Christian Eissele led the Kakkonen, the third tier of Finnish football, in goals during the 2012 season. So how is he planning to follow up his Golden Boot-winning year? By scoring even more goals, of course.
“As a striker, you always want to get better at finishing, so that’s one of my main goals for the offseason,” he said.
Eissele, 20, is back home in the United States for training after his first professional season with the Kemi Kings. The Florida native found success almost immediately once he got acclimated to the cold in the Finnish port city. He played in all 24 league matches, and, with 20 goals and 7 assists, Eissele had a hand in more than half the club’s goals.
“It was a great experience to say the least,” he said. “I would say I grew a whole lot between when I first got there and when I came out. You’re playing against men at that level, and so physically and mentally it teaches you a lot about playing.”
Eissele says the lessons he’s learned are invaluable to his development, something he would’ve missed out on had he decided to continue playing college soccer at Central Florida or tried to catch on in the American system.
“Everywhere in Europe they know the game so much better than we do over here, so even though a lot players I play with back home are really athletic and really fast and strong, they may not have the understanding that some of these guys have,” he said. “And especially in the league I’m playing in, because it’s the second division they have a lot of older guys who have tons of experience at the highest level and they just come back to finish their careers off in their hometown and that type of thing. So, it’s been great learning because they know so much about the game tactically.”
If Eissele struggled with a knowledge gap, you’d be hard pressed to notice. He scored often, putting in goals with both his left and right feet, and frequently partnering with teammates to put the Kings on the attack. With one more year left on his contract with Kemi, Eissele is hopeful that he’ll continue to be a fixture on the scoresheet so he can keep turning heads.
“I want to stay in Europe as long as I can and really just try to move up the ranks and try to get my name out there so I can move on to bigger clubs at a better level,” he said.
It’s not just what he’s learned on the pitch that has made Eissele so confident the decision to play in Finland has been worth the risk. He speaks in glowing terms about all aspects of Nordic life. Eissele enjoyed the 24 hours of light during the summer (but admits good blinds are a must), sampling local fare like reindeer, which “tastes pretty much like beef, but it’s really good,” and the friendliness of the locals.
“It’s a smaller town so everybody kind of knows everybody, which is awesome because a lot people would know us on the team, especially because I’m an American. They don’t get that very often. It was a great place to live,” Eissele said.
While other Kakkonen clubs may have a Christian Eissele sophomore slump on their Christmas lists, the forward is preparing to dash away all hopes of that when the season starts in March.
“I’m really excited for the future because I feel like I can only go up from here,” he said. “I’m not one of those types of players that will excite you at a young age and have a bunch of skills, but I can score goals and that was evident this season. Hopefully, I can just continue to improve on my abilities and get faster and quicker and stronger. I’m hoping for a good future.”