Kirkland Moody felt it was the perfect time to come home.
After being away for most of the last seven years, Moody was excited about where the Red Deer Polytechnic Kings soccer program was at.
“This is my hometown and a lot of people are saying this is the best team the Kings have ever had,” he said following practice early this week. “We have a number of ex-pros and guys with a lot of experience and talent.”
The Kings finished second in the ACAC and sixth at the nationals in 2019.
Moody came out of the Red Deer Minor Soccer program and played the 2014 season with the Kings before spending parts of the next five years seeing the world.
In 2015 he played pro in Jamaica while with the United Youth Academy.
“My dad is from Jamaica and has a friend who is a dentist there and has ties with the pro team and he got me a tryout,” Kirkland explained. “I went down and made the team and was there about eight months.”
Moody, who was 18 at the time, didn’t play during the regular schedule because of his age, but trained with the pro team and played exhibition games.
“It was amazing, the best decision in my life to go there,” he said. “I got a chance to train and play with the older guys. It was incredible to see people take time off work just to come to our practices … pretty crazy.”
The team, which was located in Montego Bay, changed coaches which brought an end to Kirkland’s time there. He returned home, spent two years with the University of Alberta before joining the Ottawa South United semipro team in 2018.
“I was there for about nine months,” he said. “We played in a league against teams from Toronto and surrounding areas. I played in five games late in the season and played the Toronto FC 3 team with the game on television, which was exciting.”
Keeper Jared St. Thomas was also with the Ottawa squad and is with the Kings.
Moody played left-back/winger in Ottawa which he feels was a benefit.
“I’m a winger here, but playing left-back helped me as a defender and this year I’m going to have to defend as well as attack.”
Besides his time in Jamaica and Ottawa, Kirkland played with a touring team, which spent time in Sweden and Norway.
“It’s called FSC which puts together teams to tour and play against semipro and pro teams,” he explained. “My dad and I flew to Houston for a camp and I made the team, which was a great experience.”
All that came before Covid, which cost Moody a year.
“It was tough,” he said. “Most of us have been playing since we were two and then suddenly nothing for a full year. I was looking to find a game anywhere.”
The toughest part about returning is the conditioning.
“You can run as much as you want, but it’s not the same as being out there, and physically going shoulder to shoulder and fighting for space. The endurance is not there yet. We played against the U18 team in 30-minute halves and it was tough, but it’ll come back quickly.”
The 25-year-old Moody has the experience and prefect outlook to be a leader on the Kings.
“Myself, Ajdin (Sarcevic) and Jared (St. Thomas) have been named captains and I’m looking forward to it. I feel I have the experience to help the younger guys … help push them through when there’s a little adversity.
“Everyone has their ups and downs and being through it all I think I’ve learned how to deal with it and can help the younger guys.”
This year’s edition of the Kings has several younger players, but is also loaded with older experienced players.
Their goal is to return to the nationals.
“Definitely,” the five-foot-10 Moody said. “We have several guys who are in their final season and will leave it all out there. We want to win and be competitive, not just another team.”
Next is a matter of meshing.
“We have a number of players from all over the world, such as Brazil and Japan, and it will take a couple games to feel comfortable.
“But I think from what I’ve seen that will come quickly. We have three exhibition games before the league starts.”
The Kings host The Kings University on Sept. 5 and play Keyano and Olds prior to opening the season Sept. 17 at home against Lethbridge.
They play a shortened six-game schedule, facing Lethbridge, Ambrose, SAIT, and Medicine Hat once each and Olds twice.
Moody is impressed with the Kings program.
“Mahziar (Peyrow) is running it like a business and looking to build the strongest program he can. Over the years the Kings have had their down periods but this is impressive.”
Moody is taking psychology and will only be at RDP for a year before finishing his degree at the U of A.
While here he hopes to make an impression on teams such as from the Canadian Professional League.
“I hope to have a good season and maybe get noticed.
“It could be by my mom or a scout,” he said with a laugh.
The CPL has indicated they’re watching the ACAC and if they Kings attend the nationals that will only give everyone more exposure.
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at email@example.com