"I think a large part of my consistency was my mindset and work rate."
It was a pleasure to get the opportunity to talk with 2018 MLS Draft pick and Atlanta United goalkeeper Paul Christensen! Read all about this up-and-coming young goalkeeper in our comprehensive interview below!
First I want to start off by saying congratulations on your collegiate success and being drafted, huge accomplishments so far and I look forward to following your career! I want to start off with your youth days, you were a member of the Seattle Sounders Academy and were pretty successful there. Tell us about that experience and how the Academy prepared you for the collegiate level.
I was on the Seattle Sounders academy and the U-17 national team in Florida during high school and I feel like both prepared me very well for the college level. Getting used to traveling for matches and training everyday at a high level really helped my development.
You chose to attend the University of Portland, which is a pretty storied soccer program for both men's and women's soccer. What went into that decision? Is that somewhere you always had your eye on?
The University of Portland was a great fit for me. It was somewhere that I could play for all four years and had the chance to learn from Bill Irwin who trained Kasey Keller and Luis Robles. It was not a place I was looking at originally but once I had a visit there I loved it.
You started every game your freshmen year at Portland, was that something you envisioned prior to starting preseason your first year? Was there a big learning curve coming from the Sounders Academy to the Portland program?
I wanted to go somewhere that I could compete to play all four years so that was part of the reason I went to Portland. But I knew I would have to earn my playing time once I got there. There was a learning curve from academy to college but I felt like I was well prepared by my coaches in Academy to play and be successful at the college level. I was confident in my ability to learn quickly and Bill Irwin helped me tremendously.
Not many players, especially goalkeepers, can say they were four-year starters in college. What do you think was the biggest contributing factor to your consistency over the years? How did you maintain such a consistent high level in an every-changing collegiate environment?
I think a large part of my consistency was my mindset and work rate. I was always trying to improve in training and worked hard on the field and in the gym to stay healthy and fit. The college season is difficult because it’s a lot of games in a short amount of time. I think being able to adapt to different styles of play is important to be successful in college because every team you play has a unique style.
Has professional soccer always been the goal? Have there been any experiences along the way that made you question whether this was the path you wanted to take?
Playing professional is a dream I’ve had for a long time so it’s been amazing to live that dream out. There have been times where it was difficult but I really try to stay focused on the moment I’m in and work hard in order to accomplish my goals.
You spent some time in Houston this past December training at the Dynamo goalkeeping combine. Describe that experience? How did you feel you performed and what was the environment like?
Houston was a great experience for me. Seeing how a professional environment felt and training with other goalkeepers who have played professionally and those who are trying to become pros was special. Paul Rogers and Jason Grubb were very good coaches who I felt did a great job in providing a high level of training and feedback for all the goalkeepers.
How did you feel when the draft came around? Expectations? The MLS draft is a bit different in that there are a few days in between the last couple of rounds, what was that wait like?
I was excited for the draft, I did not know what to expect because it’s always hard to predict who might take a goalkeeper. The wait in between days was not actually too bad, I knew I didn’t have control over who picked me so I did not worry about it too much. I was mostly excited to see where I would end up.
You were drafted by Atlanta United, one of the most exciting franchises in North American soccer currently. How has it been being involved with the organization?
It’s been amazing in Atlanta so far. It’s such a big soccer city and the support for the team is incredible. The organization is top-level and take really good care of the players. It is a very close-knit organization.
You've gotten to train with the likes of Brad Guzan, what have you learned from him and how has that helped you so far in your professional career? Any advice you've gotten that stands out the most (from him or anyone else so far)?
Training with Brad Guzan is a great opportunity. He has played at the highest level and is a very good keeper. He is always offering me advice or giving me feedback on things both on and off the field and what it takes to be a successful pro. It’s special to have someone who has done what he’s done but is always very willing to help. Also having Alec Kann and Mitch Hildebrandt has been very helpful because they are both good goalkeepers and good guys who have helped me tremendously.
Last question...2 Chainz or Ludacris???
I’m more of a country music guy but if I had to pick it would be Ludacris.