Chicago Fire rookie forward Davis Paul officially started his professional career this weekend, undergoing physicals at Toyota Park and training with the team at an indoor facility just outside Chicago.
For the 22-year-old Cal product, simply beginning preseason practice was a thrill. The fact that he’ll have an immediate shot to earn some serious playing time – the Fire only return one forward from last year’s team – is just icing on the cake.
“As a young player, you can’t ask for a better situation,” Paul told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s great to get an opportunity to show I’m one of the guys. I believe that if I work hard and play well, the opportunities will come, and I’m stoked to be a part of a program in which those opportunities are there.”
WATCH: Meet Fire rookie Davis Paul
Paul, whom the Fire selected with the 51st overall pick in the SuperDraft earlier this month, was one of four forwards drafted by Chicago this offseason. At 5-foot-8, he's the smallest of the bunch, but he isn’t concerned that his lack of height will hold him back.
“I’m more of the playmaking, quick, crafty underneath striker, but I can still get into space and I can still make good runs,” he said. “I’ll adapt to whatever. Yeah, I’m not a 6-foot-2 target guy, but I’m still going to find a way to get it done.”
Paul’s confidence is justified. His size shouldn’t matter a great deal if Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos’ possession-based, build-up-on-the-ground system works like it’s supposed to.
“When they called me after I got drafted, the first thing they said [was that they’re a possession-based team],” Paul said. “That was great news to me because when you’re 5-foot-8, the last thing you want is balls dumped into you when you have a 6-foot-4 defender on you. It’s like my entire style of football fits exactly what they’re trying to push.”
Paul, who scored 15 goals and notched 21 assists in four years at Berkeley, has received a good deal of post-draft advice from a fellow Cal Bear: Fire forward Calen Carr.
“Calen’s been a huge help for me through all this,” Paul said. “He called me the same day I got drafted and gave me a little 30-minute lowdown on what to expect, how to prepare, what to pack, the ins and outs of the city, where to live. He definitely took care of me and I’m very grateful for it. He’s a great guy and I’m excited to play with him.”
“I’m just excited to be in such a great city with such a great club and such great supporters,” he added. “I’m just hoping to contribute this year.”
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.