UNCW alumni, Phillip Goodrum, continuing soccer career in Atlanta


Zachary Kilby/The Seahawk

Phillip Goodrum (10) during UNCW’s matchup with William & Mary in the semifinals of the 2019 CAA Tournament.

Veronica Wernicke, Assistant Opinion Editor

Recent UNC Wilmington graduate and men’s soccer player Phillip Goodrum turned in his number 10 UNCW jersey for an Atlanta United FC jersey.

During the 2020 Major League Soccer (MLS) SuperDraft, Goodrum was selected in the third round. Making him the third UNCW men’s soccer player this season to join the professional ranks. Goodrum joins Danny Reynolds who was drafted in the second round by Seattle Sounders FC and Mark Lindstrom who signed with Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC.

“We haven’t had many guys drafted, that’s really hard to do,” said Aidan Heaney UNCW men’s soccer head coach. “If you’re looking at the statistics of how many colleges were multiple guys in the same year, it’s very few. I would say a handful of guys have actually been drafted and then go on to play. We’ve got others who have done preseason but didn’t get picked up and now they’re in the USL or played in the USL.” 

Goodrum has been playing soccer since he was about four-years-old. Both his parents played soccer, and he noted they were who got him into playing. In high school, he joined the Carolina Rapids Soccer Academy, an affiliation of the MLS Colorado Rapids team, located near Charlotte where he grew up.

 His collegiate soccer career began when he joined the UNCW men’s soccer team in 2016 his freshman year as a forward. Goodrum will continue this position for Atlanta United.

 “I came in and saw the culture around the group and how professional it was,” said Goodrum. “Coach Heaney was a big selling factor for me because he told me that I was going to be one of the main focuses of the team as a new guy, and I thought it was really valuable to come in and get immediate playing time. I was in the Cameron School of Business, so I knew they had a very solid business program and that was what I was aspiring to do, so it kind of checked every box for me. Then I saw the place, and that it factors, and I fell in love.”

 According to his UNCW’s men soccer biography page, throughout his college soccer career, Goodrum was a member of the CAA All-Rookie Team his freshman year and was selected as Third-Team All-Midwest Region during his sophomore year. He also received First-Team All-CAA, NCCSIA All-State, United Soccer Coaches All-Atlantic Region and CAA Player of the Year during his junior year and during his senior year was named First-Team All-Colonial Athletic Association, NCCSIA All-State and United Soccer Coaches All-Atlantic Region in addition to receiving several other accolades of acknowledgment.

“We’d seen him play for his club and he stood out as a kid who had the technical qualities we look for in a player,” said Heaney. “But he also had a physicality about him we thought would translate to college soccer initially as a freshman. There are some kids you look at and go it’s gonna take them a year or two, but we felt with him he was someone who was going to jump in right away and be able to handle it, playing against 18-year-olds, 23, 24-year-olds.”

 During the week of the draft, which took place on Jan. 9 with the first two rounds and then finished on Jan. 13 with the final two rounds, Goodrum watched and waited in anticipation to see his name appear.  

 “It was really stressful. I was pretty confident I was gonna get picked in one of those two rounds and I ended up not, so it became a bit more stressful after that,” said Goodrum. “I had to wait four days and that kind of sucked, but yeah it was really stressful. The first two rounds were streamed on ESPN and then rounds three and four were via conference call. So, you could click on the MLS or ESPN app and see names pop up, so that’s how I watched it on my phone. But I knew I was gonna probably end up in Atlanta just from talking with them.”

 When Goodrum finally heard his name on the conference call, he said he was so happy and described it as a dream come true. 

“[We were] really delighted for him. Relief[ed] as well for him because that was a big goal of his and you never quite know,” said Heaney. “I mean those teams were showing some interest, but I know it was such a big deal for him and what he’d been shooting for all along. [It was] also a validation for us because he came here with the idea that hey UNCW can help me become a professional soccer player and help develop him. So, honestly, validation for us, that yes, it was our goal as well, so we were over the moon. He’s got a great opportunity with a really top club.”  

Goodrum also noted all the hard work that he put in to get to this point.

 After the success of his sophomore year at UNCW where he scored seven goals and received  First-Team All-Conference for the first time, Goodrum visited MLS clubs around the country to practice with the teams and gain interest. He thanked Heaney and his MLS connections and interest in him for these opportunities.

“Then my junior year I scored 12 goals and got Conference Player of the Year and a good bit of acknowledgment and just got some accolades, so I kinda think it turned some heads,” said Goodrum. “So, the summer of my junior year I didn’t get an internship or anything. I focused completely on soccer, and I went around to Atlanta, Seattle, Nashville, Minnesota and Houston and practiced with those clubs and I just had some interest from that as well.”

 Goodrum noted that both of these experiences were very eye-opening and helpful.

 “It was definitely a different environment compared to college because everybody is much more serious and much more focused because this is their job,” said Goodrum. “Seeing that higher level was a new step in my development as a player because none of the players were real friendly and none of them wanted you there because you’re trying to take their job. It was really helpful I think because it made me a better player and forced me to adapt. It was tough because no one wanted you there, but it was really helpful for me personally as a player.”

 Goodrum is now in the preseason for Atlanta United’s second division team. Over this next season, he will work to improve and develop his skills at the professional level in hopes of building into the main MLS team. His goal is to get to the highest level as fast as he can by working his tail off.

 “I’m looking forward to continuing playing soccer because it’s always been a dream to be a professional soccer player,” said Goodrum. “It’s really cool, I’m living my childhood dream. I’m hoping that I can be successful at this level like I have been in college. It’s a new challenge, so I’m ready to adapt and just keep on pushing to be the best player I can be.”