Ryan Kawulok Q&A: Defender eager to seize his chance with Timbers
A stalwart on the backline for the Portland Timbers U-23s the last two seasons (2010-11), defender Ryan Kawulok was selected by the Timbers’ MLS side in the 2012 MLS Supplemental Draft earlier this month. With a standout college career at the University of Portland behind him, Kawulok looks ahead towards the opportunity of starting his own professional career and talks about the transition in a special Q&A.
Having a chance at playing professionally is a dream many kids have. What were your initial reactions after learning you’d been selected by the Timbers in the Supplemental Draft?
It was an incredible feeling being drafted by the Timbers and a day I will never forget in my life. I am thankful the organization has given me this opportunity and I am able to chase my dream. I am happy to come back to a city that became a second home for me in college. Portland has an amazing organization and the atmosphere created by the fans and the city makes it the most exciting place to play in the MLS.
Looking to contend for a roster spot, what excites you most about getting into preseason with the Timbers and having that opportunity to start a professional playing career?
I am excited to get preseason started and to be able to compete for a roster spot. This is the opportunity every soccer player dreams of and I plan on earning my spot on this team and showing the whole organization that I am a player they can rely on.
There will be a few familiar faces around you in the locker room with former Timbers U-23s teammates Brent Richards, Jake Gleeson and Freddie Braun on the roster. What do you think it will be like reconnecting with former teammates on this new level?
I couldn’t have asked for a better team to go into preseason with. It will be nice to have familiar faces around that will be able to show me the ropes, and that I am familiar with their playing styles. It’s exciting to compete and play with guys that I have played with before.
You’ve played the last two summers with the Timbers U-23s. Any moment or lesson learned with the Timbers U-23s stick out? How do you think that your time within the organization has helped your development?
The year we won a national championship with the U-23s and went a perfect 20-0 is a moment I will never forget in my soccer career. We had a great group of guys on the team and the organization was top class with their staff, facilities and the training. The Timbers really invest in their youth development and it was nice to be able to reward the organization with a perfect season and a championship.
You’re from Colorado. Many may not know this, but you were coached by Timbers head coach John Spencer some during your youth days while he was playing for the Colorado Rapids. What do you remember from those experiences?
It’s funny how things come full circle sometimes. When I was 14 years old John Spencer coached my club team in a couple of training sessions when he was playing in Colorado. He was as fiery and passionate with us as 14 year olds as he is with the professionals. The training sessions were always intense and exciting when he came out to coach us and he really impacted me as a youth by showing me the passion and determination it takes to be successful in this sport.
Your family has a history of standout athletes, playing NCAA Division I football. Has anyone previously had the opportunity to play professionally?
My entire family, outside of me, plays American football, but no one has had the opportunity to play professionally. My Grandpa played professional soccer in Poland, which is the country he was from. If he was still here today, I know he would be extremely proud of this family and excited for the opportunity I have ahead of me.