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MLS Player Combine: Gordon Wild is ready for his next act

Gordon Wild controls the ball during MLS Player Combine at Orlando City Stadium Jan. 13, 2018. (Stephen M. Dowell)

Gordon Wild isn’t bragging when he says he has talented feet. They run in the family.

His father used his to balance, juggle and spin chairs, tables, humans and other objects. Wild uses his feet to score goals.

They have scored enough of them to earn Wild one of seven Generation Adidas contracts from MLS. Now the former Maryland star is at the MLS Combine preparing for Friday’s SuperDraft.

Wild might not be the hottest prospect this week in Orlando, especially since he’s coming off a disappointing season with the Terrapins. But he is the only player who’s ever run away from a circus, literally.

He comes from a long line of acrobats that performed all over Europe. The family business didn’t draw quite as many fans as La Liga games, but there is a bond between soccer and the circus.

“We’re both entertainers. You want to please the fans with skill and other stuff,” Wild said. “My parents definitely prepared me with good genetics.

“I feel like I’ve been blessed with that. I see my parents perform and I try to entertain on the pitch.”

His problem comes when the stage starts feeling stale. Maybe it’s due to a genetic need for adrenaline that stretches back generations. Wild’s grandmother, after all, used to walk a tightrope over a lion’s cage.

Whatever the case, Wild seems to excel when he faces a new challenge. Like when he arrived from Germany to play college soccer in the U.S.

“I didn’t know anything about America or the NCAA or how it worked,” he said.

He’d signed with South Carolina Upstate, a small Division 1 program in Spartanburg, S.C. He liked the school and learned to appreciate fried chicken.

He also quickly picked up the college game and was the Atlantic Sun Conference freshman of the year. As much as he savored Southern cuisine, Wild knew it was time to move on.

“There were bigger challenges,” he said.

He transferred to NCAA powerhouse Maryland and was the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, scoring 17 goals in 21 games. He considered turning pro after but decided to return for his junior season.

Defenses concentrated on him and Wild went weeks without scoring. He finished with five goals in 19 matches, but his potential is enough to make him an elite draft prospect.

“I have a special instinct for scoring goals,” he said. “That’s a blessing.”

Much of it is concentrated in his thunderous left foot. Though as talented as it may be, it’s just another appendage at a family reunion.

Wild’s grandfather and great-uncles were renowned acrobats, and his father followed in those flying footsteps. He met Wild’s mother when she auditioned for a spot in his Risley act.

The routine is named after Richard Risley Carlisle, who developed it almost 200 years ago. An acrobat lies on his back and juggles objects with his feet.

In this case, Wild’s father juggled his mother. Young Gordon got the same treatment when he came along, but he quickly decided he preferred to perform with both feet on the ground.

“I started playing soccer when I was four years old, and I fell in love with it,” he said. “My parents saw how I loved it, and the circus was dying out. So I’m very thankful for my parents.”

They encouraged him to pursue his passion. Now his feet can’t wait to perform.

“The challenge is the competition,” Wild said. “It’s always been my goal to play professional soccer. MLS has given me that chance, and it’s time to go for it.”

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