Across the globe, soccer is more than just a sport. It is a lifestyle for many, those who live and breathe soccer. For David Paul, this is no different. Starting his love for the game at age three, Paul who is now 27, has traveled the globe, from the U.S. to England to Poland and back again, playing professionally. After an extremely successful 2014 season with the Joplin Demize of the NPSL, Paul is now plying his trade with the St. Louis Ambush of the MASL.
From an early age, Paul has moved frequently from coast to coast. Born in California, he would grow up in Long Beach, New York, before attending high school in Phoenix, then moving back east to play college soccer at Southern Wesleyan University in South Carolina. Showing talent from a young age, Paul excelled at Southern Wesleyan, earning All-Conference and All-American honors each season he spent there.
After an extremely impressive career at the collegiate level, Paul decided he would venture overseas to try to play professionally. Getting an invitation to a Premiership tryout in England, teams across the country tested to see if he was able to play at the top level of soccer. Following a two-week tryout, Paul returned home for a short period before getting calls from West Ham United and MK Dons. However, work permit restrictions put both teams out of reach for the budding U.S. star.
“I did pretty well during the two-week trial. I went back home, then got invited back out to West Ham, Leicester City, and MK Dons. I did very well at West Ham. They told me as a player I was good enough to play in the English Premier League, but because I didn’t have any national team caps, as an American it’s very tough for them to find a reason to keep me there, only because they can find a player from England who wouldn’t cost as much.”
In what was surely a difficult feeling, knowing that as an athlete you have the talent to make it in the best league in the world, but circumstances won’t allow it, it forced Paul to move forward with his professional career. Taking a year off and taking a stab into the coaching world, Paul would get his chance the next year, signing with Puszcza Niepolomice of the Polish Second Division. In his first season there, the team was able to win promotion and join the top flight in Poland. In what Paul says “set the standard” for clubs he looks to play for, he would leave after three great seasons.
Following the success he had in Poland, Paul would look to return Stateside during the 2013 summer. Knowing that his success in Poland would give him a great stepping-stone to play at a high level in the United States, helped him choose to return home to his roots in Phoenix, where he would join USL PRO side Phoenix FC for their final five games. Immediately making an impact, Paul was voted onto the USL Pro Team of the Week. Re-signing to play the following season in Phoenix, Paul was looking forward to another great year, however, the team ended up folding.
After the collapse of Phoenix FC, Paul received a call from the Joplin Demize of the NPSL. Noticing that it was the club’s first year, he figured that they were trying to put together something special. After talking to head coach Chris Hanlon, he knew this was the right decision. Being one of the older and more experienced players on the roster, he was put in a leadership position from the beginning. Having the experience in Poland and England taught Paul lots in terms of leadership and how to guide a team. In his first season as captain of the Demize, Paul excelled on both sides of the ball. As a defender, he led the team in scoring, which he credited Hanlon for not placing too many restrictions on him. For Hanlon, he knew David was special from the first moment at practice.
“I knew David was going to fit perfectly into our team from the very first practice session. You could tell he was a constant professional. Just the way he tried to lead the boys for example, setting a high standard at training for them and was basically a role model.”
With the NPSL season in the books, Paul is on his next mission, conquering the MASL. Still somewhat adjusting to how the soccer season runs in the U.S., he saw this as an opportunity to keep playing.
“This is an offseason for many of the professional leagues. One of the benefits is having the Major Arena Soccer League. It is so well respected especially in St. Louis. Seeing the respect the league has, it was a very easy transition for me because there is such a professional league and club.”
Signing with the Ambush two games into the season, he has had to go through some adjustments while learning about his new team.
“Coming in, missing the first few games, getting myself affiliated with the team and the playing style, it’s a different game. As long as you work hard, things should turn out fine.”
When discussing Paul’s switch from outdoors to indoors, Hanlon knew he would be just fine.
“He’s been successful with the Ambush just as he was with the Demize. His work rate, his technical speed and ability and his natural athletic speed, as well as his ability to read the play to start the counter attack as a defender.”
After playing his entire career outdoors on a full pitch, Paul is enjoying learning new skills that are a part of the indoor game. He says it’s very similar to hockey. There are shift changes, where he runs out at full steam for 45 seconds or a minute, and then the your line gets subbed off. On top of the physical differences, there is a mental aspect too.
“Keeping my touch on the ball, indoor definitetly increases your pace on the field, and your mind has to be quicker because the field is much smaller, and that’s extremely beneficial when you transition again back to outdoor soccer.”
Working hard at every club he plays for, Paul is hoping to bring some silverware to the Ambush. Talking to the people of St. Louis, they are looking for a soccer team to represent their city. Having prior success in the 80’s and 90’s, the Ambush look to bring back that winning tradition. For Paul, it starts with making the playoffs, and then from there, making a statement, and maybe even bringing home a title.
Never knowing when the call up to the next level will come, Hanlon could speak nothing but how serious Paul takes soccer. Even on off days, he is at the gym getting in workouts and touches on the ball.
“He is a constant professional. You never know when you are going to get that call up, you never know when you are going to get that opportunity. You have to be ready if you want to play at the professional level. You might get one chance or one look. If you don’t make the most of it, you’re not going to get that chance again in the U.S. professional soccer market.”
For David Paul soccer is more than a sport. It’s a passion that he works hard at every day. In his young professional career he has experienced more than most will their entire careers. In large part due to his success with the Joplin Demize of the NPSL, Paul is finding another key role as a player with the St. Louis Ambush. With a strong work ethic, look for Paul to make a name for himself in the MASL.