Standing tall

To an average fan watching a soccer game in person, or on television, they would notice the players in the midfield and attack. After all, those are the players that get all the press. They are the ones that make the money.

Playmakers get rating. Ronaldo, Messi and so drive the rating. They are the ones that people pay to watch on a daily basis. They are ones that grab the headlines.

Look further down the pitch and you will see a lonely man. He is by himself on an island. He doesn’t get a lot of press - unless he makes a mistake. He needs to be big and make a couple key saves a games to give his team a chance to win.

A goalkeeper in soccer can be a lonely time. Depending on the game, and team, a keeper may face one or two shots a game. They need to be on their game even when they could be standing around doing nothing for 88 of the 90 minutes of the game.

But, in those two minutes of the contest, the keeper needs to be the man. They need to step up and make the big save when called upon. The need to be a Gigi Buffon and will his team to a World Cup title by stopping one or two shots a game.

Still being a keeper is one of the hardest positions in all of soccer. They are diving to make key saves. They are the backbone of the defense. They need to have great communication through the game - so the players know where they are going, or what they are doing.

If the keeper plays on a team that isn’t as elite as others, they may be called upon to make a lot of saves just to keep their team in the game.

Bishop Timon High School’s Ryan Gall is the man that makes the team tick. He is one of the main reasons why Timon is seeing a rebirth with the soccer program. The young man has been one of the best keepers in a loaded Monsignor Martin Athletic Association.

However, it’s still a lonely place to stand. With the game on the line, Gall knows if he doesn’t make the save when called upon it could cost his team the game. A lot of pressure to put on one player.

“The goalkeeper position is one of the most overlooked positions in all of sports. Everyone is focused on the goal scorers and all the beautiful passes made, but nobody pays attention to the goalkeeper until they are called upon mid game,” stated Gall. “Being a goalkeeper is one of the hardest positions in all of sports; it is a very physically demanding job and very stressful. Everyone on the soccer field will make mistakes, but when a goalkeeper makes one mistake everyone will remember it because it will usually lead to a goal. Most think what's the point of being a goalkeeper if you don't score and you usually only get hate. The thrill of making a save is 10x more satisfying than scoring a goal, and only goalkeepers understand where I’m coming from. That's what drew me to becoming a keeper; I was never afraid of getting dirty and once I made my first save I was hooked.”

He had the opportunity to make a lot of saves for a Timon team that has struggled over the past couple of seasons on the pitch. Never known as a soccer school, Timon has had good teams in the past.

They have always been able to compete with the bigger schools like Canisius, St. Joe’s and St. Frannies. The last couple of years, however, that hasn’t been the case. The Tigers have been outclassed by their rivals and it showed.

A new dedication to the sport needed to take place. The Tigers were able to bring in one of their own in former player Zak Persichini. He has brought a belief to a team that was lacking it over the years.

While Persichini has brought that belief, Gall has brought that steady play between the pipes that the Tigers were desperately needing. The teams knows if they make a mistake that Gall will be there to make the key save when called upon. While they have hit a rough patch during the season, losing four straight as of this writing, the games have been close. Gall has been big in those games - making save after save.

“Obviously when people think of Timon athletics one of the last sports they think about is soccer. I went to tryout for the varsity team freshman year and I instantly fell in love with the environment,” stated Gall. “I worked hard to make the team and when I did I was instantly accepted. I have been playing for Timon soccer ever since; over the years the team has never been the most skilled team; but the thing that we did have was heart and determination to play for one another. It has been the best time of my life playing with such great guys for Timon soccer.”

For someone who is looking to play college at the next level it could be tough playing high school soccer. Timon is competitive, but they are not yet back to where they can challenge the likes of St. Joe’s and Canisius.

If a person would just go off the stats of Gall it might not look that impressive Against some of the bigger teams, Timon could lose 3-0 or 4-0. That hurts the goal against for a keeper. But, scouts need to look deer that just the final score.

They need to look at the type of player that Gall is. Gall is the ultimate team player, and competitor. He isn’t the type of player that will throw his teammates under the bus. There are games he will face a lot of shots and come up big with a lot of saves.

Coaches need to be able to look past the score line and see the type of keeper he is. Gall could easily step in to any Division II or III team and help them win. That is the type of competitor this young man is.

“t has been very difficult to say the least. One of my dreams is to play in college and sometimes it can be hard at times if the team faces some quality teams. Occasionally we will have our downs and have 4+ goals scored against us, which doesn't look great from a college coaches point of view,” stated Gall. “But what I always say is the score doesn't reflect exactly how a team plays, every game we will play our hearts out and give 100 percent effort toward the game; which is one thing a college coach loves to see.”

Another thing coaches like to see is if the player they are recruiting loves the game. There are players who play soccer and there are soccer players. Gall is a soccer player. He is a student of the game. He watches the game all the time. He likes to pick up different things from different players.

His favorite keeper to watch is Joe Hart. Hart is a lightening rod sometimes for some of the plays he makes on the pitch. But, he is still a very good keeper. He was part of past World Cup teams for England - so he must be doing something right in his career.

“Someone I try to model my game after is Joe Hart. The England goalkeeper is by far my favorite goalkeeper. I try to emulate my game to his; I will always be watching his highlights trying to see what he does so I can improve in my own game. My favorite quote from Joe Hart would probably be "the harder you go after a ball, the less likely you get hurt". I follow this because being a smaller goalkeeper I tend to find myself playing bigger stronger guys but if I go after a ball just as hard I find myself winning those battles,” stated Gall. “I would consider myself a student of the game, I always watch the English Premier league and La Liga to learn from the best of the best. I also always find myself watching the other teams goalkeepers when playing at games because a lot of time I can learn either what to do or what not to do. I’m always open to making myself a better player.”

Making himself a better player is being ability to work on all aspects of the game. Gall is talented keeper, but that hasn’t stopped him from still trying to work on things that he is good at. He has a very high soccer IQ, and still works on it to this day.

His understanding of the game allows him to be in the right position at the right time. It helps him make up for the lack of height that is needed to play the position.

“If I had to scout myself I would say my strengths would definitely be my soccer IQ, athleticism, technique, ability to dive and being a leader,” stated Gall. “Although I feel strong about those attributes what I would say I still need to work on might be my ability to stay focused mid game, kicking consistent and playing the ball with my feet.”

Ryan Gall and Bishop Timon soccer have something in common. They are both just in the beginning stages of being something great.