Patrick Schulte has quickly become one of Major League Soccer's top goalkeepers in just his first full season with Columbus Crew, and he's now set to start in MLS Cup against LAFC.
The Crew drafted Schulte from Saint Louis University with the 12th overall pick in the 2022 MLS SuperDraft and quickly impressed with Columbus Crew 2 in MLS Next Pro. With the second team, Schulte kept seven clean sheets in 18 starts, while also making 42 saves that helped him earn the MLS Next Pro Goalkeeper of the Year award as his team won MLS Next Pro.
"It feels amazing to be in this position, you know, to play for a trophy. There's nothing better and that's ultimately why we play the sport, to win trophies. So to be able to play in Columbus and have chance to win another trophy, it feels amazing," he said in an interview with 90min.
Schulte also featured in the Best XI in MLS Next Pro last year to go along with being the best shot-stopper, and his impeccable performances were enough for first-year head coach Wilfried Nancy to give him a shot at starting in between the sticks for the first team at Lower.com Field in 2023.
"It prepared me in a lot of ways. You know, just dealing an MLS season, a professional season," Schulte said of his time in MLS Next Pro.
"You know, the mindset of each and every day, you're putting in the work, how to treat yourself, how to prepare, how to really prepare for a game once a week as well as just being a true pro. Getting games against high level competition...that's what I think MLS Next Pro is for and it's really prepared me for this year."
The Missouri native has exceeded expectations in his first season in the North American top flight, making 31 MLS starts, keeping seven clean sheets and conceding just 43 goals across the entire regular season.
However, Schulte thought that all of the success he's had so far in his career would've been a little later down the road instead of in his first season starting for the Crew.
"I think it was really just for me to put my head and work each and every day and just take it day by day. Whenever my time comes, just try and take it, take advantage of it and just don't look back, just look forward and see what comes next," he said.
"So, when I signed the contract, I don't think it was going to in my near future. I though it twas really in my far future, but to be able to be playing in year two is something that I don't take for granted."
While many have seen the Crew as a playoff-level team ahead of the season with a new coach in charge, Schulte revelaed that he believed Columbus were destined to accomplish something special from day one.
"Honestly, I'd say right away. I knew that this team had a lot of talent and with Wilfried [Nancy] at the lead, I knew that anything was possible," he said.
"It was really just, when are we gonna click when are we really gonna start buying into everything that Wilfried was putting forward. I think once everyone started buying into that, we were close at moments...we were going to Cincinnati and put in a really good performance and lost 3-2 to the Supporters' Shield winner."
Above all, Schulte would love nothing more than to lift MLS Cup in front of the Crew's supporters against LAFC at Lower.com Field and was full of gratitude for the club that drafted him out of college.
"They [Columbus] took a chance on me...they gave me this opportunity and they've believed in me since minute one, since I got here last year. I can't thank them enough, from the front office to support staff, as well as the players," he said.
"These fans, they've supported me through my ups and downs this year. Even last year in MLS Next Pro, there was I think 5,000 people that came out to the game," he continued.
"So, to be able to give them something that they're very passionate about and to do it for the city and for the club that took a chance on me and drafted me and giving Wilfried his first championship ... it would mean the world to me."
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