AMSTERDAM — Having closed the book on his time with Ireland's Waterford
United, American netminder Chris Konopka is in the middle of an initial
back-up audition with Polish top-flight leaders Jagiellonia Bialystok.
The club, which will go into the Ekstraklasa's extended winter break after hosting Slask Wroclaw on Friday, will have the 25-year-old New Jersey native in camp through Saturday.
No quick signing decision over the free agent is expected quickly, but the reigning Polish Cup champs have seen enough of Konopka in two days of training to ask him back for January's midseason camp. Despite not expecting a fast answer, the American is quite content with the chance to join Jaga.
"I'm very excited to be here," Konopka told MLSsoccer.com from wintery Poland. "Bialystok is on top of the league right now, and it's a very, very well-run club. It's as professional as it comes. The chance to impress the coaching staff here is an honor and I'm looking to make something of it. I'd definitely like the opportunity to sign here."
[inline_node:321933]With the club already equipped in goal with a recent Poland call-up in Grzegorz Sandomierski, Jagiellonia manager Michal Probierz views Konopka as his potential No. 2 man for the time being.
"We only have one goalkeeper who is of a good level," club spokesman Maciej Gromek told MLSsoccer.com. "We are looking for a back-up."
Nevertheless, Konopka knows the promising youngster has recently been linked with the likes of La Liga side Málaga and could fly the coop before long, opening up a coveted starting job.
"They aren't really sure what's going on with [Sandomierski]," Konopka said. "He may be sold in the transfer window. There's a lot of clubs taking interest in him, from some of the bigger leagues around Europe – Spain, in particular."
Konopka says he has no other trials lined up and is no longer considering a Waterford extension, a change prompted by the arrival of his brand new Polish passport.
"I am moving on from Waterford," he stated. "I wish them thanks for everything, for the season, but having my passport opens up opportunities. I want to find myself a better situation in a better club."
A chance to join Jaga may be a better situation on the field, but the 'keeper may encounter challenges off it in spite of his Polish heritage.
"My Polish is slowly, slowly getting better, but I don't really speak much," he laughed. "The other day, I wanted to order some chicken and I ordered beef."
For now, despite having only limited chances to impress, Konopka knows he will have several weeks from Saturday's departure to brush up on his Polish.
"Come January, they will have four or five weeks of a midseason camp," he said. "They will go to Turkey for three of those weeks, I think. I spoke with the manager today and they've already invited me back for January. Because of the weather, the short time I've been here has been indoors [training]. But obviously from what they've seen, they like me enough to bring me back. I'm excited."