Patrick Rakovsky: Tampa Bay “clear favorites” – Orange County perhaps “underestimated”

By FPL360


Interview ahead of USL final 

From Schalke to Nürnberg, to Belgium via Finland to America. In an exclusive interview with Transfermarkt, Orange County SC goalkeeper Patrick Rakovsky talks about his journey from Germany to the United States, playing in the USL Championship, the final against Tampa Bay Rowdies, and his future.

“I have stumbled many times, just to get up again,” Rakovsky said to Transfermarkt. “Looking back, however, I have to say my career was successful. How many people can say that they earn money playing this game? Of course, you will always wonder what could have been, but, for me personally, it turned out very well.”

What could have been? The now 28-year-old goalkeeper was once considered one of the most promising talents in German football and has played 18 games for Germany’s youth national teams. But Rakovsky’s career never went in a straight line and was also heavily influenced by club politics.

Ismaël to Rakovsky: “Nobody said you would be the number 1” 

Rakovsky joined 1.FC Nürnberg ahead of the 2011/12 season. At the Glubb, Rakovsky made his Bundesliga debut in 2011/12 after number 1 goalkeeper Raphael Schäfer suffered an injury. Seven more Bundesliga games followed before the club was relegated after the 2013/14 season.

“I had offers from clubs in the Championship after Nürnberg were relegated,” Rakovsky said. “The club told me that I would be the new number 1, and I ended up signing a new contract. But then, as the new season started, I was on the bench. I spoke to the coach (Valérien Ismaël), and he said to me: ‘nobody said you would be the number 1.'”

From Nürnberg to Belgium via Finland to the US: Rakovsky’s career in pictures

Patrick Rakovsky’s career kicked off at 1.FC Nürnberg

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39 games and 11 clean sheets in the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga

In 2017 Rakovsky moved on to Lierse SK

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25 games and five clean sheets for Lierse SK

But Lierse SK faced bankruptcy in 2018 and Rakovsky moved on to Lahti in Finland

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58 games and 20 clean sheets in Finland

Ahead of the 2021 season Rakovsky joined Orange County SC

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An injury to Schäfer, however, meant that Rakovsky was quickly between the posts again only to find himself back on the bench at the end of the season. The back-and-forward between the bench and his position between the posts would continue to define the rest of his Nürnberg career.

Rakovsky played 21 games in 2014/15 and then another 10 in 2015/16. But ahead of the 2015/16 season, Rakovsky found himself the number three goalkeeper at the club. “At one point, the coach (René Weiler) came to me and said: ‘do you think you are the best?’ Rakovsky said. “I answered: yes. The coach said: ‘I think so too, but you will not play under me.’ What was funny, is that I then ended up playing after all.”

Rakovsky at Lierse: “Owner came into the dressing room and said goodbye”

In retrospect, Rakovsky wonders if he should perhaps have left the club at that stage. “I had offers that summer and could have joined Preußen Münster,” Rakovsky said. But the goalkeeper opted to stay as he wanted to test the market as a free agent.

What followed was another curious chapter in Rakovsky’s career. Ahead of the 2017/18 season, Rakovsky joined Belgium’s second division side Lierse SK. “On a personal level, and in terms of living standard, Belgium was a super decision,” Rakovsky said.

Lierse was an ambitious second division side at the time. But the club missed out on promotion and what followed was chaos. “All of a sudden, the owner came into the dressing room and said goodbye to us,” Rakovsky said. “I wanted to renew my contract, but there was no more money, and the club was at the end.”

Things ended abruptly at Lierse SK for Rakovsky

Things ended abruptly at Lierse SK for Rakovsky

Suddenly, Rakovsky was without a club. “I think a lot of people don’t see that side of the game,” Rakovsky said. “If you are without a contract and you are someone like Götze, of course, you will find another opportunity; there will always be a team that wants to sign you. But I didn’t have that sort of reputation.”

If you are without a contract and you are someone like Götze, of course, you will find another opportunity; there will always be a team that wants to sign you. But I didn’t have that sort of reputation.

