It is possible that time is running out on Nick Palodichuk's soccer career.
It is also possible that a year from now, he will be playing in Major League Soccer.
This summer, before his final season playing for Duke University, the Camas High graduate is playing for Vancouver Victory FC in the new Evergreen Premier League.
Palodichuk has played in five games for the Victory. He has scored four goals and supplied three assists — doing his part to help a coach, Biniam Afenegus, who helped lay the foundation for Palodichuk's soccer success.
"This could be my last year playing soccer, so I wanted to come and play in front of my family for a local team," Palodichuk said.
Coming off two injury-affected seasons at Duke, Palodichuk said the opportunity to play with players he's played alongside before also factored into his decision to join the Victory.
"It's convenient, it's fun. I have a lot of history with a lot of the guys here," Palodichuk said.
That history includes an under-11 age-group state championship for a Columbia Timbers team that was coached by Afenegus, now the head coach for Victory FC and for the Clark College men's soccer program.
When Afenegus went looking for college players for Victory FC, Palodichuk was one of the first he thought about.
"I've always been one of his biggest fans," Afenegus said. "Hopefully, I was one of the ones who built the foundation of the work ethic he has."
That work ethic helped Palodichuk reach some big soccer stages. He played for the U.S. national team at the 2009 Under-17 World Cup in Nigeria. In 2010, he was named the national boys soccer player of the year by Parade Magazine. In 2008, as a freshman at Camas, he played a key role in the Papermakers' Class 3A state championship.
His college career got off to a strong start. He started all 22 Duke games in 2011, scoring eight goals and adding six assists. But ankle injuries limited him to 10 games as a sophomore and led to two surgeries. Last season he started to regain his footing, with four goals and four assists.
"I think I'm back to where I was before the injury. I feel good now. My ankles don't hurt," Palodichuk said.
The mental ups and downs have been as challenging as the physical ups and downs.
"You get so frustrated knowing how it once was. Getting hurt, you go through a rough period where you don't think it's ever going to come back," Palodichuk said. "You feel like you're out of touch and you see everyone else around you getting better while you're sitting out."
In addition to reconnecting with friends, playing for Victory FC for Palodichuk is about improving his fitness and sharpening his game ahead of his senior season at Duke. He will travel this week to Brazil with his Duke teammates to take in a few World Cup games, but will return to Vancouver to play for the Victory through the end of the season in late July.
Afenegus said that Palodichuk leads by example as the coach pieces together a group of young players from near and far. And his ability to read the game creates opportunities for himself and his teammates, the coach said.
"He makes everyone around him better, whether it be making the final pass or a tackle, as well as drawing a lot of attention to him, which creates opportunities for teammates," Afenegus said.
As his final season at Duke approaches, opportunities lie ahead for Palodichuk. But he doesn't know professional soccer will be among them.
"It depends how this season goes and if not (soccer), maybe law school or an MBA," Palodichuk said. "There's always other opportunities. We'll have to see how it plays out."
Through the end of July it will play out as a part of the first Victory FC season, playing with and against current and former college soccer players. Palodichuk said he is impressed with the quality of players, both playing for Victory FC and for its opponents in the first-year league.
"That's one of the things I've enjoyed about this. You're getting good competition day in and day out here in practice as well as in the games." Palodichuk said.
"Right now, I'm really enjoying this."