Swedes Spend Summer Playing for Cincinnati Kings
Anton Niklasson and Martin Holmquist Gain High Level Experience
July 14, 2012
(ABOVE) Anton Niklasson made the save of the summer early in the Kings' match against Toronto when he stopped a well-paced shot to the left post. (BELOW) Anton and Martin are introduced as starters with the Kings. (Photo courtesy of Nick Wiget)
One would think international students that hadn’t been home since Christmas break would be anxious to spend their summer vacations in Europe with family and friends.
Swedes Anton Niklasson and Martin Holmquist would have enjoyed that, but the opportunity to spend two months improving their game was too appealing to pass up.
Anton, a junior from Ockero, Sweden, and Martin, a sophomore from Karlstad, Swedne, were starters for the United Soccer League’s Cincinnati Kings, a Premiere Development League team comprised primarily of NCAA Division I players.
The scenario of 100-degree Ohio summer days versus Sweden’s more temperate climate was nothing new for Anton, who played in summer 2011 with the Dayton Dutch Lions U-20 team.
“I had a great time last summer with the Dutch Lions and I wanted to experience it again,” he said, noting he felt he improved greatly as a player during his first year in the U.S. as a result of playing both at Wilmington College and for Dayton.
When Anton shared stories of playing for the Dutch Lions, Martin had a clue of what to expect spending a summer in Ohio.
“I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to develop as a soccer player and a person,” he said. “Living on your own means new responsibilities and opportunities to travel and meet new people.”
Martin’s summer got off to a rough start, though, as he was on the sideline in street clothes for the initial weeks of the season.
“I felt ill during finals week at Wilmington but didn’t see a doctor,” he recalled. “I had a 103-degree temperature and found out I had strep throat, which they treated with antibiotics. Then I developed as abscess on my throat. I couldn’t open my mouth or drink or eat. I lost 20 pounds — but I have since gained them back.”
Both were impressed with the level of competition within the Kings and on the teams they played, which included the MLS Chicago Fire’s feeder team and other USL teams from Michigan and Canada.
“Almost all players on the Kings are from D-1 schools,” Anton said, noting the team is primarily comprised of collegians from the University of Cincinnati, Xavier, Kentucky, Indiana University and 2010 D-2 champion Northern Kentucky, the latter of which was where the Kings played their home matches.
The Cincinnati team finished 5-8-3.
Anton started most of the games in goal while alternating with another goalkeeper. He even played up top when the team got in trouble with injuries.
“He did great — if you ask him,” Martin joked.
Certainly a highlight of Anton’s season was saving a well-struck penalty kick early in the team’s home season finale against Toronto. Fired up by his heroics, the Kings scored a goal within the next 30 seconds, but the match ended up as a draw.
Martin, who played centerback and holding midfielder, said the competition was better than what he saw playing NCAA D-3 at WC last season, which afforded him an opportunity to further improve his game for this fall. He scored four goals in starting all but one match for the 11-7-1 Quakers last season and expects to be playing at attacking or holding midfielder.
He has high hopes for the team’s success this fall.
“Our starting 11 is as good as any other team,” he said. “Our success will depend on the strength of our subs.”
Anton missed the early part of the 2011 Quakers’ season when he broke a finger, on the eve of the season opener, while staying after practice to defend free kicks. He returned to the starting position later in the OAC half of the season.
“The playing time I had this summer kind of made up for some of the time I lost last fall when I broke my finger,” he said. “I got a lot of playing time with the Kings against good competition.
“The pace of the game is much greater than D-3,” he added. “I feel I’ll be that much better prepared for the season at Wilmington.”
With conclusion of the Kings’ season in mid-July, Anton and Martin planned to spend a month in Sweden before returning to Wilmington when the Quakers’ preseason starts Aug. 16.