Paul Christensen took a seat in the back of Canyon Hills Community Church. He didn’t want to disrupt the sermon. But his eyes kept darting to his smart phone.
It was January 21. The Major League Soccer Draft was underway. Teams were on a conference call and posting results online.
For the first three rounds, there was no news. Christensen kept refreshing his phone for updates. Suddenly he received a text from a coach he knew.
“Congratulations! Good luck in Atlanta!”
Christensen walked outside to figure out what was going on. His name wasn’t listed on the MLS website.
“I was confused for a second,” Christensen said. “But then I looked at my mom and said `I think I got picked by Atlanta, but I don’t know how!’”
It turned out that Atlanta United FC had tweeted their selection before the MLS website could update the results. And by 6AM the next morning, the twenty-one year old Woodinville native was on a plane bound for the east coast.
Paul Christensen’s roots are in the Northshore. His father Todd is the wrestling coach for the Woodinville Falcons. His twin brother Ryan wrestles for the University of Wisconsin.
After Paul graduated from Woodinville High School in 2014, he spent four seasons playing goalie for University of Portland. In his junior year, the Pilots won their first conference championship since 2002.
Heading into the draft, he didn’t know what to expect. Best case scenario, he figured he’d go in the second round. Worst case scenario, he’d go undrafted and try to sign with somebody as a free agent.
“With goalkeepers it’s hard to tell when [teams] are going to take them,” Christensen said. “It’s on a need basis. With a field player you can move them around to different positions. But if you’re picking a goalie, most teams have three on their roster, some have four. League-wide, there are only about five or six openings a year.”
As of this writing, Christensen was in Orlando, Florida during Atlanta’s preseason camp. He was living out of a hotel and hoping to make the squad.
Three other goalies are on the roster. Two of them in particular have helped Christensen so far.
“Brad Guzan has been on the national team for a number of years, and has played in England for awhile,” Christensen said. “He has been a great mentor to me so far-- answering questions and giving pieces of advice. Alec Kann has been a big help too. He has played a bunch in the league, and has been all around on a bunch of teams. He has been helpful. Nice guys and helpful guys that have taken me under their wing. It has been awesome.”
Due to scheduling happenstance, Atlanta FC will not be traveling to Seattle this year to play the Sounders. But Christensen hopes to earn a major league contract and be present when Atlanta hosts Seattle on July 15.
“In pro sports nothing is for sure,” Christensen said. “You’ve just got to work as hard as you can and play your best and see where it goes from there.”