Pat Wall is one guy who could be making more money now in the real world than pursuing his dream of being a professional goalkeeper.
Wall played at Notre Dame, where he helped the Fighting Irish win its only NCAA men’s national soccer championship in 2013. But the Sugarland, Texas, native also has a degree in aeronautical engineering, has interned at the Johnson Space Center in Houston and had some pretty good job prospects coming out of college.
Yet he was among 27 players, including two other goalkeepers, trying out this week at Cosumnes River College for a handful of coveted roster spots with the USL Pro champion Republic FC. The invitation-only tryouts began Monday and will conclude today.
Sacramento is looking for a goalkeeper to replace Jake Gleeson, the Portland Timbers loanee who, along with returning backup Dominik Jakubek, helped Sacramento win the USL Pro title in the team’s inaugural season last year.
But Gleeson has returned to Portland, and the Timbers no longer have an affiliation with Republic FC after deciding to form their own USL Pro team.
Wall is auditioning with two European pros: 28-year-old Scotsman Sean Murdoch and 26-year Englishman John Sullivan, both 6-foot-2.
Wall, 23, is less experienced and 3 inches shorter.
But Graham Smith, Republic FC’s technical director, was a 5-10 goalkeeper good enough to play in 200 professional matches in England.
Though Smith wasn’t about to tip his hand about who the Republic FC coaching staff might favor from among the trio, he likes Wall’s physical and mental attributes. He says Wall came highly recommended by 14-year Notre Dame coach Bobby Clark, the former Scottish national team goalkeeper.
Smith says that Wall’s aeronautics background is apropos.
“I think it helps him because he takes off like a bloody airplane,” Smith said with a smile. “He’s been terrific. Pat’s not the biggest, but I don’t care about big goalkeepers. If you’re good enough, then you are big enough.”
Wall trained for six summers with the Houston Dynamo of Major League Soccer. He thought he might be signed by the Dynamo as an MLS homegrown player this month, but it didn’t happen, and he also was bypassed in the MLS draft.
But he says he isn’t bitter.
“A soccer career is about ups and downs, and how you react to it,” he said. “I was fortunate to get the chance to train with the Dynamo’s first team. It was a great experience. I got to learn what pro soccer life is like, what the standard is and what you’re fighting for.”
His 2013 was particularly memorable. That summer he trained in the mornings with the Dynamo and worked in the afternoons for a NASA subcontractor on the Orion spacecraft at the Johnson Space Center. In the fall, he played every minute, posted 10 shutouts and made 74 saves in leading Notre Dame to the national title.
“That summer was the best of both worlds,” Wall said. “You are playing with pro soccer players day in and day out, and then you go and work with some of the smartest people in the world. You get humbled on both ends, but it was a great experience and has opened a lot of doors.
“It was also nice to win a championship for Bobby Clark because he knows his stuff inside and out and yet (the national title) eluded him for so long. That was a very good team where everything lined up right.”
Wall also was impressed how well things lined up for Republic FC during its championship run last season. He says the fan support is tremendous and the coaching staff first rate.
“Like all these guys here trying out, I want to get out there and represent Sacramento and earn another trophy,” he said.
While he had some options to go overseas, Wall thinks his best opportunities are in the United States, even if it’s not with Republic FC.
“American soccer is growing, as we’ve seen with the expansion of USL Pro,” Wall said. “It’s going to be a huge market. So you want to be growing with it. You want to be a part of it.”
Call The Bee’s Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.