Mattituck soccer star’s next step could be to turn pro

Kaan Ilgin scored twice in Mattituck's win for the Class B county title earlier this month. (Credit: Robert O'Rourk)
Kaan Ilgin scored twice in Mattituck’s win for the Class B county title earlier this month. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

It has turned into quite a whirlwind 10 days for Kaan Ilgin.

On Nov. 15, the senior forward scored two goals in Mattituck’s 3-0 Class B victory over Beekmantown, which clinched the team’s first New York State boys soccer championship in 11 years and third overall. He was named the final’s most valuable player and awarded a special game ball.

Later that day, Ilgin and the Tuckers were feted with a Mattituck Fire Department escort on their way to a celebration at the school.

On Nov. 17, he learned he was invited to the High School All-American Game.

On Nov. 18, Ilgin and his teammates were honored at the Mattituck Board of Education meeting.

And now he is considering turning pro.

That’s right, as in becoming a professional soccer player.

Ilgin, 17, had given the University at Albany a verbal commitment to attend next year.

“I am going to de-commit from Albany for now,” he said. “My first look is to go professional. I want to go pro. We have some teams that coach [Tom] Lips told me. If that doesn’t work out, I’ll probably go to college and try to go pro after. My first option is to go pro. That is my dream. I hope it comes true one day.”

Lips, who played for the Long Island Rough Riders and some European clubs, coaches Smithtown West and Smithtown Arsenal, for which Ilgin played this summer.

Among the possibilities would be the three local professional teams — the New York Red Bulls and New York City F.C., which will make its Major League Soccer debut in March, and the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League.

“Coach Lips told me that those teams would be the first options,” Ilgin said. “I’ve been training really hard. He [told] me that I have to do stuff, trying to go pro.”

Ilgin said he had to “work, run, work out my core. I have to get tough. It’s not easy. I have to play against men, not boys any more.”

He will have an opportunity to participate in the High School All-American Game at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Raleigh, N.C., on Dec. 13. Ilgin and Arsenal teammate Steven Dovi of Smithtown West were the lone Long Island players selected.

“I was so happy,” Ilgin said. “I was waiting to tell my mom about it because I was so happy. My parents are proud of me.”

Mattituck coach Mat Litchhult told Ilgin the good news.

“It’s a really big deal,” he said. “It’s a tremendous honor. When we first found out when the list came out, he wasn’t on it. I think that his playoff run really put him over the top. So when I got the call I was really, really happy for him and the program on what can be an exceptional weekend.”

Playing in that game wouldn’t necessarily mean Kaan would be named to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-America team, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt. It also would make Mattituck history.

“It would be a first for the school, I believe,” Litchhult said. “It would be a first for the program, definitely. I know that Suffolk County has had a few all-Americans in the past. I don’t know how far east they’ve come, but this could be the furthest of eastern Long Island. That would be an honor, too, to go to Philadelphia to accept his award at the convention with him.”

Ilgin finished his Mattituck career with 51 goals, tied for 27th on the all-time county list. He is second in Tuckers history, behind Kevin Litchhult, who tallied 71 goals between 1996 and 2000.