A FRESH START IN A NEW CORNER
At first glance, Gordy Gurson doesn't look like the most imposing player in the world.
After all, the Utica City FC forward is 5-foot-6 and 140 lbs.
But as we have discovered over the years appearances can be quite deceiving, as many an indoor soccer opponent has learned when Gurson and his teammates celebrate a goal.
In fact, the man who was nicknamed Kid Dynamite as a rookie has lived up to that billing, filling the net for eight-plus Major Arena Soccer League seasons.
"He has scored easy and difficult goals," said Utica City FC head coach Hewerton Moreira. "He can find ways to score goals that are sometimes outside the box, inside the box. He finds the right positions. I mean, the kid can score. He can finish. ... His percentage shooting in scoring is amazing."
It is. Gurson has scored on 57.1 percent of his shots (four of seven) this young season. Lifetime, he has connected 31.4 percent of the time, which is among the best, if not tops in the league.
Entering Saturday's game at the Florida Tropics, Gurson has tallied 192 goals and 94 assists in 152 games.
He added to his totals in Utica City FC's opening three matches, finding the net four times while assisting twice.
He started off with a bang, connecting for a hat-trick in an 8-7 season opening loss at the Baltimore Blast on Dec. 3.
He struck for the game-winning goal in the fourth quarter in a 4-3 road victory over the Harrisburg Heat on Dec. 10 before recording an assist in the 9-5 home-opening triumph over Utica's Pennsylvania rivals the next day
"I'm really happy here," Gurson said. "I'm enjoying my time. Right when I landed, they've been taking good care of me and love the city. The fan base is unbelievable. What we do for the community, what the community does with us, I haven't really had this at any other organization other than Milwaukee and San Diego. It's a top-class organization here."
In contrast to several other sports, you don't have to be a behemoth to excel in the game. Some of the greatest soccer players weren't tall but made up with it in other ways.
Argentina's Diego Maradona, hero of the 1986 World Cup and one of the greatest players, was all of 5-5.
Lionel Messi, another legend and who will lead the Argentines against France in the World Cup final in Qatar on Sunday, is two inches taller at 5-7.
"It's people like that give me hope," Gurson said with a laugh. "I grew up early. I was tall when I was young, and I never grew since. I've been looking at players that are small and it just that gives me hope that anything really is possible. It doesn't matter how big, how small you are."
In the long run, a players' skills, speed and desire can go a long way.
"Size really matters when you play sports like basketball, volleyball, football," Moreira said. "When you play soccer, the ball is on the ground the majority the time. I think sometimes size can matter, but not necessarily."
Moreira, who played with Gurson with the Cedar Rapids Rampage for a MASL season, brought up Messi as an example. Messi scored a goal and set up an insurance tally in a 3-0 semifinal win on Tuesday.
"Messi is unbelievable," he said. "He has won so many awards as the best player in the world. He's a tiny little guy. But so quick, so clever, so good with the ball. Without the ball he is smart, which you make up for all the lack of height.
"Gordy is no different. He makes up for his lack of height with his quickness, his speed, the way and where he presents himself on the field, the way he shoots, little runs. That helps a lot."
Gurson grew up in the Chicago suburb of Lake Grove, Ill., playing indoor and outdoor soccer against many former professional players and those who performed for the Chicago Soul, in the National Soccer League. The Soul competed in the third incarnation of the Major Indoor Soccer League.
"The league was a high level," he said. "It was it was good for me to get experience there, just playing with guys that have played in the league."
His greatest influence? Gurson credited his father, Shelly. "He went through troubles with work just to make sure I would get to practice," he said. "He would do whatever it took to make sure I was playing soccer and I love him for that."
And all the while Gurson fell in love with the beautiful indoor game as his passion for it has grown.
"Indoor soccer is so special to me just because how the players are with the communities and how close they are with fans," he said. "You don't really get that in other sports or at other levels. I love the fact that after games, you go to the restaurant, the fans are there you can talk to them. When you get at a higher level, they don't get to do that stuff with the fans. They don't really interact like we do. I enjoyed doing that because I love to give back and to understand that the struggle, I went through to go through. I want to give back and hopefully give the youth an easier path."
If you want to get technical Gurson, 30, is a unique MASL journeyman. Utica City FC is his eighth team in nine seasons, although there were a few situations out of his control.
