Logan Gdula Dreams of Playing with the Best Soccer Team
Born in Norwich, Connecticut, Logan Gdula was selected number 13 by FC Cincinnati in the 2019 Major League Soccer (MLS) SuperDraft in Chicago. That was one of his best days ever. Since then, he has gone from a high to a personal low.
Logan last played professional soccer in the fall of 2022 for the Hartford Athletic in the United Soccer League Championship. He is out of the game, and his confidence has been tested.
Logan still dreams of playing in the Premier League, the number one soccer league in the world, according to Global Football Rankings. MLS and USL are ranked 16 and 30, respectively.
To get back into the game, he’s kicking an idea around in his mind, like juggling a soccer ball, of going to England to find a way to make it in the English football league system, where the Premier League rules. The latest iteration of his plan is to rely on divine intervention, personal connections, and the help of strangers he meets on his journey.
Logan is an athletic defender, but he says, “The biggest effort is getting past myself.” He laughs—it’s so meta. The defender is blocking his path by not believing in himself.
He faces the biggest decision of his soccer life. Will he purchase a one-way ticket to England?
On the Sideline
In the fall of 2023, Logan, the former Wake Forest soccer standout and fall 2018 graduate, was content to watch the game from the sideline as a first-time coach of 16 youths in grades six through eight. This was his chance to get his size-nine boot back in the game.
As the coach of the Connecticut Rush, a youth developmental soccer club with locations in Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island, he was responsible for everything for the team.
It is mid-January 2024, and Logan lives in East Lyme with his mother, Jami. There has been a considerable gap since our first conversation in late December 2022. We connect over the telephone, days after nearly 10 inches of snow fell.
It was my first experience coaching, and I did it by myself.
Logan has a lean frame, standing at 5 feet 11 inches and weighing roughly 160 pounds. He’s an adult with a big smile and a positive vibe but could pass as a college student. Like a shy kid, he can be quiet in a room of people he doesn’t know.
We start with his recent coaching experience. “It was my first experience coaching, and I did it by myself,” he states. Besides keeping him busy, coaching was a learning laboratory of personal growth, which he never thought would come at this time in his life.
“It’s been an experience,” he says as if amazed he did it. His team was made up of 16 kids from sixth to eighth grade. “Our record wasn’t great,” Logan states. According to him, the team finished the season well below 500.
However, the experience was more than wins and losses. “I think it has helped me as a player,” he says. Logan believes he has a better understanding of people, having dealt with young players, their parents, officials, and coaches.
“I always played soccer as something I loved,” he states, reflecting on his life in the game. “I just did it, and I expressed myself.”
He’s well aware that kids are now watching him. He’s doing his best to set a positive example. Coaching has brought him back to his “why”—the reason he began playing soccer.
“They look at me as different from a regular coach” because he played the game at a “high level.” He says he has learned from them as much as they learned from him. “You’re the teacher and pupil at the same time.”
Logan marvels at how kids see things. Kids are just “so free to dream.” He believes that kids don’t put boundaries on their dreams “or limit what they can dream.”
That openness has encouraged him to close his eyes and dream.
Logan played high school soccer during his freshman year for Bacon Academy in Colchester, Connecticut, where he lived.
The high school soccer landscape was beginning to change. When the U.S. Soccer Development Academy program initiated a 10-month season, players could now play for either an academy or their high school team, but not both (the broader goal was to improve U.S. soccer to compete globally).
The new rule allowed Logan and others to bypass playing for their high school teams and play for a club team while still in high school—he and his peers were the first to operate under the rule that some called “pay to play” because parents had to pay their kids’ soccer fees.
He explored playing for the New England Revolution Academy, the MLS team that develops young players “for top colleges, U.S National Team programs and the New England Revolution senior team.”
Logan’s sophomore year, he and several friends from Bacon Academy decided to play for Oakwood Academy. His path to Oakwood was a natural one. “Everything just kind of aligned,” he says about playing for Oakwood.
It was better soccer; you could tell by practicing with them [the team] and playing games.
When he evaluated the pros and cons and the toll it would take on his family life, he felt that Oakwood Academy was the “better pathway” (Beachside Soccer Club of Connecticut in Norwalk was the only other such program in the state).
