In a sense, Gagan Dosanjh is going back to his roots as he embarks on a new phase in his soccer career.
During his formative days with the Abbotsford Soccer Association (now known as Magnuson Ford Mariners FC), Dosanjh worked closely with Colin Miller, the club’s head coach at the time.
In 2007, both men moved onward and upward – Dosanjh joining the Vancouver Whitecaps residency program at age 17, and Miller accepting an assistant coaching position with Derby County FC of the English Premier League.
Six years later, their paths are converging once again. Dosanjh has signed his first pro contract with FC Edmonton, a North American Soccer League (NASL) club helmed by Miller.
“We’ve always had a good relationship, and I owe a great deal of where I’ve gotten to this point to him,” said Dosanjh, who said Miller’s presence was “a pretty big factor” in his decision to leave the his most recent team, the UBC Thunderbirds, and turn pro.
“It’s always been a dream for me professionally. It was a big step to leave school, but it’s pretty exciting at the same time.”
Dosanjh, 22, is coming off a tremendous 2012 campaign with the T-Birds. The speedy striker is generally the smallest player on the pitch at 5’6″, but he was named Canada West men’s soccer player of the year after leading the conference in goals (12), assists (9) and points (21), and pacing UBC to an undefeated regular season.
In April, he was one of four male finalists for the BLG Awards, which recognize the top male and female university athletes in Canada across all sports.
Based on that impressive resumé, it’s clear Dosanjh has nothing left to prove at the CIS level. But that’s not why he’s decided to depart UBC with two years of eligibility remaining.
“I would have liked to have come back and do it all again if I could, especially winning another championship,” he said. “I just thought it was a good time to make the leap (to pro soccer). You could say my market value is at its highest.”
Miller believes Dosanjh has the tools to make a successful transition to the NASL, which is one step below Major League Soccer (MLS) in the North American pro soccer pecking order.
“The wee man terrorized every defender in the CIS, and I’m hoping the wee man can terrorize the defences in the North American Soccer League as well,” Miller said. “He’s always been a difference-maker for me, and he now needs this opportunity.
“This a chance for Gagan to be a role model to players in the CIS, as someone who is making a living at soccer.”
Dosanjh’s epic 2012 performance at UBC is all the more remarkable considering he was playing with a torn meniscus in his left knee. He recently underwent surgery to repair it, and hopes to be cleared to join training sessions in Edmonton this week.
“There were some times (last year) where I really didn’t know if I’d be able to go,” he said. “Credit to the UBC physios and trainer, who really helped me.
“Right now, I’m feeling really good – the knee feels strong, and I’m ready to get back into it.”