MLS: the memorable baptism of Charles Auguste

MONTREAL – Arrived at the professionals, not all rookies are welcomed in the same way.

Those of CF Montreal, for example, have been learning for a month, by dipping their toes one at a time, to read the strong currents that dictate the eddies of high-level sport. A match against the veterans of their own team, another against the stars of a local semi-professional circuit. Nice tests, but nothing that justifies sticking memories of them in a scrapbook.

Charles Auguste, by comparison, had himself delivered directly to the sharks. The 23-year-old Montrealer, signed by the Houston Dynamo in December, took part in the team’s first preseason game this week. The opponent: Club América, the most successful team in the Mexican championship, six times crowned in the CONCACAF Champions League.

Swim, young man!

How did that happen? Pretty much as you would expect from a duel between a team at the very beginning of its preparation and another, superior on paper, which is already well into its season. Auguste says that the first half ended with a score of 3-1 to the advantage of Club América. During the second, in which he participated, the Mexican machine added three goals to the table.

Depressing? No way. These first minutes to struggle “in the hollow”, Auguste considers them as a luxury much more than as a source of discouragement.

“Playing against a big club like that, you can’t have better, believes the one Dynamo wants to train as a defensive midfielder. I think my performance was good with the ball. Defensively, sure against $6M forwards, if you make mistakes, they’re going to make you pay for it real quick. »

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“But it’s good because afterwards, it can just give me confidence. »

Auguste’s arrival in Houston took place under special conditions. At the conclusion of his fourth season with the Creighton University Bluejays, the Ahuntsic College alum began his preparation for the MLS Draft. But a week before the auction, he was told that he was not eligible since his name had appeared on the list of available players the previous year.

He describes the days that followed as “a big period of confusion”. He wondered what would happen to his career in the short term. He thought that doors had just closed in front of him. But we ended up making him understand that it was quite the opposite.

Because he could not be drafted, Auguste was in a way a free agent, free to offer his services to whoever wanted to negotiate. And that was good because he had several good arguments up his sleeve. The most convincing he had accumulated by leading his team to the semi-finals of the NCAA national championship. He knew that this visibility had been precious to him.

His agent sensed interest from the Canadian Premier League, but a handful of MLS clubs also joined in the bidding. Most wanted to graft him to their reserve team with a chance of promotion if the performances were there. Houston was more aggressive.

Auguste understood that the Dynamo had originally intended to draft him with the fifth choice of the draft. Upon learning of his unavailability, the Texas club simply decided to offer him a contract and monetize his choice in a transaction.

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“I was disappointed last year when I didn’t get drafted, but when I see what has happened to me since, I tell myself that it couldn’t have been better, rejoices the Quebecer. Especially since with Creighton, we had not had a great season. If I had been drafted, it would surely have been in the third round. I should have fought to win a contract, it would have been even more stressful. »

The security of a contract in hand obviously does not evacuate all the nervousness inherent in a jump of such magnitude. It also does not immunize you against rookie mistakes and all the questioning they can cause. Auguste humbly admits having gone through all these stages which generally await a player of his age and status.

“My beginnings were… I don’t want to tell you difficult, but surprising. In the transition from college to pro, everything is played out in the small details, the speed of the game. I had to get used to it quickly. It took me a week or two to find the trust, gain that of my teammates and coaches. Before the fear of making a mistake disappears. »

After almost four weeks of exploration, he has found his bearings and feels in his place. The job now is to keep it.

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