The first time Minos Vlamakis recruited Alex Canfield, it didn’t work out.
Vlamakis, now an assistant coach at Illinois-Chicago, coached the FC United club team based in Glenview. When Canfield was in eighth grade, his club team, the Crystal Lake Force, defeated FC United – a club that consistently churns out Division I soccer players.
“We smacked them,” Canfield said. “I scored four goals that game against them.”
Canfield made such an impression on Vlamakis that the coach tried to recruit Canfield to FC United. Canfield didn’t have his driver’s license, and the logistics of playing for a club more than an hour’s drive away wasn’t feasible.
Flash forward a few years, and Canfield is the Crystal Lake South program record holder for goals (85) and points (206). He led the Gators in scoring during an IHSA Class 2A state championship run in 2018 and a state runner-up finish in 2019. This weekend he will travel to Orlando, Florida, for the High School All-American Game.
Once again, Canfield caught Vlamakis’ attention. This time, Vlamakis landed his man.
Canfield, a senior, announced Tuesday via Twitter his commitment to the UIC men’s soccer team. Despite two state trophies and back-to-back seasons with more than 30 goals, UIC was his only Division I offer.
Canfield is fine with that. He’s happy to be close to home.
“I went on an official visit back in early October where I stayed overnight with one of the players, and I got a tour of the campus the next day,” Canfield said. “When I stepped on campus, I just got that feeling from the start that I just loved it.”
Head coach Sean Phillips has led the program for 10 seasons. Although UIC missed the NCAA Tournament this fall, the program had been to the previous three NCAA Tournaments. The Flames reached the NCAA Elite Eight in 2007 and Sweet 16 in 2008.
So UIC is no stranger to success.
“They have a really good program,” Canfield said. “They know what they’re doing. All the coaching staff, they’re super fun people. That was one of the main things that drew me in.”
Canfield scored 34 goals this season. His 18 assists demonstrated his ability to feed his teammates, too. He scored a pair of goals in a 2-0 win over Triad in the Class 2A state semifinals in October. The Gators lost the state championship game to Benet, 2-0, the next day.
Canfield's totals for goals and points broke 28-year-old records held by Paul Lekics, who played for South in 1990 and 1991.