After spending three years with the Columbus Crew, Bill Gaudette left MLS and joined the NASL's Puerto Rico Islanders.
Professionally, it may have been a step down. But it was definitely a step forward as well.
Playing in a lower division may not necessarily be a springboard to the top flight, but after making noise internationally with the Islanders, Gaudette was able to bide his time for the right opportunity to re-join an MLS club.
That opportunity came along in January, and Gaudette took it.
Gaudette signed with the LA Galaxy after a successful training camp and joins fellow ‘keepers Josh Saunders and Brian Perk on the club’s roster. Even though Gaudette said other MLS clubs had shown interest in him between 2007 and 2012, he said he was fine with waiting.
“Some clubs had called but it just wasn’t the right time, the right circumstances,” he told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Friday from Tucson, Ariz. “I had a little bit of success down there and I was able to take time and make the right decision. When this opportunity came up, I was ecstatic. LA, being the great club in the league, it’s a great opportunity for me and I’m just really excited to be part of the club.”
Part of Gaudette’s success with Puerto Rico came at the Galaxy’s expense. "Wild Bill" was between the pipes for the Islanders in their CONCACAF Champions League qualifying series against the Galaxy in 2009, which the Islanders took by a 5-3 aggregate.
Gaudette also led Puerto Rico’s charge to the CCL semifinals in the previous campaign and proved his worth by playing a pivotal role in the club’s success.
“Getting to the semifinals of the Champions League was a great experience, and we were one play away from getting to the final,” Gaudette said. “I'll use those experiences in these upcoming games if my number is called ... or if Josh needs a break.”
The Galaxy will play Toronto FC in a Champions League quarterfinal series, with the first leg scheduled for March 7 at Rogers Centre in Canada.
Whether he gets the nod or not, Gaudette said his approach for the year is that he will, at some point, be called on. And he’s more than happy with that.
“Josh has obviously established himself as one of the best ‘keepers in the league,” Gaudette said. “He’s done wonderfully. They’re looking for someone to backup and provide cover, and with the numerous competitions, make sure that if Josh needs rest or gets injured, they can have someone in there with experience that they can rely on to do the same job as Josh.”
Saunders was in Gaudette's shoes a year ago. Despite having an established No. 1 ‘keeper ahead of him in 2010 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Donovan Ricketts, Saunders eventually got playing time both in league and tournament play, and was the starter come the postseason and all the way through LA's victorious MLS Cup run.
The door, then, can open for some true competition. All the 'keepers – and the coach – know that.
“That’s the best part about [Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena] – he’s very big about it being highly competitive at every position," Gaudette said. "He’s not a guy that looks into anything. He looks at what’s going to be the best for the club and puts the best 11 guys on the field.
"For me, it’s just coming in, going out there and working hard every day.”