FRISCO, Texas – "Where were you when you were drafted?"
It’s a question that athletes are often asked when their childhood dreams become reality. For some, they are lucky enough to be in the building, walk along the stage and shake the commissioner’s hand.
For Anders Engebretsen, one of North Texas SC’s newest signings, his draft story is a bit unique.
“I was sitting in class when it happened,” Engebretsen said. “A bit weird, but it was great.”
The winger was still working towards his Economics degree at Saint Mary’s College when FC Dallas pulled the trigger and called his name in the fourth round of the 2020 MLS Super Draft.
“[Being drafted] was my overall goal the whole time at my college,” Engebretsen said. “To be able to achieve that was a bit of a dream come true.”
So, who is he? And where does he come from?
Norway, Engebretsen's home country, is located in Northern Europe – Scandinavia to be more precise – and bordered by Sweden, Finland and at its Northern tip, Russia. Denmark and Germany are to its South, separated by the North Sea.
“It’s a great environment to grow up in. You feel included and safe,” Engebretsen said. “I grew up in Oslo. You probably have more individual freedom in Norway than here, in the sense that you can walk around more – I was less dependent on my parents driving me, so I could walk to friends and all that. There’s more nature. Being able to run straight into the forest on mountain hikes instead of asphalt right next to the road [is nice]. Even though Oslo is the capital and a big city, there’s still hills right outside.”
Although he was born into a skiing family, Engebretsen always knew soccer was the sport he loved the most. And while he grew up competing in one of the nation’s king winter sports, cross-country skiing, Engebretsen ultimately found himself playing for Skeid Fotball in Oslo.
“I played first fourteen years for my local club and, at some point, I felt like I needed a new environment and a new challenge. Skeid is one of the more historic, traditional clubs in Norway, which has been on a bit of a down period because of financials,” Engebretsen said. “I joined their junior team and was quickly taken up to the first team within a few weeks. I had a very good start. I signed what they call an ‘Amateur Contract’, which is not a paid contract, but you get the benefits of the club. I started the first games of the season.”
Engebretsen struggled with injuries during his time at Skeid, though. A case of mononucleosis kickstarted things. After recovering from the illness, Engebretsen injured his knee, which required months’ worth of recovery and rehab. After returning, he then injured his hamstring.
It was around this point Engebretsen decided to head in a new direction and moved to the U.S. to play the sport at the collegiate level. Unique to this country, the change in scenery allowed Engebretsen to also focus in on his degree while furthering his soccer career.
“I would say it was exactly what I needed at that point and I found a good environment for me,” Engebretsen said. “It was peaceful, quiet and a place where you could focus on both studies and soccer without too much interference. You could also go into the city (San Francisco) if you wanted to experience more of the city life.”
In most places around the world, school and sport is not directly tied together.
“To be able to focus on [school and sport] can be very hard in Europe because it is not integrated into the schools,” Engebretsen said. “It made perfect sense to pursue both. I take school very seriously.”
The move clearly paid off. After a successful career with the Gaels, Engebretsen spent the preseason period with FC Dallas and the rest is history. The winger signed for North Texas SC and now has aspirations to showcase his skillset in USL League One. The decision to sign was an easy one.
“That the club had put faith in me meant a lot [when I] chose North Texas,” Engebretsen said. “[Eric Quill] talked to me. He also was one of those that wanted to draft me. Also, of course, they’re affiliated with FC Dallas, which makes a good connection there. It’s a club that won the championship last year, so it was a good thing to join.”
Now healthy again, the winger is ready to show the North Texas fans everything he has to offer.
“I always see myself as an aggressive winger who likes to go at people and attack. I’m pretty direct in my style,” Engebretsen said. “The playing style that North Texas has challenged me in some new ways. Facing my own goal and playing combinations is something I’m eager to be better at to be more overall gifted as a player.”
When the right time comes for the league to resume play, expect a show. Although Engebretsen and his teammates are currently staying fit and preparing from home while the world continues to combat the outbreak of COVID-19, the mindset remains the same.
“I’m super excited to start playing games with our team. We’ve been building chemistry on and off the field,” Engebretsen said. “I feel like when the season starts, everyone is going to be flying and hopefully I can help the team win games. I’m sure the team has more than enough quality to even improve on last year. We want to go unbeaten or something.”