Paul shows leadership for clutch Bulls
Published: Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 22:09
With come-from-behind wins and late scoring leading to victories, a positive attitude has been the USF men’s soccer team’s biggest help so far this season.
Junior midfielder Leston Paul has exemplified that for the team.
Paul’s optimism and positivity were reflected in USF’s latest comeback game, a 2-1 win over Iona last Saturday. After falling behind 1-0 for the second consecutive game, Paul scored an equalizer and assisted on the winning goal.
Coach George Kiefer, however, said Paul’s value was seen through his words and leadership.
“I was a little bit concerned going into the locker room because we looked exhausted,” he said. “Leston just kept saying, ‘We’re going to win this game.’ It fired them up a little bit and Leston was kind of the guy spearheading that, making sure the energy was right. He really put the team on his back and took us where we needed to go.”
Hailing from Mayaro, Trinidad, Paul has certainly found his fit in the U.S., but it has not been without its challenges.
“The U.S is a more physical game, and it’s faster,” Paul said. “The physiques of the players are a lot bigger.”
Paul, who is 5-foot-9, entered USF coming off a great year in 2009, in which he racked up three goals for Trinidad in the U-20 Men’s World Cup. He started off quietly for the Bulls, picking up an assist and a goal on the season as he started all 17 games.
In his second season at USF, Paul began to find another way to score. While starting all 17 games again, Paul finished second on the team in goals with four, three of which came from penalty kick opportunities.
With the Bulls five games into the 2012 season and sitting at 4-1, Paul said that he has tried to contribute even when he is off the field. At times where most teams would have hung their heads, Paul still finds a way to keep hope alive in the locker room.
“I tell them that we’ve been down before,” Paul said. “We still have 45 minutes left, so we still have to play hard through the end.”
While over the years Paul has improved himself as a scorer, scoring his first goal this season in a late win over Iona this past Saturday, he has emerged on the field as a distributor, passing three assists this season — one more than the total from his first two seasons at USF.
He credits his improvement and the ease of his transition to the U.S. in part to the Bulls coaches.
“The coaching staff really makes me feel at home,” he said. “They show respect, and get you to play as a family.”
Though Paul’s optimism and heart undoubtedly shows in the locker room when the going gets tough, he said he is also confident in his ability to perform in the classroom.
As he goes into his third year, majoring in geography, Paul said he hopes to successfully finish out his degree but still go pro.
“At the end of the day when it comes to balancing soccer and classes, it’s not impossible,” Paul said. “You got to do it.”
With his future career approaching and his senior year around the corner, Paul looks to focus on this season one game at a time. He plans to rest before he and the Bulls head to Akron, Ohio, where they will face Butler on Friday at 4:30 p.m., who will look to put a stop to the streaking Bulls and Paul’s versatile style of play.