Off the PitchOct 12, 2018

Season 15: Alan Gordon

Currently in the midst of his 15th MLS season, it's difficult to imagine that soccer was never really the plan for Alan Gordon. While he originally planned to pursue a career in baseball, injuries forced the Chicago Fire forward to change course. He ended up with a junior college soccer scholarship, which ultimately turned into two years at Oregon State where he scored 26 goals in 40 appearances. His performance on the field in college caught the attention of the LA Galaxy who, much to his surprise, drafted him 58th overall in 2004.

Now, Gordon has solidified his place as a veteran of the league after making 293 appearances with six different teams. He has battled back from injuries, and surgeries and now reflects on how his time in the league has changed him as both a person and a professional.

Q: How long have you played in the MLS and what was your path to the league?

I have been a player in the MLS for 15 seasons.  I was drafted 58th overall in 2004 out of Oregon State University. How I got there is a long story. I didn’t do a good job setting myself up for college in high school, and frankly had very little competitive soccer experience, spending most of my younger years as an avid baseball player.  After injuries derailed any hopes of pursuing a baseball career, I fell into a junior college soccer scholarship offer from Yavapai Community College. It was at Yavapai where I developed a love for the game and it provided me with an opportunity to get to a four-year school. 

 After two standout years at Yavapai, I was approached by Oregon State, where I would eventually spend the final two years of my college career.  At this point I really didn’t think I had a very strong chance of turning pro, but I woke up one morning to my college teammates telling me that I had been drafted by the Los Angeles Galaxy. That’s right, I didn’t even know that the MLS draft was on that Saturday morning and only found out because my college teammates saw it on ESPN. I joined the Galaxy for preseason that January but was loaned out to the Portland Timbers for the duration of (what was called then) the A league season.  I did well that year, earning the rookie of the year award and was called back up to the Galaxy where I stayed for the following 8 seasons.

Q: With 15 years of experience, you are sure to have faced some ups and downs. What challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?

I think the biggest challenge as a young professional was learning how to manage my health.  It’s hard to stay healthy in this business and when I was young I didn’t understand what it took to manage my body in the right way and take the time needed to recover and stay healthy.  So, I suffered. In my first 6 professional seasons, I had 6 surgeries. I took me way too long in my career to figure out that, in order to stay healthy, you must develop a routine both before training and after training.  It’s probably the hardest thing to instill, especially because when you feel good you don’t feel like you need to do extra work, but it’s not necessarily about today, it’s about taking care of your body for tomorrow and the years to come.

Q: Do you have a favorite moment from your career so far?

This is always a tough question.  The obvious answer and the one that I always give is when I put on the US national team jersey and earned my first cap.  That is always a something I will remember but the real answer is that I’ve been able to play long enough for my three kids to see me play.  They have enjoyed being part of this journey, probably more than I have, and those memories of my boys in the locker room playing with the guys or coming on the field after a victory will be memories that will last a lifetime.

Q: What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the MLS during your time in the league?

I feel like everything has changed in my time in the league.  From travel accommodations, salaries, to level of play and stadiums.  The league has come a long way and I will enjoy watching it continue to grow long after I am gone.

Q: Do you feel like your role in the locker room has changed over the years?

As you become a veteran in the locker room, there is more of a need for you to be the vocal leader.  I have enjoyed my time as an older player. I like to help out the young pros and give them some words of advice that I feel would have helped me as a young player.  I definitely had mentors when I was young and am trying to give back what I can.

Q: Looking back to 2004, what advice would you give your rookie self now?

I would tell myself to not be afraid to fail.  Failing is a part of life and most definitely a big part of the game.  If you play this game long enough then you will fail. If you are afraid to fail then you will never reach your full potential.  Life is not about failing, it is about how you rebound from those failures and come back stronger. I would also tell myself to live it up.  Enjoy it because it goes fast. Work harder than everyone else and use your platform in as many ways as you can. And finally, to be wise with my money and learn how to invest it. 

Q: How has your approach to life and your career changed since you entered the league?

I work a lot harder at both life and soccer than I did when I was young.  In regards to the game, I usually am among the first to arrive at the stadium and among the last to leave.  You can always be better and hard work is the only ticket to success.

In life, a lot has changed. I am a father now, and being a father is not an easy job if you want to be good at it.  I am always trying to become a better person and a better father by learning from my mistakes and trying to grow as a result of them.

Q: What do you see yourself doing after your playing career comes to an end?

I am not positive about where life after soccer will take me but I have several options to consider.  It is so important to think about life after soccer and to try and use your free time to take steps for an easier transition.  

You can follow Alan on Instagram.