Former CWRU soccer star, now an engineer, is still reaching his goals as a player.
By John Canale
With a little more than eight minutes left in the opening period, the Cleveland Crunch of the Major Arena Soccer League 2 held a slim 2-1 lead over the Muskegon Risers. The score changed abruptly as the Crunch’s Chris Cvecko knocked a rebounded kick past a diving Risers’ goalie. The small but passionate crowd at the Soccer Sportsplex in North Olmsted, Ohio, erupted in cheers.
When Cvecko ’16, MS ’17, completed his illustrious soccer career on the pitch at Case Western Reserve, he ranked among the university’s all-time best. He finished his collegiate career as the Spartans’ sixth all-time leading scorer and fifth in career assists. But he knew he wasn’t done.
A lot of athletes, when their college playing days end, hang up their cleats and move on to the next chapter of life. They reflect on the wins and losses and injuries and look forward to rehashing stories at homecomings and reunions. But some decide they have more left in them — and have more to prove to themselves.
“After my senior year, when I had won some accolades, my coach suggested I go to a combine being held at Columbus Crew Stadium,” Cvecko said. “I held my own against Division I players and knew I could compete at a higher level and wanted to keep playing.”
The mechanical engineer is now playing for the Cleveland Crunch of the Major Arena Soccer League 2 indoor soccer league. In 2021, the Crunch were crowned the MASL2 Champions after an 11-6 win over the Wichita Wings. In April 2022, the Crunch returned to defend their title but fell 7-4 to the San Diego Sockers in the championship game.
The game of indoor soccer resembles outdoor soccer but it’s also a different beast. Each team has five players plus a goalie on the field while players rotate in an out in shifts. A penalty against a player can lead to a team having a one-man advantage or disadvantage, also known as a power play — almost like soccer combined with ice hockey. “I played indoor soccer growing up, but this is entirely different,” Cvecko said. “There’s a lot of tricks and tips I’m learning about from playing indoor at professional level. There’s a lot more action, more shots on goals, and fans love it.” Besides his time playing for the Crunch, the native of Erie, Pennsylvania, also plays outdoor for Cleveland SC of the National Premier Soccer League. As part of the NPSL, Cvecko and his teammates compete against teams from across the country. In March, the team scored a 2-1 victory over Chicago FC United in the opening round of the annual U.S. Open Tournament.
Since graduation, Cvecko has also found the time to coach. He returned to campus to serve as an assistant on the CWRU coaching staff and was the head varsity boy’s coach at Orange High School in the Cleveland suburb of Pepper Pike. Cvecko managed to balance coaching and playing while working as a systems engineer for Meggitt Aircraft Braking Systems in Akron.
“It was tricky with work and playing, but I really enjoyed seeing the other side of it,” he said. “I can definitely see myself getting back into coaching down the road.”
For now, his focus remains on playing. As the Spartans’ midfielder in 2015, he was named the Most Valuable Player in the University Athletic Association and helped lead the team to a 13-4-1 record. Unfortunately, that team did not make it to the post season playoffs. In his post collegiate career, Cvecko has tried to erase that disappointment. He hasn’t missed the playoffs very often since.
John Canale is a freelance writer in Northeast Ohio. To comment on this story, or to suggest a candidate for an Alumni Adventure profile, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.