Rookie defender Bryan Gaul, adjusting to a new position, makes the most of his opportunities with LA
It was Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012, a day that proved to be one of the most disappointing of Bryan Gaul's life.
Gaul, who had dreamed of being a professional soccer player since he was 10, had not been taken in this year’s MLS SuperDraft. Scouting combine interest from the Montreal Impact, Real Salt Lake and Chicago Fire did not pan out, nor did a heads-up from his then-agent that he would be selected late in the second round. Gaul understandably was crushed.
Five days later, however, his fortunes underwent a complete transformation when Gaul was taken with the final pick in the first round of the Supplemental Draft by the defending MLS Cup champion LA Galaxy.
“At that point it was like everything happens for a reason,” Gaul said. “Getting picked up by them, getting a call from (Galaxy associate head coach) Dave Sarachan saying they wanted to draft me. It was the greatest feeling ever.
“I called everyone and texted everyone. It was an awesome day.”
What has transpired since then hasn’t been bad, either. Capable of playing in central defense, as well as at left back, the rookie has made 15 appearances with the first team in all competitions, including eight starts. He made his debut in a 2-0 loss to Seattle on May 2 – playing the full 90 minutes at left back – and earned his first assist as a professional in a 3-1 victory over Chivas USA on July 21.
Head coach Bruce Arena agreed the Illinois native has been a pleasant surprise.
“We’ve been looking for center backs and left backs,” Arena said of the 6-foot-5, 200-pounder who actually played up front the last two years at tiny Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., and in 2011 finished his college career second in the Missouri Valley Conference in scoring with 11 goals and 4 assists. “He had a little bit of a promising profile with his size and his feet were good.
“In college he played a lot at forward, and we knew it would be a little bit of a challenge to get him acclimated to this and he’s done a pretty good job. I think he’s got a good future with the right kind of attitude and mentality. He can become a good left back or center back in the league.”
Gaul, who turned 23 on Aug. 10, said nerves never have been a problem this season, thanks to advice from the likes of Landon Donovan, A.J. DeLaGarza and Todd Dunivant. When he arrived at training camp, he knew what had to be done and how to do it.
“Honestly I wasn’t nervous,” he said. “I wanted to show why I thought I deserved to be drafted in the SuperDraft. I always came out with a chip on my shoulder, thinking I need to prove myself, that every day is a grind.
“I remember when I made my debut I was just ready.”
His comfort level increased as well.
“I feel really comfortable, honestly,” he said. “As I continue to play left back, now that I’m solidified in that exact position, it’s been an easy transition. I’m getting it more defensively.
“I think that was the biggest struggle at the beginning of the season; I didn’t necessarily know exactly what to do defensively. But it’s coming along and it’s a lot easier now.”
DeLaGarza, for one, has been impressed.
“He’s gotten a little bit more physical, he’s a great passer of the ball, he’s good with the ball at his feet. It’s fun to watch him,”
DeLaGarza said. “I can’t say anything wrong about him.”