He considered Oakwood “another level up” and “another pathway.” “It was better soccer; you could tell by practicing with them [the team] and playing games,” Logan says. Getting a chance to be seen by colleges was paramount to attracting an athletic scholarship—the goal of most competitive athletes today.
At first, Logan’s father, Courtney Archer, wasn’t “too pleased” with the decision to play for Oakwood Academy. We communicate over the telephone in mid-January 2024. He’s the owner of A & G Insurance in Connecticut.
Courtney is as likable a person as you’ll come across. He’s quick to smile, talk, and make you comfortable—a great skill in sales.
He thought that Logan should play for the school team. They had had a successful freshman team. “At first, I wasn’t on board with it.” When he examined what was happening in more detail, he understood why Oakwood could benefit Logan.
Logan was living with his mother, Jami, but spending time at his house. Courtney and Jami had split before he was born. He is the second oldest of five siblings (four boys and a girl). He has a brother on his mother’s side; on his dad’s side, he has two brothers and a sister. The youngest siblings are in high school.
Logan keeps his family close. Behind his left ear, you’ll see a small tattoo of four vertical lines and one horizontal across the lines: Each line represents a sibling.
“He had to adjust from an early age,” Courtney says, alluding to Logan spending family time in two households, considerable miles apart.
“He was always a very competitive kid from day one,” Courtney Archer adds. “He always wanted to be a perfectionist [at] everything since the day he started walking. He wanted to perfect everything right away and would get frustrated if he didn’t.”
“Logan was a good baseball player, but by the time he reached 6th grade, his focus would be soccer,” Courtney recalls.
It’s no surprise Logan liked soccer. Courtney’s parents are Jamaican, so it was almost as if he was required to play soccer. “That was in my blood; from the day I was born, my father had me playing soccer,” Courtney says. Jami is Polish and French.
Jami was supportive of him playing for Oakwood Academy. She was focused on his academics, which paid off. Logan made the honor roll all four years at Bacon Academy while balancing the rigors of practice, travel and games.
I felt like I missed out on almost all of it.
The Challenges of Oakwood
There would be a mental and social cost to playing for Oakwood. Being a typical high-school student was something he didn’t get to experience.
“I felt like I missed out on almost all of it,” he says about his decision to play for Oakwood Academy. “You find yourself trying to make up for it.” “At the time, it was hard,” he adds, reflecting on his decision.
After school, he would practice with Oakwood in Portland, Connecticut. Often, he wouldn’t get home until night and then do his homework. “I was missing the homecoming. I was missing the proms. I was missing all of that—the social activities,” he says.
He spent more than his fair share of traveling in vehicles going to games.
Oakwood played Beachside Soccer Club in Norwalk, the only other club team in Connecticut, and was often on the road to Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Montreal—and even a trip to Argentina.
At the time, both programs charged participants a fee to play.
Logan’s Oakwood team became the first to qualify for the U.S. Soccer Development Academy playoffs. They finished ahead of the New England Revolution Academy and Montreal Impact, both MLS programs.
His time at Oakwood Academy was about setting himself up for the future: first college and then professional soccer. “It paid off,” he says with pride.
I speak to Kevin Bacher, a former Oakwood Academy coach and goalkeeper for Syracuse University, in mid-January 2023. He coached the Under-17 and Under-19 MLS NEXT teams.
Kevin recalls that Logan was a freshman in college when he began coaching him. Logan was a “skinny, little kid, who was really technical on the ball, but had a little bit of an edge to him.” The type of edge kids need to rise to the highest levels of soccer.
“He had that little chip on his shoulder, “ Kevin says. In his opinion, Logan had confidence and took the right approach to the game.
His talent took time to develop. He “certainly was a late developer for sure, 100%,” Kevin states about Logan. In college, he was a really athletic kid who improved. Kevin knew that Logan had a bright future ahead of him.
The summer of his junior year in college, Logan played on a travel team that Kevin coached. They traveled to Indiana for a tournament. According to Kevin, Logan’s talent exploded that summer, and he kept getting better.
