Choosing to play a sport in college is not only a great honor but a strategic life decision and one that is preceded by years of preparation and sacrifices (both academic and athletic). Soccer (notice that we don’t call it football) is no different. Making that decision can be complicated especially for first time parents or parents of players who have a genuine shot at football professionalism. The decision-making process is long, arduous, and overwhelming. Preparation is the key.
Playing soccer in college is a very viable path to continue enjoying a variation of the beautiful game albeit at an amateur level. In some rare cases, that choice could still be an excellent option to reach professionalism (Daryl Dike) while getting “compensated” (free tuition, room and board) for it. Unfortunately, most college soccer players who become professionals do so by cutting short their academic years. In fact, the number of college soccer players who complete a college degree (Andre Shinyashiki) and find professionalism afterwards is decreasing at rapid rates due to the growing professional competing paths: USL-1, USL-C, MLS, MASL, playing abroad, etc..
If the family (and the player) have a desire and options (scholarship offers) to play at the college level, be selective about it. With an increasing dilution of soccer talent in college soccer programs, college coaches recruit aggressively; however, don’t rush into a final decision. First, figure out the main motivation for pursuing college soccer instead of any other alternative. Once the decision to pursue college soccer is final, then select the program that best suits your needs.
If the main reason to pursue a college education is to use college soccer as a bridge to professionalism, give more weight to the college soccer program reputation and track record over academics in your decision. If it’s the other way around, research the academics thoroughly based on future academic interests and expectations. Soccer often can be an excellent vehicle to pursue an education at a prestigious school that would otherwise not be available purely on academic merit.
There’s not a formula that fits all families. Once the decision is made, do your due diligence to avoid surprises and maximize the college (soccer included) experience. Below are some additional soccer factors to consider.
Soccer…not football (differences):
College soccer is different than normal football. It’s as American as it can be: dramatic, physical, and win at all cost emphasis. Wins are needed to help the program be ranked higher, systematically leverage the ranking to get into the College Cup tournament at the end of the season, and get better future recruits (it’s a self-benefitting mechanism). Similarly, matches cannot end in a tie during regulation. Therefore, there is drama until the last second of the game and most (if not all) programs are driven by immediate results which inevitably impact the product on the field.
Some would say that, the brand of “football” played at the college level is not the most aesthetic. The NCAA rules do not help its perception either. Allowing up to eleven substitutions only encourage the game to be more athletic-based than regular technical football where less than half of those subs are allowed.
Playing with/against older players makes the game more reliant on experience than pure talent. It’s very rare for freshmen to receive an adequate amount of playing time. Since the year 2016, an influx of older foreign players who have given up professionalism in their respective countries, has migrated towards NCAA programs in pursuit of a free education and a last chance to professionalism in the United States. Let’s analyze some other NCAA rules further:
NCAA soccer is governed by 17 rules similar to FIFA’s football laws of the game; thus not much change in quantity. The main changes are on quality:
Season duration: It’s a compressed fall season with 18 to 20 games in a 10 week period. In the same period, non-domestic football clubs play (on average) half of that amount of games (without injury prone overtime periods). Lack of proper recovery often leads to player injuries.
Roster size: On average, D1 schools carry 30 players but roster size is unlimited making it difficult for all players to find an adequate amount of playing time.
Number of subs: There are eleven subs allowed per game; in some cases, the same sub is allowed to re-enter the field during the same period (2nd, overtime). It’s very common for players to not be used for entire seasons especially young ones (thus the concept of red-shirting).
Overtime periods: If the score is tied at the end of regulation, overtime (two ten minute halves) is required. Then, the golden goal rule applies. Longer games with a shorter season (sometimes played in turf fields) magnifies the probability of injuries.
Fields: For different reasons (ex. climate, financial, maintenance, etc.), some college soccer fields are turf. Stats (and personal experience) show that turf fields are more prone to injuries for soccer players.
Game clock: The clock stops a lot (ex. injuries, goals, issuing of cards, etc.). It’s extremely American. In fact, the count-down clock is anti-football and sometimes annoying. What some people consider the most American aspect of it is the ten second public announcement type of countdown at the end of each period.
Scholarships: In rosters of up to 30 players, there can only be 9.9 scholarships per team and the money (depending on the school) is not always guaranteed. The talent spectrum in any roster comprised of 30 players varies significantly.
Any high school student/athlete in good academic standing is eligible to play soccer in college. In fact, in normal years, most college coaches attend important tournaments such as former DA (now MLS next) showcases, Dallas Cup, GA Cup, etc. to recruit high-school aged players. It’s important the players display their best soccer at these high caliber events. However, per NCAA rules, coaches can’t contact potential players/families until the beginning of their junior year (more below). Note: There are ways to get around this rule by leveraging a club/high school coach for communication.
