Photo: Luke Nankivell
When five-year-old Rich Gallagher joined the American Youth Soccer Organization nearly two decades ago, he scored goal after goal after goal. Today, though, the redshirt junior Gallagher stops goal after goal after goal.
“I started out as a forward, and I actually was scoring so many goals that they moved me to goalkeeper,” Gallagher said. “That’s why I play goalkeeper now.”
After bidding his scoring sprees farewell, Gallagher settled into his goalkeeping role. He hasn’t looked back since.
Gallagher improved his fitness after seeing limited action in 2011, and a “transformed” Gallagher arrived with the 2012 campaign.
“He transformed his body. He’s not the guy he was when he came in here as a freshman,” said Drake head coach Sean Holmes. “It’s a good lesson for all our players that hard work has paid off.”
Gallagher’s 2012 statistics likewise show his transformation. He boasts 97 saves on the season plus a Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Week nod. Amid his best campaign yet, Major League Soccer hopes motivate Gallagher.
“I hope to continue playing after college, and that’s what keeps me motivated every single day to train hard and to get better every day,” Gallagher said. “I want to play pro. It’s a possibility. Of course the chances are slim, but that’s what pushes me every day.”
After graduation, Gallagher looks to trade his Drake uniform for a Chicago Fire uniform.
Before Gallagher dons Chicago Fire gear, though, leading the Bulldogs tops his to-do list.
“I’m always trying to hold people accountable and responsible for their roles and what positions they play,” Gallagher said. “I think that’s what kind of leadership I’m trying to set for the younger guys. I think they can always take that forward. Keeping guys accountable, trying to make everyone better, every single practice session.”
The Bulldogs’ 2012 campaign opened with a challenging non-conference schedule that featured six straight matches on the road. Despite Drake falling to 1-8-2 against non-conference foes, Gallagher remained optimistic.
“It was tough, as a goalkeeper, to stay positive and stay confident because we got scored on so many times,” Gallagher said. “But I knew that everyone was working hard, and I have to work just as hard or even more because the guys are counting on me. I stayed confident through all of that.”
Since completing that tough non-conference stretch, the Bulldogs boast a 3-1-3 ledger, including their Sept. 29 0-0 tie against then No. 12 Creighton.
Before the State Farm MVC Championship opens on Nov. 7 in Peoria, Ill., Gallagher and the Bulldogs look to finish with back-to-back MVC victories. Drake takes on Evansville at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Cownie Soccer Complex. The Bulldogs face Missouri State on Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. in Springfield, Mo.
Though the MVC’s deep field poses several offensive threats, Gallagher’s defensive skill encourages Holmes.
“I think he can keep the shutouts going and realizes that we’re not a high-scoring, big-gunning team this year,” Holmes said. “We just want to be in games, and he has to be really strong in the back.”
Gallagher echoed Holmes’ MVC shutout quest.
“The last games that we have are all Missouri Valley Conference, so I expect us to get shutouts and win all of these games,” Gallagher said. “We really want to be champions, and that’s the whole goal. If we’re not champions of the Missouri Valley Conference, I don’t think we will have accomplished what we wanted to do.”
With MVC and MLS aspirations in mind, a single motto guides Gallagher.
“It’s definitely a mental position, being a goalkeeper, and I think you just have to keep looking forward,” Gallagher said. “If you look in your rearview mirror instead of looking forward, you can’t get past what’s already happened and move forward and help the team get better.”