Daniel Kuczynski has been on a long journey of chasing his dream of playing soccer for a living. After playing three years at California State University, Stanislaus, (Stan State), and leading the team to a tremendous record during the 2015 season, Kuczynski decided to begin his professional soccer career in Iceland.
Kuczynski was a forward at Stan State from 2011 to 2012 and again in 2015 after a brief stint with the University of Vermont. He finished his three years in Stan State Soccer with a total of 54 points in 55 games played for the Warriors.
In his last season with the Warriors, he ended up scoring 11 goals as well as 5 assists to help the Warriors reach a record of 15-4-3 with a trip to the CCAA playoffs to follow. Looking back on it, Kuczynski was very thankful for his time at Stan State.
“It really was a great experience. They provided me that next level of training that really gets you ready,” Kuczynski said.
He brought perspective to the team which was something that didn’t go unnoticed by his teammates or coaches. Kuczynski would provide a certain level of intensity that would challenge others to be better.
“Being a goalkeeper, it added to the intensity in practices because he would go up against me in shooting drills,” Russ Klabough (senior, Criminal Justice), former goalkeeper and former teammate of Kuczynski's, said.
“He really made everyone else on the team better as well."
When the 2015 season was over for the Warriors, Kuczynski began to think about the next step of his soccer career. From networking with a sports agent, he found out that there was going to be a Combine that was going to be taking place in Los Angeles.
At this Combine, there were scouts for professional teams all over the world. Seven scouts approached Kuczynski, each with deals to play all around the world. The offers were made from Mexico, Iceland, Croatia, and in North America with the United Soccer League.
He eventually chose to sign with KF Ægir, an Icelandic professional soccer team, in March 2016. Many people were happy and excited for him, especially Dana Taylor, Head Coach of the men's soccer team.
“We really have been through so much together, so I felt proud like a father,” Taylor said.
Choosing to play in Iceland was a very easy decision for Kuczynski. He was able to finally play on a professional level which was a plus. However, another advantage of playing for KF Ægir professional soccer club was the beautiful scenery that the country of Iceland had to offer.
"Iceland is a very beautiful country. It almost felt like you were walking on the moon," said Kuczynski.
Adjusting to playing in a different country isn’t something new to Kuczynski, as he had been a frequent traveler in his past. Born in the country of Poland, he eventually moved to Toronto, Canada before coming to the United States to play soccer at Stan State, as well as the University of Vermont.
Coach Taylor knew that the change in scenery wasn’t going to be a problem for Kuczynski.
“Unlike many players, his key is adaptability. Even though he loves the United States, he knows he can come back to play in the United States if he wants to,” Taylor said.
“Playing professionally meant that I had a lot more free time to play," Kuczynski said.
After having a successful preseason with his new teammates, Kuczynski ended up having to take a break from an ankle injury that made him miss the first 8 games of the season. Once healthy enough to get back on the field, Kuczynski ended the season as the leading scorer for his team with 7 goals as well as 5 assists in the span of 22 games.
Stan State Coach Taylor wasn’t surprised to see him bounce back in such fashion.
“He played injured a lot here [Stan State] so he has developed a high pain tolerance. The way he has been excelling there has been remarkable,” Taylor said.
Now with his first professional season under his belt, Kuczynski is in preparation for a tryout for a more competitive level of professional soccer. He is trying out for Jagiellonia Bialystok in Poland. It is in the Ekstraklasa league and considered to be a division one soccer league.
Kuczynski hopes that throughout his career he will eventually end up in the Major League Soccer (MLS), after his experiences playing overseas.
“Throughout his success I want him to know to keep plugging and stay humble. I look forward to seeing how far and where he goes next,” Klabough said.