Gordon Wild came to the United States in search of a college education and a career in professional soccer.
A native of Cologne, Germany, Wild spent years at the Mainz Youth Academy honing his skills to one day become a professional player.
But Wild, now a midfielder for the Charleston Battery, also wanted to pursue a college degree, something he would not be able to do if he remained at Mainz.
In America, he could get a college education and still play soccer at a relatively high level in hopes of one day making it to the professional ranks.
“In Germany, you don’t play for a school, you play for an individual club,” Wild said. “America is unique is the sense that you can combine getting a degree with playing and that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to do both.”
Having never been to the U.S., and with English his second language, Wild’s options were limited. He settled on junior college and the University of South Carolina-Upstate.
“It wasn’t an easy decision to leave Germany and my family and all my friends,” Wild said. “But I wanted to get a college degree and still play, so it was one of the sacrifices I knew I was going to have to make.”
In his first season at Upstate, Wild scored 16 goals in 15 matches. He was named the Atlantic Sun Conference rookie of the year and earned first-team all-conference honors.
It didn’t take long for Wild to get noticed by bigger schools and eventually he transferred to national power Maryland in 2016.
As a sophomore, Wild scored 17 goals in 21 matches and led the Terrapins to the Big Ten championship. He was the Big Ten player of the year and was named a MAC Hermann Trophy finalist — college soccer’s Heisman Trophy equivalent. He had five goals in an injury-plagued junior season.
“It was a great experience going to Maryland, going to class and playing soccer,” Wild said.
Wild was a year away from earning his degree in economics when he decided to turn pro and enter the Major League Soccer SuperDraft in January. Wild said he’s taking on-line classes and should graduate from Maryland within a year.
“I thought it was time, I felt like I was ready to move on and start my professional career,” Wild said. “The great thing about Maryland is that once you have a scholarship, they’ll pay for your school until you get the degree and that was important to me.”
Atlanta United FC took Wild with 37th overall pick. When Wild arrived earlier in the year, he realized that his playing time was going to be limited with established MLS stars Josef Martinez and Miguel Almiron getting most of the minutes.
Despite having a team in the USL for the first time this season, the Atlanta United FC front office felt that Wild would develop quicker in the Lowcountry and loaned him for the season to the Charleston Battery.
“Gordon is a very talented goal-scorer and in order for him to improve and learn how to be a professional, Atlanta felt like he should stay with us,” Charleston Battery coach Mike Anhaeuser said. “Like most German players, Gordon can shoot the ball with either foot. His quality was evident from the first time he stepped onto our practice field. He’s got a shot and he can score from a long way out.”
Wild got to show Atlanta what they have been missing when he scored twice in the Battery's 3-0 victory over Atlanta United 2 on Tuesday.
“I don’t know if I had an extra incentive, I just wanted to show my best form,” Wild said. “Coming here I wanted to embrace the situation. Coming from college I wanted to play in Major League Soccer, but it’s a process. It was a very special day, a special game. It was fun playing against those guys, a lot whom are still friends of mine.”
Charleston has six straight home matches beginning Saturday night against Tampa Bay at MUSC Health Stadium.