“He checks all the boxes. Logan has the technique, he’s athletic, and he has the mental piece, that ‘edge and swagger.’ To play at the elite level, you must have that confidence and be humble,” Kevin states.
West Point Prep
The college recruiting process for Logan began as a freshman in high school. “That was probably the hardest process,” he says. He was 14 or 15 years old at the time.
Army (The United States Military Academy at West Point) was one of the first schools to express interest in Logan. At the time, the rules required him to call coaches, and they couldn’t call him, Logan says. As a shy kid, he didn’t like this process and was anxious to get the recruiting activity over.
“My mom really wanted me to go to Army,” he says. She thought “farther into the future” in terms of what a military education could do for him. He felt the constant pressure to decide and wanted just to play soccer. The only release value of the pressure was to commit to a college.
Logan says it was “really early.” After considerable thought and consultation with his mother, he committed to playing soccer for Army—one of the most selective colleges in the country. To be formally accepted into West Point, he would spend a year at the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School (USMAPS), often called “West Point Prep,” on West Point's campus.
Courtney remembers that time well. “I knew from the beginning that Army probably wouldn’t be a good fit for Logan,” Courtney says about Army—the regimen of someone constantly in your face all the time was not suited to Logan.
All Courtney could do was sit back and support Logan as much as possible. But in his mind, he knew this wouldn’t end well—like a fortune teller, he saw into the future, and it didn’t look good.
Logan arrived at basic training when he was 17. “It was probably one of the first times I saw my mother cry,” he says, describing the ceremony to leave for West Point Prep. He experienced the “shock factor” of not seeing or talking to his mother for over a month.
“It felt like I was stepping into another world,” Logan says. He was.
“It was exciting at first because of how new it was.” He says the physical part was easy, and the mental part was hardest. Soccer was no longer the top priority—this would begin to weigh on him.
Judging by how he described his experience at West Point Prep on a YouTube video he made for a college class at Wake Forest, with over 600 views, he felt worse than miserable.
I was a robot; I didn’t feel like I was in my own body.
The November 15, 2018, video starts with Logan saying, “Soccer has been the love of my life since I can remember.” His voice sounds like he is holding back a tsunami of emotions.
He described the school as “brutal” and the school work as “hard.” At 5:00 a.m., he would wake up for formation, marching, and workouts. Soccer was no longer the reward because the level of play on the co-ed team was below what he was accustomed to at Oakwood. He was devasted.
In the video, Logan says, “I was a robot; I didn’t feel like I was in my own body,” describing his experience at West Point Prep. He felt lonely and isolated. “I didn’t want to be there.” He wanted out and considered de-committing and opening the recruiting process again. He calls it a “scary decision.”
Big Man on Campus
In the middle of the year at prep school, he reached out to Kevin Bacher, the former coach at Oakwood Academy. He was looking at Xavier and Providence at the time.
Logan describes West Point Prep, saying, “It didn’t feel right ever.” He received bad news when he learned he didn’t get into the United States Military Academy. It was late in the soccer recruiting process, making things extremely difficult for him.
One of his coaches at Oakwood mentioned that there were bigger schools he could play for that were interested in him. “That’s when I was like, okay, I can be that guy (a top player),” he says confidently.
It was around May when Logan opened up the recruiting process. By this time, most big-time soccer schools had their teams formed. It was going to take a miracle to find a high-level soccer program.
Quinnipiac, Providence College, and Fairfield were interested. He was a four-star recruit, according to TopDrawerSoccer.com, which ranked him number seven in the Northeast in the class of 2014.
Michigan, Coastal Carolina, St John’s, Duke, and Wake Forest were schools that expressed interest. Wake Forest was a college he had been interested in since middle school. He was surprised that Wake Forest would be an option this late in the recruiting process.
Kevin Bacher had connections at Wake Forest. He had been a coach on the UConn men’s soccer team with Bobby Muuss, the Wake Forest coach.
They connected, and Wake Forest wanted Logan. He committed to Wake Forest—his dream school. Courtney was ecstatic when he learned that Logan would be attending Wake Forest.