Rakovsky from Finland to America: “They are on the same schedule” 

Rakovsky needed a plan to restart his career. “I had an offer from a lower division club in Italy, but that wasn’t that interesting,” Rakovsky said. Rakovsky met his American wife while in Belgium, and the two formulated a plan to move to the United States.

“The big problem is that US clubs unless you are a big star, are unwilling to waste a foreigner spot on a goalkeeper,” Rakovsky said. “I am not Neuer or Buffon; those keepers would always find a spot.”

At this point, Rakovsky needed two things, a Green Card, which would qualify him as a domestic player, and a club that would give him playing time while he was looking for a club in the United States. “That’s when my agent and I had the idea with Finland,” Rakovsky said. “They are on the same schedule as the North American leagues, and I could play while we sort all the bureaucratic stuff.”

Ahead of the 2019 season, Rakovsky joined FC Lahti. “A dark and cold place,” Rakovsky said. “They always say Finns are the happiest people on the planet, but I think they only ask them in the summer,” the goalkeeper adds, laughing.

Rakovsky 2nd – The most valuable goalkeepers in the USL Championship

Evan Louro | Tampa Bay Rowdies | Market value: $275,000

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C.J. Cochran | Oklahoma City | Market value: $275,000

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Tyler Deric | Rio Grande Valley FC Toros | Market value: $303,000

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Patrick Rakovsky | Orange County | Market value: $330,000

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Rocco Ríos Novo | Atlanta United II | Market value: $770,000

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The goalkeeper would spend two seasons in Finland before finally completing his dream move to the United States to USL Championship side Orange County SC. “This place is fantastic; it is 27 degrees at the moment, I am 20 minutes from the beach, and we are very close to my wife’s family in Arizona.”

“It is a good competition,” Rakovsky said when asked about the level of play.”Louisville, Phoenix Rising, where Didier Drogba is involved, and Tampa Bay could probably compete in Major League Soccer. Among my teammates, Ronaldo Damus could probably play in MLS.”

Without promotion and relegation, the two entities are too separated, even if there are farm teams in the USL. Also, there isn’t quite as much money; you don’t have silly transfers like Brenner, who joined Cincinnati for millions of dollars.

Rakovsky: No “silly transfers” in USL – “League doesn’t always get the attention it deserves” 

“The league doesn’t always get the attention it deserves,” Rakovsky added. “Without promotion and relegation, the two entities are too separated, even if there are farm teams in the USL. Also, there isn’t quite as much money; you don’t have silly transfers like Brenner, who joined Cincinnati for millions of dollars.”

On the field, the season has been a success. Orange County finished second in the Pacific Division (fourth in the Western Conference). In the playoffs, Orange County eliminated the Colorado Spring Switchbacks (1-0), Oakland Roots (6-5 on pens), and San Antonio FC (5-3 on pens) to reach the final against Tampa Bay Rowdies (kickoff Sunday 8:30 p.m. ET).

Patrick Rakovsky celebrates Orange County's penalty shootout win over San Antonio

Patrick Rakovsky celebrates Orange County’s penalty shootout win over San Antonio

“Tampa Bay will be the clear favorites,” Rakovsky said. “They are the reigning champions, have played a fantastic regular season. But perhaps our strength is that we are going to be underestimated. Also, we have a compact defense. That’s our biggest strength.”

Rakovsky admits that the playoffs are not the fairest way to crown a champion. “But it is the most exciting way,” Rakovsky said. “Look at Phoenix Rising. They were 15 points ahead of us in our division, but now we are in the final. It is a big opportunity for smaller clubs and makes the season more interesting than in Europe but definitely not fair.”

Nonetheless, Rakovsky looks forward to the opportunity to win a league trophy on Sunday. But what comes after? “The club has an option in my contract, and my understanding is that they will trigger that option, so for now, I will stay here.”

The goalie has kept an eye on the Bundesliga, and a transfer to MLS would also be interesting but also stresses that he is happy in California. “I mean, why would I go anywhere else,” Rakovsky said. “I have learned that a bit more money isn’t anything.” Only the right offer could motivate the 28-year-old to leave Orange County. “I wouldn’t become the fourth keeper at Schalke or a second keeper at FC Cincinnati just for a bit more money.”




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