Gurson began his pro career with the financially beleaguered Seattle Impact (now the Tacoma Stars), which was forced to sell him to the St. Louis Ambush midway through his rookie season in 2014-15. He found the net for 46 goals and 18 assists in 23 games, earning MASL Rookie of the Year honors.
After a season in St. Louis, Gurson joined several other native Illinois players with the Cedar Rapids Rampage, for which he played from 2016-18. The team moved to Florida to become the Orlando Seawolves for the 2018-19 season, when he tallied 34 times in 24 matches. He played a year with the Florida Tropics before signing with the San Diego Sockers for the 2021 season, helping the storied club win its first MASL crown.
That experience was special for Gurson for so many reasons. That MASL season was held during the pandemic and the Sockers were forced to play all their games away.
"I didn't even play in the final, but I love my ring," he said. "It's the same as Kraig Chiles’. I was just happy to be there. I helped the team when I could. I did exactly what I could what the coaches told me to do. To be able to say that I got a ring it's a wonderful feeling."
He played with the Milwaukee Wave during the 2021-22 season before joining Utica City for this campaign. Gurson was ready to sit out this one out before Moreira, who played with the forward at Cedar Rapids during the 2016-17 season, gave him a call.
"What do you what are your plans for the season?" Moreira asked him.
"I didn't have any at the time," Gurson said. “I just thought of considering taking the season off and just staying home and being with family. But Hewerton gave me a call and I figured out I'd like to come out here. I'm happy I did."
Soccer has allowed Gurson to experience all four corners of the United States, from the Pacific Northwest to the Midwest to the Southeast and now the Northeast. It also has allowed him to see the world, playing in Mexico and Australia.
In 2015, Gurson was a member of the USA team that captured the World Minifootball Federation World Cup. The Americans ran the table, winning all six games. Tony Donatelli (Baltimore Blast), John Sosa (Kansas City Comets), Pat Healey (Harrisburg) and Chiles were among his teammates.
The U.S. defeated Mexico in the final, 5-3, at the Sears Centre Arena, not far from his home.
"Anytime you get to wear the red, white and blue, it's an honor," Gurson said. "I took it very seriously didn't matter if I was with the futsal with the indoor and I also went to a training camp with the beach team. I feel honored every single time I'm there and I don't take it for granted."
Gurson called the experience "probably my most memorable moment in indoor soccer."
"Just because it was my first year in the league," he added. "Getting to just hang out with all the top players in the MASL for 15 days we were training and playing a game for seven days straight. It was traveling and just having a good time with players that have been around the game. They were great leaders, just getting me to understand the professionalism off and on the field."
And oh yeah, before we forget - about that nickname - Kid Dynamite.
"I don't know who gave it to me," he said. "I don't know how I got it my rookie season. But it's just been there. I have no complaints about it. I don't know how I feel about it. It's alright with me because it makes me feel young. I feel motivated to keep the name for a few more years."
Gurson realized he can't play the game forever. He has started to learn a different trade in the sport - in the front office. As a rookie with Seattle in 2014, Gurson had a sales job with the team before he was traded.
"I've been learning from the office ever since my first year," he said. "It's definitely helped me out. I'm obviously getting even more experienced with it and I'm excited to see where it takes me as well."
These days, you might say that Gurson is burning the indoor soccer candle at two ends.
During the daylight hours is a player for Utica City. After games and training, he is the general manager for the Iowa Raptors in MASL 2, the second tier of arena soccer, some 959 miles and a time zone away. Robert Hurwitz, who played with Gurson in college at Robert Morris University-Illinois and with the Rampage, is the team's owner.
"I'm always on the phone. Let's put it that way," he said with a laugh. "I'm always on the phone non-stop. An hour difference from Eastern to Central time doesn't seem like a big deal. When I have to be up at 6 a.m. for practice and I'm up till midnight doing work, it's a lot but it's worth it and to give back to you know, to Cedar Rapids. That's a great community as well. I feel they're going to have some great success there with the Iowa Raptors. I'm glad to be a part of it."
That certainly is no problem to Moreira.
"That helps with the organization and own decision making," he said. “I have not had a problem with Gordy being too busy every time that he is in practice or in a game. I know that his focus is 100 percent."
As long as Gordy Gurson keeps busy scoring goals for Utica City FC.
Michael Lewis, the editor of FrontRowSoccer.com, can be followed on Twitter at @SoccerWriter. Lewis can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org His book Alive and Kicking: The incredible, but true story of the Rochester Lancers, recently was published. It can be purchased at https://tinyurl.com/2p8rzhpy.