Jan. 2, 2014
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – The thrill of playing at a new home stadium was the best takeaway for most of the young Marshall men’s soccer team last fall.
Then, there was redshirt freshman goalkeeper Bijan Gloston.
He started and played in only two games for the Thundering Herd – getting a tie and a loss and allowing only two goals -- but still had an autumn he’s not likely to forget.
A few days after the Marshall season ended, Gloston boarded a plane in Nashville, Tenn., headed toward South Korea.
His final destination was Guam, where he joined that U.S. territorial Pacific island’s national team – Team Matao -- for matches in Laos and Cambodia. Gloston got onto the field for stoppage time in the latter, a 2-0 victory in Phnom Penh – Guam’s first win in history over the Cambodians.
Gloston, a native of Clarksville, Tenn., was eligible to play internationally for Guam because his mother, LA, is Guam-born. She moved to the United States in 1980 after she joined the Army, from which she is retired after 20 years – as is Gloston’s Louisiana-born father, Byron.
The Herd-Guam connection came through the coaching ranks. Veteran Marshall coach Bob Gray knows British-born Gary White, whom Gray met when White was the national coach for the Bahamas and the Herd went to the island for preseason workouts and an exhibition game in 2002.
Now, White is the coach and director for the Guam Football Association.
“Coach Gray called me last spring break and asked if I’d be interested in playing,” Gloston said. “I was driving toward Myrtle Beach for spring break and had just crossed into North Carolina. Coach Gray told me he’d talked to Gary White about me.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You can’t pass that up. I got in contact with Gary, and on Nov. 12 I was on the flight overseas.”
Gloston was gone for 10 days during the fall semester – prior to the Thanksgiving break – and worked with his Marshall professors to make up class work for his 15 hours after he returned.
Some of the work was online, and most of my professors said when you come back, get with me and we’ll see what you missed and figure it out,” Gloston said. “I appreciated that. I got back, made up all my work, and the professors were all understanding.”
Gloston had been scheduled to return to the Guam club early in 2014, but a couple of previously scheduled international friendlies fell through, he said. The Herd keeper remains on the Matao roster, and hopes to see more time with the team in the future.
“We are thrilled that Bijan has had this golden opportunity to represent his mother’s country on the international scene,” Gray said. “It’s a tremendous experience for him and a thrill of a lifetime. It will also do wonders for his confidence, not to mention the exposure he will continue to receive playing against other countries top players.
“We have always thought he had great potential and could be the next Daniel Withrow (an MLS rookie keeper for the Columbus Crew in 2013) for us. He finished this past season with two strong outings against Tulsa and Kentucky before he got injured. He’s gotten additional experience that he would never receive at the college level.
“With the World Cup just around the corner every soccer player in the world would love to represent their country and who knows down the road maybe just maybe Bijan will help Guam qualify for the next World Cup in 2018.”
Gloston was with the national team for a 1-1 tie in Laos, at Vientiane on Nov. 16, then played the stoppage time in the Nov. 19 victory in Cambodia. He flew back to the U.S. on Nov. 22.
Gloston said Guam is ranked No. 169 internationally, but has made significant strides under White’s leadership.
“Gary told me he’d love to have me back whenever opportunity arises,” Gloston said. “I’m sure I’ll be there. The little bit of time I was with the team was tremendous for me.
Playing at that level was important. I learned a lot. There were only four of us (among 17 players) who weren’t pros, so you get to be around professionals see how they act, see their character and where they came from and you compare yourself to them and you learn from them. And you see what it takes to be a professional keeper. I just try to apply that to my skills and hopefully I’ll be there one day.”
Gloston, 20, said he felt he was as prepared as possible for the introduction on a national team, although he didn’t play much for the Herd in his debut season.
However, he had been under the instruction of Alex Fatovic, MU’s fourth-year keeper coach, and learned from Withrow in the star goalie’s senior season (2012), when Gloston was redshirting.
“Dan, he was an amazing goalkeeper,” Gloston said. “Coming in my freshman year, being under his tutelage for a whole year was very helpful to me. His positioning, leadership and overall will to win was something I hope to replicate in my time at Marshall.
“Alex, he’s just an amazing coach. I’ve had numerous keeper coaches in my career and I can honestly say Alex is the best keeper coach I’ve had. I think his passion is something that jumps out.
“He has such a tremendous amount of passion for winning and being a good goalkeeper, and when he trains you, you can’t help but feed off that energy. He’s a very positive influence for me.”
Gloston chose to attend Marshall after also getting significant recruiting interest from two other Conference USA program at the time – Kentucky and Memphis (since moved to the AAC). He said the plans for the Veterans Memorial Soccer Complex that opened last fall was a factor, but said his choice was rooted in a more personal feel.
“When I came on my visit, I remember I was sitting in the coaches’ room and it was my last official visit that I’d planned,” Gloston said. “I bonded well with the coaches here, especially Alex, which was important because he was the position coach.
“They said, ‘We want to offer you, so keep your options open.’ I told them I didn’t need to, I thought this was where I wanted to come. The bonding with our coaches really made the difference.”
Danny Sellitti, who got 10 of the 19 starts for the Herd (2-11-6) in 2013, returns to the Herd, and sophomore Gloston and redshirt freshman Brady Reymond will vie for time in new in 2014 for Gray’s club.
Gloston said his soccer voyage to Guam was his third trip to his mother’s native nation. He’s been there at ages 7 and 10. He said he didn’t know who was more excited about his trip – he or his mother.
“She actually wanted to come over there and watch me,” Gloston said. “She thought it was awesome I was playing for Guam.”
Just being part of Team Matao was special, he said. But those few minutes in Cambodia made even more of an impact on the Marshall keeper.
“The neatest thing was when I played in Cambodia, when Gary subbed me in during stoppage time,” Gloston said. “And it’s like a dream. Ever since I was 4 and started to play the game, you learn and have aspirations to play professional soccer, play for your national team.
“And I think when I was jogging out onto the field in Cambodia, it just gave me this kind of surreal feeling. My dreams were actually coming true.”