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West York's Shinsky chases dream with U-17 team

Justine Kloske worries. She's a mom, so no matter how hard she tries to suppress it, the anxiety just comes naturally.

And when your teenage son is nearly 5,500 miles away playing soccer in a country the U.S. State Department warns Americans against traveling to, the fretting ratchets up a notch or two.

But Kloske, an elementary teacher in the Dallastown Area School District, keeps one thing in mind: Her son, Alex Shinsky, is chasing his athletic dream.

Right now, that dream has taken the former West York star to Nigeria, where he's a starting midfielder for the U.S. squad at the FIFA U-17 World Cup that began Oct. 24 and runs through Nov. 15.

"I get so nervous you'd think I was playing," Kloske said Tuesday. "It's very exciting, though."

The 16-year-old Shinsky and the Americans opened Group E play with a 1-0 loss to Spain on Monday in the Nigerian town of Kano. Up next is a Thursday match against the southeast African nation of Malawi. The match can be seen live on ESPNU beginning at 11 a.m., and the U.S. wraps up group play Sunday against the United Arab Emirates.

Kloske, who teaches fourth grade at Ore Valley Elementary School, followed Monday's action online with the U.S. Soccer Federations' match tracker and watched the tape of the TV broadcast.

"Alex was doing well, and they must have said his name 500 times," Kloske said. "Friends were texting me.

"At one point in the match, one of the announcers said so-and-so takes a pass 'from the impressive Shinsky.' That was so surreal, to hear his name spoken through the announcer's British accent."

After earning YAIAA all-star honors as a freshman in 2007 with his older brother, Max, Alex Shinsky left West York to enroll in the IMG Academy soccer program in Bradenton, Fla., where he has lived and trained ever since.

"It was his decision to go to IMG, and I told him whatever decision he made was fine with me," Kloske said. "He called his Super Nova club-team coach in Hershey, and it was just a great opportunity.

"It's pretty rigorous, the training and the schooling. He can't have any junk food, so he's happy when he gets to come home, maybe five times a year."

At 5-foot-8 and only 135 pounds, Shinsky is definitely one of the smallest players on the field. But make no mistake, his skills are considerably more sizeable.

He's the only Pennsylvanian on the 21-man Team USA roster, and despite not turning 17 until April 2, Shinsky already has player agents phoning him about a professional career.

While that certainly is a goal, representing his country and then returning to York County for the spring 2010 semester comes first.

"He'll be back home for the second half of this, his junior year, and he'll be able to play to play his senior season at West York," Kloske said. "I'd like to see him go to college after that.

"Alex wants to play in the MLS and then in Europe somewhere, but we'll have to see how it goes."

It's tough communicating with her son in Nigeria, but Kloske said the family stays in touch mostly through Facebook. In fact, Max Shinsky, a sophomore defender at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, recently posted some encouragement for his younger brother.

Well-wishes such as that help Kloske get over her nerves about Alex's international travel.

"Sure, I worry, especially since it's Nigeria," she said. "None of the players' parents -- not a single one -- made the trip because it's one of the most dangerous places to go. A lot of parents went to the World Cup qualifier in Mexico, but this was different."

Even so, there's something exciting for a parent watching a child live out the next step in a dream.

"I was talking to my ex-husband, Alex's dad, after Monday's game and we were saying, 'I wonder how he played?' Like it was just another game," Kloske said. "But then we had to laugh.

"He's playing in the World Cup, so I guess things are going pretty well."

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