Another emotional weekend

People frequently ask how we make time to maintain this blog. Well, it’s definitely time-consuming but it’s equally rewarding being able to help other families, and players going through similar phases in life as we currently are (or once did). It almost feels like the sense of satisfaction when volunteering our time. However, it’s also very therapeutic. Let me explain…

Most families could relate to the fact that watching our own children go through the peaks and valleys of youth competitive activities could be stressful. The beginning of professional football is no different (more so when it’s double-duty like in our case) and it’s a shorter duration endeavor which amplifies the importance of those ups and downs. Sometimes, we -Okay, just me- treat this blog as a shrink, once I start typing, I cannot stop until I “rationalize” football events. Today is one of those days and off we go with another set of anecdotes from the weekend hoping you find them useful.

The pre-weekend started really well for the Gomez’s with Joana placing second in her cross country district meet. Sure the near win and her PR time were important self-confidence boosters and even bragging rights but to Claudia and I, developing a love for a beautiful “life-adding” activity like running is more valuable…more so, in uncertain times like the ones we are living in.

2nd place TAPPS middle school district 10.22.20 (Fort Worth, TX)

The weekend continued its inexorable course but it brought its share of bad news/adversity to our family; it did so not only in the win-loss category, which in a team sport should have a confined impact, but also in the health regard.

Jogo

LouCity ended its season last Saturday at home against a combative Tampa Bay Rowdies team. The 13 game undefeated streak (8 straight wins) had to come to an end and unfortunately, it ended during the Eastern Conference Championship game. Great job by the team, staff, fans and the entire organization. In the end, there can only be one winner but it’s reassuring to know that good organizations develop a winning tradition and there’s no doubt the successes at LouCity will continue for years to come. Unfortunately, those successes will not be with the same roster, staff, etc. but the winning ways, if learned well, can be permeated to the next endeavors of each individual’s lives. So we must move on and maintain a very short memory in this football business.

Jogo apparently having a blast at practice 10.21.20 (Louisville, KY)

Johan

Porto B had a difficult task at hand against the best team they have faced this season: Chaves. We must admit, Chaves looked like a team with real aspirations to the first division. The visiting team took the initiative and possessed the ball in the first 15 minutes. After that, the game was very even with Porto B scoring the first goal but playing a man down since early in the first half which ultimately proved too difficult of a task to overcome. The 1-2 loss was unfortunate but more so was the fact that Johan picked up a knock whose impact will be known later this week. His 6-game starting streak could be affected. On the bigger scheme of things, he’s one of the strikers of the U20 MNT pool getting consistent minutes so the impact could be worse assuming that U20 WC qualifying remains “a thing”. Let’s hope for the best.

Johan putting the time after practice 10.14.20 (Oporto, Portugal)

Joana

She had the weekend off due to inclement weather in the area but the highlight of the weekend was her birthday. Despite some football adversity, it was great to have Sunday all to ourselves just to celebrate it with her and put football aside. She loved the lettering on her new airpods.

Joana enjoyed this gift dearly 10.25.20 (Keller, TX)

I will end this post on a pair of positive points. Below is a video of Joana the day she turned 4 years old. God knows there have been many good and not so good times since the day we filmed it. It’s always good to reminisce…especially the good times. Pictures and videos help us do that especially now that the boys are living away….time flies…enjoy your kids as they will inevitably be away from you before you know it. Don’t wait any longer, take and record silly pictures of your kids…or better yet start a blog, it’s self-therapeutic.

Joana putting a show for the parents 10.25.11 (Southlake, TX)

On a less nostalgic side, there are different positive activities coming up for the family. Stay tuned and more importantly stay safe as the weather turns colder. #theGomezway

Chumchat

To finish the post on an even more positive note, Johan and the chums continue to produce quality content and their views and subscribers seem to agree. This week’s guest is Jessica McDonald, FIFA World Cup winner, NCAA Women’s Champion at UNC. She’s trying to make the Tokyo Olympic squad for next year. Her journey through adversity is unique and worth listening to her definition of success. She is the first female guest on the podcast and one that you just can’t miss.

Chumchat: Jessica McDonald Season 2 Volume 10 10.23.20

Contrast of signing your first pro contract with a big vs small european club

The summer international window closed this past Monday and we continued witnessing an increased exodus of American-developed youth footballers signing with European clubs around their 18th birthday. American-developed footballers are gradually opening doors to the next generation and thus have become very attractive to European clubs as their ROI could be huge and the risk is extremely low. That said, in this post we are not analyzing the various reasons for this trend. Instead, we are going to try to contrast some of the advantages and disadvantages if player/family is ever faced with the choice of signing with a small vs big club (in Europe). Ultimately, it’s very situational but below are some aspects to consider:

Advantages of a bigger club

The name of a big football club can be very attractive to start a European career (especially for youngsters); after all, who wouldn’t like to be part of a regular Champions League participant club? It’s important to note that the club name and its reputation were not built overnight. These are clubs who have been in existence for over a century. For comparison, MLS clubs have been around for 25 years and thus are in their infancy when it comes to name and reputation. Even those MLS clubs which have established partnerships with big European clubs have been very intermittently successful placing players abroad.

