Meet an Ajax Alumnus: Eric Gehrig, Chicago Fire (MLS) Assistant Coach

Over the years, hundreds of players have worn the Ajax FC Chicago jersey. One such player that is proud to call Ajax home is current Columbus Crew star Eric Gehrig.

When the Crew came into Chicago to play the Fire on August 2nd, 2014, Eric took time up from his busy training schedule and pre-match preparations to catch up with many of his family, friends, and former coaches. Eric even took the time to answer some questions that our current Ajax players had submitted to him.

Who was your favorite coach at Ajax?
All the coaches were great but Dragan and Bora were the two coaches that helped my teammates and I the most as far as progressing as soccer players. They were very committed and genuinely cared about us as young men and soccer players.

What was your favorite memory of your time with Ajax?
My favorite memory with Ajax had to be our U-17/18 season. We had a very good team, went very far in some very competitive tournaments including the final 4 of Surf Cup and almost winning Illinois State Cup that year. I also think during those years is where my game progressed and improved the most!

Who is the best player you have ever played with? 
The best player I have ever played with, would be defender Chad Marshall. Growing up watching MLS he was a big time young talent, and to be his teammate for 3 years with the Crew and to see his skill, ability in person, it was next level. He’s a big dude and to have the touch and technical ability he does, it’s uncommon.

Who is the toughest player you have had to play against? 
Thierry Henry with out a doubt. Obviously during his time at Arsenal he was probably the best player on the planet, but even today his vision, class, technique on the ball is unreal. I never enjoy playing against him. He’s just so dangerous, true playmaker.

Who have you played that had you star-struck?
I would say the likes of Thierry Henry, Robbie Keane, David Beckham, Tim Cahill, those are all world class players. Beckham specifically my rookie year being lined up against him in midfield is an experience I’ll never forget.

What has been the hardest thing you have had to learn to become such a great pro?
I would say patience. I put in the work always and always handle situations with class and the right attitude. But sometimes there are things out of your control, and all you can do is keep working. The work and practice is in your control! And when the opportunity comes, you’ve go to seize that chance! I feel like over the years I have done just that, even though there are frustrating times for sure! Also keeping a level head. It’s sports, there is going to be highs and lows always. Can’t let the highs get too high, and the lows get to low. Short-term memory in both cases, and on to the next play, minute, or game!

What advice would you give to Ajax players that might help them develop into being a pro player?
You can’t ever practice or work enough!! Every touch on the ball, every pass connected, every minute spent training makes a difference! I remember as a kid going out to the park with my brother and dad-striking balls off paint cans! Even in college staying after practice getting touches on the ball, simple 1,2 touch passing, volleying etc. It all pays off. To this day I’m always putting in work at home or after practice! It becomes addicting!

What is a typical day like as a pro player?
Well usually start my day with a healthy breakfast, some eggs fruit and a cup of coffee. Head to training where I prepare with some stretching and maybe review some film with the team. Usually practice for 2 hours. After practice I’ll make sure to stretch and take an ice bath, to prepare for the next practice or game! We have team lunch together after that then back home for rest of day! Usually work out twice a week as well to maintain my strength and mobility! Every decision, though throughout my day, whether it’s what to eat, or activity to do, I always keep my job and soccer in mind!

What is your favorite part of being a professional athlete?
My favorite part of being a pro athlete is being able to play such an amazing game everyday with great players on unreal soccer fields and stadiums in front of thousands of people! I still have those pinch me moments when I’m signing autographs, or I see people wearing my jersey! I cherish every second of playing soccer for a living.

What is your least favorite (if there is one)?
I can’t really think of any drawbacks. I consider myself very lucky!

Do you have any funny stories about any of your Ajax coaches?
Ha-ha, nothing off the top of my head, my teams and I always enjoyed spending time together and with our coaches. I’d just say sometimes Dragan or Bora would demonstrate skills or certain drills back in the day, and they’d make it look so easy! I remember shooting they’d just pick out corners over and over and we players would just be like wow!

Ajax FC Chicago is very proud of Eric, as we are of all of our alumni. He is a tremendous example to each of our players and coaches of how hard work and dedication can help any player achieve their goals. We at the club would like to thank Eric and wish him continued success on and off the field!

– Northern Illinois Soccer League (NISL)