The 2014 USL PRO combine took place last weekend at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. A total of 102 players, primarily top college and USL PDL prospects, were invited to the combine to showcase their skills in front of coaches and scouts from USL PRO, MLS, and international leagues. One of players hoping to earn a professional contract was Gordon “Gordy” Gurson, a midfielder/forward from Robert Morris University and the Chicago Inferno of the PDL.
In 2013 Gurson became the Robert Morris all-time leading goal scorer with 44 goals during his time with the Eagles. The 2011 Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year was named to the CCAC All-Conference three times and led Robert Morris in scoring in three seasons. Gurson was also named to the 2013 NSCAA/Continental Tire NAIA Men’s Soccer All Mid-East Region First-Team.
Gurson, who scored the first goal in this year’s USL PRO combine, was gracious enough to grant Reckless Challenge an interview in the airport as he waited for a flight from Florida back to his home in the Chicago.
Reckless Challenge: What was the process to get an invitation to the combine?
Gordy Gurson: I applied in mid-September, ahead of the November 29 deadline. They said they would get back to us shortly around that date. I, however, never received anything until December 28. During that month span I thought I didn’t get accepted. [Perceived] failure pushed me to work harder and train harder, as I was trying to find somewhere to play. When I received the email with the invitation, I was in shock and couldn’t believe I was given the opportunity of a lifetime to attend the USL PRO combine, where only 90 field players were accepted out of over 450 applications.
RC: What is it about USL PRO that attracted you to their combine?
GG: I had played PDL for Chicago Inferno and I knew I needed to take the next step if I wanted to keep playing the sport as a career. USL PRO was a big step for me, but I thought I was ready to make the jump.
RC: NASL also conducted a combine this past weekend. Had you considered that league as an option for beginning your professional career?
GG: I was really considering NASL as well. I told myself, however, that I would do one or the other to see where I am. I decided to go with the USL PRO combine.
RC: How would you describe you experience at the combine?
GG: Honestly, this was an experience of a lifetime. I had a wonderful weekend. I got to bond with some players I had played against in PDL and some teammates from back in the day.
One of the things that really made me have a wonderful experience was being coached by Gordon Hill. My favorite team is Manchester United, and what better way to have a weekend than by being coached by someone who played for the club you love. Also, he played for the Chicago Sting, which grabbed my attention very quickly due to the fact I live in Chicago now.
RC: How were the facilities at IMG Academy?
GG: The field quality was definitely one of the best fields I have ever gotten to play on in my life. I feel a large number of fields are turf. It’s always a wonderful feeling to play on a beautiful pitch. First thing I did when I got off the bus was send a picture to my dad and my friends letting them know how beautiful the facility was.
RC: Did you have to pay your own way this weekend?
GG: This weekend I did have to pay my own way. Being a college student it was a lot tougher to afford than people think. But with a budget, you need to realize what you want and what you need. Obviously going pro is my dream and something I have worked so hard to accomplish, so I didn’t even hesitate with spending the money for the combine. I knew to even have a shot at my dream I had to get to Florida, so I was going to do whatever it took.
RC: How do you feel about your performance at the combine?
GG: I feel I left everything out on the field this weekend. It would have been nice to put another goal away in the last game and be the leading goal scorer of the combine with 2 goals, but the keeper made some great saves on me in the final match. I feel, however, coaches weren’t necessarily worried about the ball going in, just the shots being on frame and my positioning myself in the right spots to have the opportunities I created.
RC: Who were some of the other players at the combine to impress you?
GG: The keeper in the last game made some quality saves on me and did a very good job protecting his goal. My keeper [Jason Dodson, Stanford] also impressed me when he saved a PK in the second game as well as 2 breakaway saves. I also thought JJ Greer was the best center back I played against this weekend. It’s good because I used to train with JJ and every time we go against each other it’s a battle.
RC: How long has being a professional soccer player been your goal?
GG: Ever since I was little I have had a dream about playing professional soccer. When I fail at something it motivates me to do better and work harder so I can prove people wrong. I have made many sacrifices in my life to get to where I am today and I will keep making them until I make it. But don’t think once I make it I will stop.
RC: Do you feel the combine improved your chances at achieving that goal?
GG: Absolutely, the combine was a great place for me to show what I have in front of many different coaches around the country. It is better than traveling club by club and going to open tryouts when I could get them all at once.
RC: So, what’s the next step in the process with regard to signing with a club?
GG: The next step for me is to impatiently wait to hear from a club to see if they are interested in me. If I do not get to sign with a club right now that just means I have to get better which means more work, but I am willing to do whatever it takes.
RC: You’ve mentioned a desire to play for the Dutch Lions. Why Dayton?
GG: Dayton would be a wonderful place for me to sign for many reasons. Kyle Knotek, number 10 for the Dayton Dutch Lions, and I played and trained together awhile back home, as well as Jeff. I was always asking them how the club was and what they thought, and I never heard a negative comment about it. Another reason is it’s only about 5-6 hours away from my hometown. I know if I sign with Dayton my support system will be there for me, and there is nobody else I would rather share that moment of me walking on a professional field with than with them. They have pushed me so hard and keep me thinking positive through tough times. I couldn’t be where I am today without them!
Reckless Challenge can attest to the zealousness of Gurson’s support group. They were in full voice on social media this weekend as Gordy competed in the combine. It’s safe to say that they’ll have his back no matter where he ends up, which just might be on a USL PRO club this spring.
Chad Hollingsworth is an ardent supporter of the Dayton Dutch Lions and USL PRO. He makes every effort to provide objective coverage, but cannot claim his pieces are devoid of bias. You can find and follow him on Twitter at @ChadHoll.