Money/budget

Bigger clubs frequently have a larger spending budget and thus pay very generously even for a U19 player. However, it is often said that it’s the second professional contract the one that really matter$ but we also know that young players/families oftentimes seek immediate remuneration due to the immense sacrifices getting a player to Europe. It’s also important to note that some of these American footballers/families are giving up upward of 150k in college scholarship money to play in Europe so they want to maximize earnings ASAP. A higher salary is of course only one perk and there are a ton of other benefits that come with signing with a bigger club.

Individual competition:

Thicker wallets allow bigger clubs to sign more international players at every position. A higher density of international players usually translates into more competition. To be clear: The club is ONLY going to sign an international player who surpasses the talent they can find domestically. If your player thrives with top-notch competition, they will not only love positional competition at the big club but also love the team competition faced by playing in higher profile tournaments as a team.

Team competition:

A lot of the bigger clubs have U19 teams who regularly participate in the UEFA Youth League. It’s a version of the Champions League but for U19 players. Johan participated with 2019 UEFA Youth League Champion FC Porto. He had the time of his life. The 2019 UEFA Youth League tournament is where Gio Reyna gained the most exposure playing with Dortmund U19’s and all of us can see where he is at now.

Exposure:

Playing for a big club is not for everyone; a lot of eyes are normally on the player not just during important tournaments but even during practices. Not all players can sustain this type of pressure in a foreign cut-throat environment.

Coaching:

Bigger clubs tend to have larger available staff: Coach, Assistant Coaches, Dietician, Doctor, Psychologist, Trainer, Translator, Team Manager, Equipment Manager, Media Team, etc. If this is important to your player, it should not be taken lightly. Having a supporting staff dedicated to the player’s needs could be a deal breaker for players who are living by themselves, thousands of miles away, in a different culture and for the first time.

Language classes:

Integration/assimilation of the new club/culture is extremely important. Bigger clubs tend to have resources to dedicate to foreign players. Johan was taking Portuguese classes at least once a week his first year. Although he’s not yet fluent in Portuguese, he can read, and speak Portuguese pretty well. His team and cultural integration has been a success due to this perk and obviously because Portuguese is very similar to Spanish.

Watching games remotely:

For the families back in the states, it’s of utmost importance feeling closer to their player. Bigger clubs can achieve some level of closeness via their social media platforms. Some clubs actually have dedicated English-only social media platforms (Porto does not). Others have an application that allows family and friends to watch all games: U19, B, and senior team. At Porto, we are fortunate to watch most of Johan’s games and we are very grateful to the club for that perk.

Administrative:

Bigger clubs have dedicated staff to do very specific tasks. They have personnel to take care of player/family trips back home, legal matters, housing, etc. This type of assistance is invaluable when going to a new country for the first time. During the start of the pandemic, FC Porto’s travel staff seamlessly worked with us to bring Johan home safely among a lot of uncertainty. Also, most bigger clubs have law firms available to answer legal issues such as visa, payroll, taxes, etc. Visa problems for players are inexcusable from the club’s and/or agent’s perspective. No player should ever have to go through what Christian Cappis recently had to endure.

Advantages of a smaller club

The name and reputation of a football club has a lot of weight on players and parents when making their first pro-contract decisions. It’s difficult to turn away an initial opportunity with a big club but statistically, smaller clubs offer immediate playing time which is extremely important to the physical and mental development of young footballers. There’s no worst feeling for a player playing abroad (or domestically) than getting NO playing time. Similarly, some clubs exist to promote players to the first team and then sell them. That would be a good player player/family strategy to seek a bigger club for the second (or later) contract.

Money/Budget:

A smaller club has a more limited spending budget; their ability to pay a “competitive” salary is limited. Some small German clubs only pay what’s indispensable and necessary to live while playing for a U19 side. For some families, this could be a big factor as they try to justify bypassing a hefty college scholarship back home with an uncertain start of a European career. For other families a smaller initial salary could be a blessing in disguise.

Less individual competition

A smaller budget limits the club’s ability to bring an abundance of players which means less competition for your player. By sheer numbers, less competition translates into potentially more playing time AND learning to play multiple positions. Ultimately, this could signify a faster path to a first team debut.

Team competition:

In Germany, at the U19 level, there’s a competition called Pokal which is a competition among mostly teams from the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2. It’s a national “tournament” with less competition, pressure, and exposure than a UEFA Youth League tournament but competitive nonetheless. Some American-developed players may thrive more under this type of environment with less exposure and pressure.

Pressure:

Having played for Bayern, Dortmund, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Manchester City/United, Benfica, Porto, etc. is a great resume builder for a youngster. However, those are very competitive environments not apt for every player’s development. It’s very cut-throat. Most players need the security of playing week in and week out and thus signing for a smaller club can be more beneficial.

Administrative:

Smaller clubs have fewer staff members that “do-it-all”. Sometimes, this expedites generic transactions wherein those tasks can face delays/red tape in bigger clubs. Knowing the right staff at a smaller club can expedite a mundane task such as shipping stuff from/to home. We have recently struggled with shipping “stuff” back and forth and to be fair, most of it is due to the pandemic.


In the end, whichever club your player ends up signing with, enjoy it. It’s a HUGE deal. The first one is very memorable but statistically, very few youngsters ever stay with the team they first signed with. There will be more signing opportunities. Everyone’s path is very unique. Seek, build, and enjoy your own journey. The aspects of life learned through this journey are bigger than football. That can never be understated.

By the way, if you have 20 minutes give Chum Chat a listen. This week’s guest is another US developed prospect heading to Europe sooner than later: Dante Sealy. Get to know him a little better. Until next time #theGomezway