[MLS] Chris Kitchen, whose 18-year-old son Perry Kitchen was picked by D.C. United 3rd overall in the SuperDraft, is glad that his wife didn't listen to him years ago when sports sign-up time came.
“Mary came home from work one day and said, ‘I’m going to have our kids play soccer,’” recalls Chris. “I said, ‘No you’re not. They’re going to play baseball and football like me.’ She went ahead and signed them up. And this is where we’re at.”
Brother Tyler, two years older than Perry, played first, and Mary had a hard time keeping Perry from running on the field. So she was relieved when he could finally join a team.
“He wanted to be out there so bad,” she says.
For about five years of his youth career, Perry played up with Tyler, now a junior midfielder at Marion University. But Perry played with older teams not only because of the car-pool convenience. At first, the youth league insisted that Perry play at his age level.
“After the first game, every little kid on the other team was crying,” says Chris. “Perry had decided he was always going get he ball and score.”
Perry was moved up and Chris, who says he quickly fell in love with soccer, coached his sons. But as Perry entered his teens Chris felt it time to send him to one of the nation’s top youth clubs – the Chicago Magic. That meant a commute of more than three hours from their Indianapolis home.
“We went up on weekends and sometimes during the week for training,” says Chris. “Even in the winter, there was indoor training.
“Perry learned to drive when he was pretty young. I'd say, ‘Perry, I’m tired. You’re driving,' and got in the passenger's seat."
At age 15, Kitchen went even farther to further his career, accepting an invitation to the U.S. U-17 Residency Program in Bradenton, Fla., where he lived for two and a half years.
“That was very tough,” says Mary. “He was 15. But he was so mature he was ready. Mom wasn’t ready.”
Playing for the U-17s meant travel to Europe, Latin America and Africa -- besides trips home. "When we traveled with him," says Chris. "We didn't have to look at the airport signs because this little kid would guide us through the airport."
Kitchen made the U.S. squad for the 2009 U-17 World Cup in Nigeria. He is currently with the U-20s, for whom he plays on the backline. At Akron, Kitchen played in the central midfield.
As to where he’ll play in MLS:
“You know, I don't know,” Kitchen says. “I've played both defense and midfield, and really it's up to Ben [Olsen]. I'm happy to do what is needed.”
Olsen says, “Well, there are a lot of spots [where he could play]. He will certainly push guys, even at a young age he is going to apply pressure, whether it's at center back or as a defensive midfielder. He's going to push the current players we have and I believe he will be a very good option for us.”
The Kitchens say they accepted Perry's decision to leave college after one season to enter the draft because Akron coach Caleb Porter said the time was right for Perry to make the move -- and the Generation adidas contract he signed includes a college tuition stipend.
"He’s pretty close to a 4.0 student," says Chris. "The deal is he’s going to finish college. It might take a little bit longer."
Says Mary, "It's a best-of-both-worlds situation."