Jochen Graf had imagined his debut for the Ventura County Fusion going differently.
But reality topped even the most vivid of imaginations when his opportunity finally arrived.
"It was a crazy weekend," said Graf.
The 21-year-old Dallas, Tex. native and Bradley University junior, who had never put on goalkeeping gloves before, picked up the win as the emergency goalkeeper in the Fusion's 2-1 win Thursday at the BYU Cougars. Two days later, back in his natural striker position, Graf scored twice in the 4-1 win at the Ogden Outlaws Saturday.
"It's something that I'll never forget," said Graf. "When you're a reserve, all you want to do is help the team win. The important thing is that we got the three points."
Graf's heroic weekend, which earned him Premier Development League Player of the Week honors Thursday, enabled the Fusion (8-0-4) to sweep its annual Utah road trip for the first time and move back atop the Southwest Division.
"That's got to be the most unusual one they've had in a while," said Graf Thursday of his Player of the Week award.
Graf was expected to make his debut up front in the second half Thursday. But those plans changed when Sam Hayden, the Fusion's only goalkeeper on the road trip, was injured in an early collision.
"Sam usually pops right back up," said Graf. "When he stayed down, everyone started talking (on the bench), 'Has anyone played keeper?' " Attacker Danny Barrera encouraged Graf to "just go for it."
"So I went for it," said Graf. "It was a little nerve wracking at first, but it worked out OK. Your instincts kick in and you just play."
Graf said he performed his best "goalkeeper impersonation."
"I've literally never put gloves on before," said Graf. "It feels like you're playing a different game. It's the complete opposite of what you're used to doing... My job was to not let anything past me."
After a childhood spent studying goalkeepers, in order to defeat them, it was a strange sensation.
"You take on the persona of your enemy," said Graf. "You have to go be the thing that you try to beat."
BYU was credited with 11 shots and seven corner kicks, but Graf wasn't troubled much until he conceded an equalizer with 10 minutes to play.
Despite making the initial save on the rebound goal, Graf felt he let the team down. Until defender Daniel Steres, a Calabasas High product who now plays for San Diego State, headed home a Fusion winner in second half stoppage time.
"That was a different feeling," said Graf. "When you're a striker, you're always looking to score goals. Winning a game when you're in goal is a different feeling entirely."
That said, when he saw his name in the starting lineup in his preferred position Saturday, Graf was happy to be home.
"I was thinking, 'Jeez, I never want to put on the gloves again," said Graf. "Time to get back to what I'm supposed to do."
He credited his poached goals Saturday to his teammate. He finished the first off a flick by midfielder Jake Hustedt and converted the second from strike partner Gyasi Zardes' rebounded shot.
"I was minding the ball off of great work from the other forwards and the midfield," said Graf, 21, who has been training with the Fusion off-and-on for about a year. "When that first goal went in, that was a moment for me. I've been waiting for it all last summer, building up to that moment."