Eric McWoods: A flash from the past

Hayden Davidson, sports writer

Photo courtesy of Chris Steinmetz

He raced across Selma Field, ready to make his next move. To him, there is nothing better than a double overtime soccer game against Webster Groves. The KHS varsity boys’ soccer team had a tough matchup against Webster’s future MLS senior goalkeeper Sept. 17, 2010. But he was no match for 2014 KHS graduate Eric McWoods, a freshman at the time. With just seconds left in double overtime, Eric delivered a header for his second goal of the game to lead the Pioneers to a 2-1 victory.

Eight years later, Eric currently plays for JK Narva Trans, a professional European soccer team in the top division in Estonia. After graduating from KHS, Eric played two years of college soccer at Xavier University and two years at University of Missouri-Kansas City. Since graduating in May 2018, he took part in scouting events, including a 12-day showcase in Sweden where he received an offer from JK Narva Trans.

“This is a chance to grow my career,” Eric said over FaceTime in Narva, Estonia. “Playing in Europe has always been a dream of mine because [soccer] over here is huge. Playing also in the Europa League, which is one of the top tournaments in the world, is going to be a hell of an experience.”

Roberta McWoods, Eric’s mother and KHS varsity track and field coach, describes her son as a humble person with a great work ethic, and she admires his ability to reach his goals.

Photo courtesy of Roberta McWoods

“Being a coach, I love sports,” Roberta said. “So I love to see any individual set some goals and make their goals. And I love watching him because he sets his goals and expectations pretty high, and he achieves them.”

Eric, a 2013 All-American, holds KHS records, including most goals in a game (5), most goals in a season (40) and most goals in a high school career (87). Along with leading the varsity soccer team from freshman to senior year, Eric was a point guard, playing varsity basketball all four years, as well as a sprinter in track.

Chris Steinmetz, P.E. teacher and head varsity boys’ soccer coach from 2000-2016, formed a special bond with Eric over his four years at KHS. Steinmetz said it was no surprise to him when he heard Eric signed with a professional soccer team.

“[My relationship with Eric] was incredible,” Steinmetz said. “In a coach’s lifetime, you only get a handful of players who have a combination of it all. And it turned out that Eric was one of those players. He had the ability, he had the work ethic, he was a great team leader, and he led by example every day.”

Great experience, great teachers [and] great coaches played a huge role. People in [the Kirkwood] community definitely motivated me to want to pursue and use my talent to chase a dream of mine.”

— Eric McWoods

Living in Estonia near the Russian border, Eric said the toughest part of this experience will be adapting to a different country with completely foreign languages. With teammates from across Europe and Africa, Eric became the first American to play for JK Narva Trans. He gets to work with a translator on the team so he can effectively communicate with others.

“The language barrier is going to be huge,” Eric said. “It’s going to be tough to learn their languages, Russian and Estonian, over a span of 10 months.”

Five years ago, he was walking the halls of KHS. Now he pays in euros, has his apartment paid for by his team and said he is living his dream of playing professional soccer. Although he lives 4,800 miles from Kirkwood, he remembers life in Kirkwood fondly.

Photo courtesy of Roberta McWoods

“Being in Kirkwood since I was starting kindergarten at Tillman and finishing at Kirkwood High School was huge,” Eric said. “It shaped me into the person I am today. Great experience, great teachers [and] great coaches played a huge role. People in that community definitely motivated me to want to pursue and use my talent to chase a dream of mine. Kirkwood really meant a lot to me.”