Ask Foster Langsdorf to describe the start of his professional soccer career, and you’ll be hard-pressed to hear the words “traditional,” or even “ideal.”
After becoming the second homegrown signing in Timbers franchise history in late January, Langsdorf juggled weekend flights back and forth from Palo Alto, Calif. as he finished his degree, a nearly failed class (he graduated Stanford “by the skin of my teeth”) and a rough debut with Timbers 2 in which he blew an assignment on a corner kick and was subbed out at halftime.
That’s all part of his journey now — one that he feels like he’s turned in the right direction in his first five months with the Portland Timbers.
On Saturday, he traveled with the first team for the first time, watching from the bench as the Timbers beat the rival Seattle Sounders 3-2 before 47,521 at CenturyLink Field.
That inched him one step closer to his goal of playing in a regular season Major League Soccer game.
To get there, he’s had to pay mind to the small things.
Langsdorf is tackling life as a pro off the field. That has included long road trips (he started a bookclub with his grandmother), to moving back in with his mother, Laura Peterson (he pitches in with chores around the house).
Langsdorf has stayed even-keeled about his goals on the field. First step was feeling like he belonged.
“I wanted to earn peoples’ trust, so the they could play me,” Langsdorf said. “Coming in midway through the season they didn’t exactly know me, and I wasn’t playing my best soccer. I wasn’t comfortable.”
After much time spent with both the first and second team — he practices with both, often in the same day — that began to change.
Langsdorf scored his first goal for T2, the Timbers’ United Soccer League affiliate, in its home opener at Merlo Field on April 18.
Exactly a month later, he netted the first hat trick in T2’s four-year history in a home game against L.A. Galaxy II — a big step toward one of his main goals.
“I want to be known as a goal-scorer on the team,” he said.
Through it all, Langsdorf catches himself in awe of his situation every day at practice, training alongside players such as perennial MLS All-Star Diego Valeri and forwards Samuel Armenteros and Fanendo Adi.
Said Langsdorf: “What’s astonishing to me is (Valeri) seems to always do the right thing, and he always knows what to do with the ball. It makes me think there are people in his world who are insanely soccer smart and I have a long way to go.”
At the urging of his mother, Langsdorf was granted a leave of absence from the Timbers to fly down and attend his college graduation at Stanford on June 17. Ever the competitor, Langsdorf begrudgingly made the trip and was joined by his mother brother and sister. He was perhaps a bit more anxious about missing a weekend of soccer than excited about walking at his commencement ceremony.
“I’m very focused on soccer right now, so maybe if I weren’t … I could take a step back and think, ‘this is a monumental point in my life that I’m going to miss,'” Lansdorf said.
Upon his return the following week, he was ribbed by players at practice for being absent for T2’s 4-2 loss to Colorado Springs. Because of that, he felt farther away from his goal of making the first team 18-man roster.
But on Thursday afternoon, as he was preparing to hit the road to Reno, Nevada with T2, he received an unexpected call from a Timbers staff member, who told him to pack for a trip to Seattle with the first team for its game against the rival Sounders — his first time making the first team traveling roster.
Langsdorf was elated to be with the first team — pacing back and forth as he spoke on the phone, even. He’d made one appearance with the squad, 22 minutes at forward in a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup game against the San Jose Earthquakes on June 6, but this was his closest whiff of the 18-man roster for an MLS regular season game.
Subbing into the U.S. Open Cup game was a special feeling for Langsdorf. Even wearing the first team jersey felt different. As he was getting subbed into the game, he looked up to the sky.
“I hope you’re watching, dad,” he thought to himself. Langdorf’s father, Dean, passed away suddenly when he was a freshman in college, and never saw him play a game at Stanford.
“I’ve been very eager to make my debut,” Langsdorf said.
In Seattle on Saturday, midfielder Sebastian Blanco, battling a right thigh injury, decided he was healthy enough to suit up (though he didn’t play), and Langsdorf’s dream was delayed again.
Still, just being there and sitting on the bench made him hungrier.
“I’m just enjoying the ride at this point and doing my best,” he said via text message after the game. “Just needed a taste of what I want.”