Article originally appeared in Soccer Long Island Magazine.
By David Harris
Guy-Roland Kpene is a very accomplished and talented player that soccer fans on Long Island can have the pleasure of watching play locally with LISFL side Port Jefferson. Guy has played at a very high level and with some of the best players in MLS and throughout the world. He’s a great example of the type of players that you can see by going to check out a game with one of the LISFL clubs. Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Guy to learn more about his career.
DH: How is the season going so far with the Port Jefferson club in the LISFL?
GRK: The season is going well we are 6-0 I think. We are the best team in the league right now. I’ve scored 6 goals and about 7 assists.
DH: What led you to join Port Jefferson?
GRK: It wasnt an easy choice at first because I live in Queens, but 90% of the guys on the team are from the Dowling team that won the National Championship in 2006 so I know them well, having played with them and also the team manager Craig who is really professional and would go the extra mile to make the team competitive.
DH: What have you enjoyed about playing in the LISFL and how does it compare to some other leagues that you’ve played in?
GRK: The LIFSL is very competitive. I enjoy playing with guys I used to play against in college. Some of the teams are as good as top teams in the Cosmopolitan league.
DH: Tell us about the time that you spent in MLS with DC United and the Houston Dynamo, the best parts and the toughest moments of the whole experience.
GRK: Playing in the MLS was a dream come true for a D2 college player on Long Island. It was amazing going every morning to practice with great players like Jaime Moreno, DeRosario, Ben Olsen. DC United and Houston Dynamo are two of the best teams in the league. My best memory was playing at RFK stadium in front of a sold out crowd for Beckham’s first game in the US. The crowd was so loud that we couldn’t even hear each other on the field. The hardest part of playing for a team that was back to back champion like Houston is that I didn’ t have playing time being behind Chingy and DeRo, Jacqua.
DH: Can you tell me about your playing experiences with the Brooklyn Knights and LI Rough Riders?
GRK: With the Long Island Rough Riders I didn’t spend much time on the team. I played 2 games then I had to go home to take care of my visa situation. There were two ex MLS players and couple of good college players. It was a good team.
With the Brooklyn Knights, I was in college and eager to go to the next level. We had a decent team with a good coach in Anthony Roros. We trained real hard and I think the competition at that time was good, which helped me in college season. It was a good experience playing against older guys or guys that were from Division 1 teams. Also, guys with pro experience.
I think college players who want to go the next level should be playing at least 6 months a year and PDL is the best choice during summer.
DH: What other pro teams have you played or trained with, tried out for, etc. and how did those experiences go?
GRK: I was with FSV Frankfurt in Bundesliga 2. Then I had a trial with SK Brann in Norway and Kalithea in Greece. It was a different soccer culture in Germany and Norway. There was a lot of emphasis on the athletic and tactical side, while in Greece it was more on the technical side. It was really tough being from a non EU country to sign with a team there, since they had a quota of foreign players.
DH: Besides your playing career, have you been doing anyting else in the game?
GRK: I went back to the Ivory Coast and did some coaching with the kids there. I have not really been involved in coaching here so far, but I’m ready to start next season.
DH: I’d love to hear about your experiences growing up in the Ivory Coast and playing the game. How you learned it, when you would play, how the games were organized, just the whole experience. Also, the players like Drogba who you follow and why they mean a lot to you.
GRK: Soccer is the biggest sport in Cote d’ivoire. My father was a soccer player in the local league so I was exposed to soccer very early. I played pick-up games everyday, but I started to play organized soccer late because my parents wanted me to go to school and get my high school diploma first so I joined my first team in 2000. I finished as the top scorer and best player in Division 3 and my team went up to Division 2. I lead my team in goals and was playing amongst players who are some of the best in the world right now like Gervinho (Arsenal), Sessegnon (Sunderland), and Doumbia (CSKA Moscow).
Soccer was taking over my studies and I wanted to make it my profession and go to Europe. That is when unfortunately or fortunately my mother moved to the US and I came here to study. My destiny caught up with me and I was drafted by MLS.
I’m a huge Drogba fan, because he represents our country with pride. He is world class at what he does. He is our first ambassador, a lot more people know about our small country now thanks to him. He built a hospital, helped create a cease fire by working with the rebels and the government. He is a model to any young African who wants to succeed in sport and life.
DH: What are you looking to do as a player going forward?
GRK: I’m still young so I keep playing and I keep my options open by staying fit.
DH: What have been some of the best things about playing soccer on Long Island, with Dowling, the Rough Riders, and in the LISFL?
GRK: Long Islanders love soccer. Everywhere you go there is a soccer club, academy, and from Dowling to the Rough Riders to LISFL, people come out to support the teams.
DH: What areas do you think could be improved to make soccer better on Long Island?
GRK: L.I. is already on the right path. Soccer is growing fast with junior leagues where young players can develop in different age groups. There are also indoor facilities during the winter, so I think we are on the right track.
DH: What advice would you give to a young person on Long Island who is interested in playing the game and wants to become a better player?
GRK: There is no secret, he needs to join a team, train with a team and compete that is one way he could be a better player.