Taesong Kim has experienced what it is like to play with a big league team. And he strives to be with one again someday.
Kim, a midfielder for the Colorado Springs Switchbacks, is in his second season with the organization. So far, he has been one of the many bright spots.
In 2016, Kim's first year with the club, he appeared in 29 of Colorado Springs' 31 matches while logging 1,827 minutes. The midfielder also had an assist and 12 shot attempts. This season, Kim has seen action in 13 matches (starting eight) and recorded four shots.
Although Kim's statistics may not be flashy, his efforts on both sides of the ball have earned him plenty of praise from coaches.
"Without (Kim) in there, we are a little bit less without a little bit of bite in the midfield," coach Steve Trittschuh said. "Being aggressive, winning tackles. Putting pressure on the ball. Those are two of his big attributes he brings to the team. He is a good player for us."
Before Kim became one of the Switchbacks' key pieces, he spent time training with FC Dallas of Major League Soccer.
Kim is a native of South Korea. Before coming to the United States, Kim played two seasons with Jungwon University in the South Korean U-League. In those two years, Kim started every match for Jungwon.
Not only did he play for Jungwon, but Kim was also a member of First IZ Sports Professional Soccer Combine. An affiliate of the combine, that is where FC Dallas noticed Kim. They sent representatives and were impressed by Kim's physical style.
"FC Dallas called me after the combine because they wanted to see me up close," Kim said.
During his time with the MLS club, Kim learned a variety of new skills. He learned about positioning and how to keep himself in peak physical shape. Kim also learned the American style of play is much different than Korean style.
According to Kim, Korean soccer is more fast-paced. A lot more passing and moving around the field. And American soccer is more physical. More bodying up your opponent and utilizing tactical skills.
Although Kim learned valuable skills with FC Dallas, his time with the organization was short. He spent five months with the club. His stint without a team was short, too.
"A friend of mine, who is based out of Korea, he has been sending me clips of guys (from Korea)," Trittschuh said.
One of the player's clips Trittschuh's agent friend sent him was of Kim. Once Trittschuh got a look at Kim, he was immediately impressed.
After being released by Dallas, FC Dallas' coach, who knows Trittschuh, recommended Kim to Colorado Springs. So Kim visited the Switchbacks and decided they were the organization for him.
"Good," Kim said of his experience with Colorado Springs. "My two years here, I play. This team is a physical team. I like to play physical and strong. I press a lot and run around the field to stop my opponents."
The reason Trittschuh brought Kim in is because he fit the Switchbacks' style of play. According to Trittschuh, Kim makes a strong pairing with captain Rony Argueta in the middle. When the Switchbacks play two defensive midfielders, Kim and Argueta pretty much take care of the middle.
Although Kim has been a strong defensive presence, Trittschuh wants him to be a little more of an attacking midfielder.
His coaches know he has a promising future outside of Colorado Springs and the United Soccer League.
"He is still young," Trittschuh said. "I keep telling the guys, 'The more success we have, the more success you guys are going on to have at another level,' that pushes some of these guys. He has a good future ahead of him."
And Kim hopes to return to the big leagues.
"I like playing with the Switchbacks and in the USL," Kim said. "However, I hope to make it with a big team one day. In Europe or America."