Under the Monocle: Sam Kritikos

Sam Kritikos keeps clean sheet to help varsity boys soccer team to championship

Sam Kritikos playing warm-up tic tac toe during  a practice. Photograph by Maya Iyer.

Sam Kritikos playing warm-up tic tac toe during a practice. Photograph by Maya Iyer.

It’s a warm Tuesday afternoon as Sam Kritikos exits his car and walks into the stadium. The sun is just starting to go down as he walks across the field towards his teammates, about to start their warm-up. Today is a big day for the varsity boys soccer team. It’s the day of the championship game at Addison Trail. If they win, they’ll be number one in the high school soccer summer league. After warm-ups, they all huddle as Coach Lukasz Majewski tells them their formation and gives them their game plan. Then, as a team, they jog onto the field getting themselves into game mode. The referee blows his whistle, and the game begins.

Sam’s team beat Addison Trail 1-0 for the championship.

The York boys soccer team together in goal after winning the championship game. Photo courtesy of Sherri Gratzianna.

Senior Sam Kritikos is now in his second year as the varsity goalkeeper for the boys soccer team. They just finished the summer league, and they are currently waiting in anticipation for the start of the regular fall season.

Kritikos is hoping for “a better season than last year, [with] more wins than losses. Hopefully scoring a goal and hopefully winning regionals.”

Kritikos has played soccer for 14 years, since he was 3 years old. He started playing at American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO), but after his coach and his father encouraged him to play travel soccer, he’s played on Team Elmhurst Soccer Club (TESC) since third grade. He’s played as a goalkeeper since sixth grade and has been greatly affected by soccer.

“Almost all of my friends, I met through soccer,” Kritikos said. “I think about [soccer] almost all day.”

Coach Lukasz Majewski is the varsity boys soccer team’s coach at York. He has coached soccer for 15 years and for three years at York. This year is his second year coaching Kritikos, and he has a lot to say about his strengths as a goalkeeper.

“[His strengths in goal are] his experience in goal, his size, his quickness, and his understanding of the game,” Majewski said.

Kritikos has a private goalie coach by the name of Brian Visser. Visser is a former goalkeeper for the varsity soccer team at York for all four years and for DePaul University. He also played three years of professional minor league soccer with the Portland Timbers (2009), Real Maryland (2010), and the Dayton Dutch Lions (2011). Currently, he coaches goalkeepers and has worked with Kritikos for two years. Visser knows a lot about a good goalkeeper and explains how Kritikos fits that role.

“Sam has a knack for goalkeeping, meaning he has good judgement on the field and makes smart decisions,” Visser said. “The #1 trait for a goalkeeper is somebody who hates getting scored on, and Sam definitely has that.”

Nathan Brown, senior, is a defender who has known Kritikos since third grade. He has played with him on both the freshman and varsity soccer team at York.

“Sam is one of the best goalkeepers I’ve played with when it comes to reaction saves [saves that occur from close quarters],” Brown said. “In one-on-one situations, you can depend on him to keep the other team from scoring.”

Kritikos has found lots of success between the sticks, and that is partly due to his ability to focus during games.

“He knows when to flip the switch and put on his game-face, so he is more serious and focused during games than he is during practice,” Visser said. “He is definitely a competitor at heart.”

Visser is not the only person who has noticed this. It is evident to anyone who watches him or plays with him that he is very passionate about soccer.

“At practice, he messes around a lot, and has fun, but when it’s game time he is very serious,” Brown said. “Sam just wants to win and have fun, and he does as much as he can from in goal.”

Nevertheless, Sam still puts in work during practices.

“He does his job and does it well,” Majewski said.

Christian Waldschmidt, a senior and center midfielder on the soccer team, has known Kritikos for ten years and has played with him for eight years. Waldschmidt describes Kritikos as a “fun loving happy spirit.”

“He’s always goofing around, having fun until the game starts,” Waldschmidt said. “Then, he gets more serious.”

During training sessions, Kritikos still puts in tremendous effort, while managing to maintain good humor.

“Sam likes to crack jokes and make everyone around him laugh, which I’m OK with as long as he knows when it’s time to focus,” Visser said. “For the most part, he sticks to those rules and puts in the work during training.”

Both on and off the field, Kritikos has made amazing connections through playing soccer. Joe Chornji, a senior and defender on the varsity boys soccer team, has played with Kritikos for six years. Through soccer, Chornji and Kritikos have formed an amazing friendship.

“Sam is a really fun kid to hang out with,” Chornji said. “There is almost always a smile on his face, and he has a great sense of humor. Also, he creates a great vibe when you hang out with him, and he is always able to put a smile on my face.”

Kritikos has strong connections with all the boys on his soccer team.

“All the boys like him,” Majewski said. “He’s a great teammate in the sense that he’s always optimistic. But he knows when to be serious and become a leader.”

Kritikos is able to play incredibly well, even with the tremendous pressure that faces anyone who plays as a goalkeeper.

“The goalkeeper is the single-most important player on the field,” Visser said. “His confidence and performance translates into the team’s confidence and performance a lot of the time. There is a heavy load on the shoulders of the goalkeeper.”

Kritikos’s hard work and optimism served his team well. On Tuesday, Jul. 18, they won the Varsity Summer Ball Championship by beating Addison Trail 1-0.

“[Kritikos] kept a clean sheet,” Majewski said. “If you don’t let goals in you can never lose. His leadership and positioning of players in the back contributed to our win last night.”

However, Kritikos attributed the win to the solid performance of the York defense.

“Our defense was fantastic,” said Kritikos. “During the summer camp, we focused a lot on defending and our defensive shape and body positions, so to see it work out against a powerhouse offense was really nice, considering I only had to make one really great save.”

Currently, Kritikos is the last person in between the opposing team as a goalkeeper. He aims to be like a brick wall, preventing all shots from the other team from going in. However, if he didn’t play soccer, Kritikos would probably be playing baseball.

“I was really good as a kid, and my dad played it in college,” Kritikos said. “But I stopped because I was afraid of getting hit by the ball.”

During a practice, the boys were playing warm up tic tac toe. On the ‘go’ signal, the first player in each line runs down to the tic-tac-toe grid and places their pinnie (in this case, either pink or yellow) on a cone. The first player then runs back and tags the next player in line who runs down to put their pinnie in play. The objective is for one team to get three pinnies in a row. Once a team has all three pinnies in play, the players who run down must move one of their team’s pinnies that is already on the grid to a new location. The game goes on until one of the teams wins. The losing team has to run a lap around the grid. Sam Kritikos (in red) and Dylan Reynolds (in gray), senior, running laps. Photo by Maya Iyer.
Sam Kritikos reaching to high five Jonathan Milani, junior, so he can run onto the grid. Photo by Maya Iyer.
Sam Kritikos racing to beat a teammate to put his pinnie in the right spot to win tic tac toe. Photo by Maya Iyer.
Sam Kritikos after diving to beat a teammate and win tic tac toe. Photo by Maya Iyer.