. I ended up at the University of Evansville, where things worked out pretty well. I played every minute of my senior season. They only scored 21 goals on us in 19 matches, pretty good for a college team.
This year's SuperDraft was a bit of a gut check for me. With my success in college and the championship I won with the Cape Cod Crusaders in the PDL, my agent and I thought I would be a first- or second-round pick. As I watched a lot of the other goalkeepers get picked, guys I had played against in the combine and in college, it was a bit of a letdown. But no matter how disappointed I was, not being picked made me realize just how badly I really wanted to play.
D.C. United offered me a chance to play, but at a price. Under my first contract, I wasn't earning a lot of money. I had to get a part-time job to make ends meet. It was hard, especially once I started traveling with the team. Most of the time I would have to work a shift on the same day we flew back into town. But it was good for me. It helped me keep my life in perspective.
It has also helped me become better as a soccer player. Even though I've had success in the past, even though I have won a championship, there's so much more at stake at this level. When I was at Cape Cod, I could get away with taking a day off here and there, but here the coaching staff expects you to perform every day. The fact that I won a championship doesn't mean anything to anyone else in the locker room or on the field.
I have a new contract, but nothing has really changed in my day-to-day life. I don't work at Galyan's (sporting goods store) anymore, but I still have to keep working hard and getting better. Coach Nowak has always stressed that the best players in practice are the players who will play on Saturday. In this League, there are no guarantees. You never know what's going to happen from this year to the next. But no matter what, you have to be confident and take chances, or you'll never get anywhere.
Troy Perkins is in his first season with D.C. United. He joined the club as a developmental player in March and recently received a contract upgrade.