Like most soccer players accustomed to the outdoor game, Kevin Ten Eyck endured an adjustment period to playing indoors. Unlike some of those players, Ten Eyck’s didn’t last long.
After his first season with the Wings, Ten Eyck was chosen to represent the United States for Futsal World Cup Qualifying in Guatemala. Futsal is a variation on indoor soccer that is played at an even faster pace and at which players with unique skills can excel.
A trying season for the Wings collectively turned into an opportunity for Ten Eyck to display those skills. After spending much of the season as one of the Wings’ most reliable defenders, Ten Eyck became one of its best scorers when several forwards were lost to injury.
"The first two, three months last year it was all learning and trying to adapt to everything," Ten Eyck said. "It’s such (a) fast pace, such changing and understanding what runs you need to make, what balls you need to play. But as the season went along, a lot of us who were rookies in the indoor game got trial by fire."
The Wings, who open their second Major Indoor Soccer League on Friday, were at their best last season when every player was healthy and in good standing — Chile Farias was dismissed from the team in December for disciplinary reasons — and a complete roster meant Ten Eyck played defense.
Early in the season Ten Eyck, who played at Maize and at Friends, rarely got the chance to show his scoring capabilties, and since he was new to the indoor game, whether he had any scoring capabilities was a mystery. Ten Eyck scored five points in Wichita’s third game, but he was scoreless in 11 of the first 18 contests.
The numbers Ten Eyck accumulated in those games were less noticeable, such as blocked shots. When the Wings needed him on the other end of the field, though, Ten Eyck had gone through the adjustment period and was up to the challenge. He scored 25 points in the last six games, including a 10-point game at Rochester consisting of two two-point goals and two three-pointers.
"(The first part of the season) helped me become a more developed player, like understanding the different types of positions," Ten Eyck said. "You understand the runs and the types of things the forward wants.
"In the indoor game, you want to get the ball to the forward as quickly as possible. Playing up there, then reversing back to being a defender, you learn how to get the ball to the forward, you learn what type of ball he likes."
Effectiveness on offense and defense made Ten Eyck a worthy candidate for the futsal national team. Played on a smaller, hardcourt surface with out-of-bounds lines and four players and a goalie on each side, futsal values players who can quickly get from one end to the other. It is often described as the soccer equivalent of arena football.
As proud as he was of having his talents recognized enough for international competition, he was just as humbled and awed. He was equally moved by the experience as he was by seeing some of the world’s best players up close. The U.S. is not among the world’s best fustal teams and it did not advance beyond qualifying play.
"The guys that play futsal are ridiculously good," Ten Eyck said. "Ridiculously skilled, and the way they go about business. It’s similar (to indoor soccer) but it’s different. It’s a lot more pass-and-move, pass-and-move, a lot more movement and a lot of more personal foot skills because you’re under pressure."
Moving back to defense may not pigeon-hole Ten Eyck. The offensive skills he developed and the speed at which he played futsal could allow him to remain a scoring threat even though the Wings signed several players to help their offense.
Whatever role Ten Eyck settles into, his versatility will provide the Wings some security if they endure more injuries this year. Playing futsal at a high speed allowed the indoor game to slow down for him, and with his year of frequent adjustments behind him could lead to continued improvement.
"The beginning of the year, I was real skeptical of my skills because I didn’t know the indoor game at all and I had never played professional soccer, whether outdoor or indoor," Ten Eyck said. "Just having those games where I scored a lot of points, through assists or goals, it helped me see that I was able to play with these guys and not come into a game feeling like there was no way I can play with these guys.
"I definitely think it helps confidence anytime you play well. It’s just going to give you a self-esteem booster and hopefully I can carry that on throughout the season."