At Wake Forest, he realized the program's history and began thinking he could be “that guy” on campus and go to the next level. At his first captain’s practice, it was everything that Logan had dreamed of when he walked onto the grass field in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
He was amazed at how the ball moved, and all the players moved in unison—it was like theater on the field. That was one of his first memories there.
“It felt like I was where I was supposed to be,” he says, “from the moment I walked on the campus.” From that first practice with top players from around the country, he felt he belonged.
There would be many big moments at Wake Forest. Logan had to compete with Jack Harrison, who now plays for Everton in the Premier League. One day in practice, he found himself on an “island,” playing right back, trying to contain Jack. This experience opened his eyes.
Logan had never played defense before coming to Wake Forest. They converted him from a forward to an outside back.
At that moment, he realized that the next level of soccer was Jack, who had played for Manchester United and Liverpool’s Academy. Jack was the Gatorade high school player of the year at Berkshire School, a prep school in western Massachusetts.
Jack was at Wake Forest for only a few months when he was drafted in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft as the first pick by the New York City FC.
Jack is the only player in “Europe’s top leagues to have played college soccer in America,” according to an ESPN article.
Another pinch-me moment was in Logan’s sophomore year when he was playing in the national championship game against Stanford, just two days after Wake Forest had won their semifinal game against Denver.
He walked on the BBVA Compass Stadium field in Houston, home to the MLS’s Houston Dynamo, with the other starters, and his coach looked at him and said, “What a story!”
Courtney attended the Final Four weekend in Houston, Texas. “It was one of the best feelings in the world—just sitting in the stadium,” he says as if he is back in the stadium again. “Knowing all the work he (Logan) put in meant the world,” Courtney reflects on the experience.
The small-town kid was on college soccer’s biggest stage. He had come a long way and paid a heavy price to get there. He was determined to finish the story the right way.
Just a year and a half before, Logan had been at West Point Prep, preparing to get into Army to play soccer. He remembers looking into the crowd and seeing his family. “It becomes better than what you expected it to be, even when you were dreaming about it,” he says.
It was an even match. Stanford and Wake Forest would play to a draw in regulation time. In a penalty kick shootout, Stanford prevailed 5-4 and won the national championship. Wake Forest came up short.
Logan was on full scholarship for the last two and a half years at Wake Forest, which he is proud of.
He left his mark, playing in 77 games at Wake Forest and making 60 starts—his career on the field was over 5,300 minutes. The team won two ACC championships and finished runner-up in the national championship game. Overall, his record was 73-11-7.
He looks back on his high school years. “I think about not having the full high-school experience. I tried to do as much as I could in college to connect with people—and maybe I didn’t get to do as much as other people did again, but it worked out, again.”
Early in his career at Wake Forest, his coach encouraged him to take extra classes so he could graduate early and be ready for the MLS draft.
“I thought I was that guy, and now other people were seeing that,” Logan says. He was focused on the next level. He would graduate a semester early and receive his degree in communications.
When Logan Gdula’s name was called as the 13th pick in the MLS SuperDraft in Chicago, he was emotional. He hugged his mother and made the long walk through the room to get to the podium on stage—it was a walk that started when he first fell in love with the game as a youth.
Once at the top of the stairs and on stage, he wiped tears from his eyes.
We weren’t supposed to be here, so thank you to her.
He spoke into the microphone, looking into the crowd. “I just want to think my family, my parents, my friends, especially my mom,” he said at the podium, in front of the people gathered, to flashing cameras flashing and video cameras.
“We weren’t supposed to be here, so thank you to her,” Logan stated, gesturing to his mother.
His voice cracked, and he sniffled, holding back what must have been a deluge of tears, waiting to break free from all the years of struggle and hard work. The small-town kid had made it to the big league of soccer in the U.S.
On stage, he was thinking about the impossible journey—all his doubts along the way and the challenges for him and his family.
“You know, you look toward the people that were always there and made you believe in yourself. It is a good moment to know that it was worth it,” he said, referring to the sacrifices his mother, family, coaches, and others made for him.
Courtney was surprised. “I never even thought that was going to be an option,“ Courtney states about Logan being drafted in the first round.
