By Jeff Helfrich/NPSL.com
Dilly Duka didn’t play soccer at the highest level in 2018.
But it was the best year of his life.
After eight seasons in Major League Soccer, Duka’s contract was not picked up by the New York Red Bulls after the 2017 season. He had a wife that was pregnant with twins. He had offseason ankle surgery. He had something that had become foreign to him: free time.
“There were times when it was really uneasy because you had so much free time and you don’t know what to do and you’re not used to staying home,” Duka said. “I got into a little youth coaching and most of the time I needed something else. That’s where FC Motown came in.”
The National Premier Soccer League club based in New Jersey near Duka’s home came calling with an opportunity for the veteran midfielder to heal, relax and recharge. Not to mention, the team was one of the NPSL’s best.
Duka helped the team to an NPSL National Championship appearance. Duka scored 12 goals in 13 appearances with the team in league and cup action, including one in the national final. He was back in form and ready to hit the professional ranks again And Superliga Albanian club FC Partizani noticed.
“Dilly took a chance on FC Motown during our inaugural NPSL campaign,” FC Motown owner Dan Karosen said. “We think he will thrive overseas due to his talent and leadership skills.”
“It kind of stemmed out of something over the summer and I couldn’t go out there then because my wife was pregnant with twins and it kind of happened again later in the year,” Duka said. “I came out to Turkey and got acquainted with everything and it just seemed like a good option.”
Duka signed a one-and-a-half-year deal with Partizani last month and was very quickly playing in a friendly against Croatia’s Dinamo Zagreb, a top-100 club in the world.
“I’m on a team that’s super confident, they’re in first place,” Duka said. “The guys are playing their best soccer. You could kind of join them seamlessly. I’m on a good team and this is a team that wants to make strides this summer in Europa League competition.”
Duka also had the opportunity with Partizani to make a wage that made it worth it to move across the world and was better than a stateside opportunity like in the USL.
The club originally wanted Duka to come in months beforehand. But he had more pressing issues to attend to as a husband and a father at home. His wife had to be on bed rest after the second month of her pregnancy with their twins.
“I don’t know how I could’ve functioned playing soccer at a high level and supported my wife through it,” Duka said. “It was a blessing that I was home and not traveling a lot.
Duka’s wife and children will join him in Albania this month. He recently got situated with an apartment and the club has helped him get situated. He hopes to take his wife on a couple of well-deserved vacations while he isn’t on the pitch with Partizani. They’ll be a long way from FC Motown.
“FC Motown’s 2018 season, what you saw when we were playing games or what you saw on social media, everyone was having fun and enjoying their soccer,” Duka said.
“It really helped me get back into the game and fall in love with the game all over again.”
Photo Credit: Brooks Von Arx, Jr./NPSL.com