Munster keeps goal in sight

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:35 AM ET

He was offside and the goal wouldn't have counted.

It didn't matter to Paul Munster.

"Ah," he said from the Czech Republic. "I don't put pressure on myself. I just know I have to do it. I'm a goal scorer, a forward. Ever since I was kid. I've got to score goals. Honest, if I don't score I'm going to get mad at myself.

"Even when I miss, I'm always saying next time, next game, it's going to happen.

"Even in training, I'm scoring all the time. I've got to do it now in the games.

"I should have scored."

Talking to the former London City Canadian Professional Soccer League player, one would think he'd gone games without scoring instead of being in his first game in the Czech Republic, after weeks without playing any game that was meaningful.

And it didn't seem to matter that he'd only played 15 minutes. Great scorers expect to score, no matter when or whom they are playing against.

Munster, the Irishman who turned the CPSL on its ear by scoring 25 goals, played his first game Saturday with Slavia Praha, the Czech club that signed him to a contract through June 2005.

It was a cold, frosty night when he made his way on to the pitch with 15 minutes left in the game. While he was physically fit, he wasn't match-ready. He had what soccer players call a "sitter," a ball that should be scored on.

"The ball was coming too fast," he said. "The ball came across and hit the turf and hit my leg and went the other way. I was too eager to score.

"(A teammate) said it didn't matter because it was offside anyway. 'Next game you'll get your goal. Be patient.' "

Though he's thousands of miles away, there's no mistaking the joy in Munster's voice at the chance to ply his trade at a high level of the sport.

"We have a free day today so I'm just out of the gym and walking back to the hotel," the 22-year-old said. "I'm feeling good. I need match fitness. I hadn't played a game in five or six weeks.

"I'm training every day, but playing in games is different."

Munster has gained celebrity around the team. Here's a player who's come from nowhere -- OK, he's come from the CPSL, which to most of the soccer world is nowhere -- carrying a reputation as a natural goal scorer.

His story appeared in newspapers and he had an interview on the team's website.

The game report said Munster had "eight contacts with the ball," and in the last minute of added time he had a chance to score, "but the heavy pitch made the shot more difficult than it seemed and the ball went wide, although it seemed to be easier to score."

Munster was thrilled at the reception he received when he took to the pitch.

"The fans were all cheering. . . .When I came on, they were chanting my name," said Munster, whose team won 3-0.

"I was kind of surprised by the reaction. People have been hearing how good I've been and how I've been scoring.

"But I'm not used to playing only 15 minutes. I'm not used to being a substitute, I'm used to starting. I hope to be able to start after the next few games.

"Right now, I'm just happy to play."

While the Czech premier league isn't at the same financial level as other top leagues, it produces a high calibre of player. Most players on Slavia are ex-international players.

"The players here are very good. They are very good at passing," Munster concurs. "I told Harry (Gauss) that I'm finally getting the ball passed to me and he just laughed."

Gauss was Munster's coach and general manager at London City.

"He's the real deal," Gauss said. "When he gets a chance to play, he'll score."

Because that's what scorers do. Munster has done it everywhere he's played and there's no reason to believe it's going to stop now.


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