A new life would begin in Cincinnati, Ohio. “It was a huge shift. It was a big jump,” Logan says about Cincinnati. He had to adjust to being paid as a professional and all the little things that came with it, such as having a detailed schedule for his new job. The carefree days of college were over.
Logan learned quickly that the game of soccer is more than a game. It’s business. “That’s the biggest thing that impacted me, realizing it’s more than just soccer at this level. It is a business.” He acknowledges that aspect did impact him. “It’s an adjustment, ” he says.
Logan felt he had to mature as a professional.“ During his time in Cincinnati, there were three different coaches and two general manager changes. As a rookie, Logan felt it was “hard to navigate.”
The new MLS team and organization had to build the foundation and culture while putting a winning product on the field. He had to learn to navigate professional and personal challenges.
His career in Cincinnati would be a year and a half after being on loan to Phoenix and Hartford, both USL Championship teams.
The dream doesn’t always align with the reality. “As much as soccer is a game,” he says, “business is also a game. You kind of have to learn to play both games.”
At the end of the year, his contract was picked up for the following year. A new coach, who was the third coach, had come in. By this time, it was obvious that Logan’s and the team’s interests were in different fields. Several players would move on, including Logan.
COVID-19 changed his plans. Logan would go to Charleston Battery, a USL Championship team—a level below the MLS. He describes the experience as a “whirlwind of a time and a turning point” for him.
Charleston was a shock for him. He was used to the MLS resources in terms of support, staff, and facilities. Logan states, “I was young, and it was a difficult stretch in my life, but I think one that was probably the most important.”
He felt like he was a veteran at only 23 years old when he was there. He played two years in Charleston and made the playoffs. Overall, he felt the team did well when he was there. He decided to “explore other options” at the end of the second year and was ready to move on again. His goal was to move back up to the MLS.
Opportunities come when least expected. For Logan, the Hartford Athletic came at precisely the right time. He signed with the Athletic on May 10, 2022. It was his second stint with the team, as he had been there on loan from FC Cincinnati in 2019.
The local kid was back home again.
The Hartford Athletic was 1-6-1 when Logan arrived. He was grateful for his time in Hartford, being close to family and friends, and playing soccer. The team would finish the season at 10-18-6. That would be his last professional season due to a lack of interest from teams.
Standards: The Best
Nowadays, Logan plays soccer whenever he can, regardless of the talent level. He is loving the game again and wants back in as a professional.
England is a soccer paradise, like Paris is the epicenter of food, art, and culture. It is the measuring stick for a player. Logan knows this—even if he won’t come out and say it that way.
Logan’s favorite player of all time is Lionel Messi. “Neymar” da Silva Santos, Junior, is the person Logan would love to play on the pitch with—he gets giddy thinking about it.
Manchester United is his favorite team—he saw the team play in England when he was younger, on a trip his stepdad won for work. The players and team represent the highest standards of the game.
Courtney knows that Logan’s goal is to play in the Premier League. “It may not be the top division, but at least one of the divisions in the Premier League was always his goal.”
“He’s always been a pretty confident kid,” Courtney says. “His confidence is wavering a bit because the opportunities are not there.“
“Is the confidence where it should be? Probably not. Can he get that confidence back? Yes,” he says. He mentions that sometimes you must hit “rock bottom” and work your way back up.
Sink or Swim
Logan’s professional career has hit the rocks. The defender must go on the offensive.
“You’re the only person who can write your story,” Courtney states. He wants Logan to stay focused on what he wants in life because he knows his soccer career will not last forever.
“Do whatever you have to do now because pretty soon you are going to have to join the real world,” Courtney says, like a responsible father or the not-so-wise principal who told Michael Jordan to go into the Air Force Academy because he would have a job when he graduated.
Courtney adds, “He is still living a dream” where he gets to play soccer and get paid for it. “Keep your confidence; you got here for a reason. Keep on chasing your goals. Never let your confidence waver.”
The green pitches of the Premier League in England await. Logan is in Connecticut. It’s time for him to make his next move.
Anthony Price is an entrepreneur, writer and publisher of Mini Books, inspiring stories for people who are curious about the world. Go Anywhere.