Per NCAA rules, June 15 is the first day that college coaches can reach out to potential players (including emails, texts, calls, etc.) entering their junior year in high school.
This is the time when coaches will be in their best behavior for recruiting purposes and their sales pitch will be in full display. If there’s enough interest, they may eventually want the player to visit the campus during the player’s senior year These visits will be at the program’s expense (official visits) for players only; however, the number of paid visits is limited per NCAA rules. Official visits can only take place after August 1st of the student/athlete prior to the start of the HS junior year. Unofficial visits (paid by the family) follow a similar scrutiny.
At any point, if the player continues to have serious aspirations to play in college, they should not sign any type of paperwork with an agent during their high school or college years. It’s okay to talk and receive advice from agents, scouts, etc. In fact, the genuine agents will advice the player to go to college if they deem that to be the best route instead of forcing trials that could only delay/prevent a potential free (or tuition-reduced) education.
Also, do not get compensated to play (sponsorships, one time gifts, etc.) soccer (there’s a recent NCAA rule change, please read this). Any financial compensation received from the school, could render college soccer eligibility void per NCAA rules. Note: There’s a loophole that some universities use as they are able to recruit international players who were professionals in their respective countries. Furthermore, if there’s a desire to supplement the short college fall soccer season, there are plenty of high level amateur leagues. For example, in DFW, we have “The Roja league” which offers great fall/winter and summer competition for college students without compromising NCAA eligibility. Other amateur leagues include the famous Premier Development League (or USL2).
Other aspects to consider
Once contacted by college coaches and the player and family are fully engaged comparing multiple soccer programs, there are many aspects to consider that can differentiate one soccer program from another. Here are a few to consider:
The rapport between player and potential coaching staff is instrumental. Coaching staff will do anything to recruit the player so genuine “chemistry” is often hard to discern. Speak to former and current players and their respective families for a broader opinion. Specifically, talk to those players who may not be getting much playing time. See what they like about the coaching staff and what they don’t.
There are some unscrupulous coaches out there. In our recruiting process with Johan, we were heavily recruited by an assistant coach who, throughout the recruiting process, omitted to disclose the fact that the then current Head Coach was months away from retirement. No insignificant piece of information but it spoke volumes about his character. He is now the Head Coach of that same program. Johan received a full-ride offer from that D1 program so no sour grapes but character is definitely hard to gauge. Always ask the question about the coaching staff tenure and plans to move on. You’d be surprised what some coaches are willing to share.
Character may be hard to gauge; however, technical and tactical teaching ability is easier. Watch the brand of soccer the interested college team plays and see if it’s appealing. During visits, players will be invited to watch a game. There are a lot of quality college soccer coaches; some are just awaiting an opportunity to be promoted to USL, MLS, etc. On the other hand, NCAA does not require minimum coaching credentials; thus, there is a significant amount of coaches without the proper coaching licenses or experience in charge of developing potential professional soccer players . That’s alarming. There are programs who incorporate former players -as part of the scholarships offers- as staff members. These former players have no coaching credentials in most cases.
Has the player soccer always been playing at sea level or in beautiful Colorado? College soccer is not the time to move to a contrasting high altitude, or cold weather location. If the player has been playing in the Texas heat since youth, consider the repercussions of playing in cold weather (college soccer is a fall sport). After all, over half of the season games will be played at home. Do your research and select a program that fits the player’s desired playing conditions for a smoother transition. Moving away from home, is already enough of a change. Don’t add any more complexity to the move. Equally important to the weather are the program soccer facilities.
If the weather is favorable, does the school have facilities with natural grass or turf? If having their own facilities is important to the player, a college visit is a must. Some players prefer to walk out of their dorms and be 5 minutes away from the practice fields. Yet others prefer the commute on a bus to training every morning. Does the school only have turf fields because of their geographic location? If so, have you been injured on that type of surface before? Are you accustomed to that playing surface? Statistics show a higher incidence of injuries playing on turf fields. In some cases, and based on the player’s position (ex. goalkeepers), avoiding turf fields could be a determining factor in the college program selection.
Does the school have its own soccer specific stadium or do they share it with the American football program? What is their attendance like? For some players, playing in front of family, classmates and other athletes is important and could be a deal breaker when making a decision.
Just looking at the statistics, it is becoming less and less viable for players to obtain a professional degree (3.5 years) and realistically become a professional football player afterwards. It’s safe to say that if players have any aspirations to play professionally, playing more than 2 years of college soccer greatly dilutes (almost kills) those aspirations. However, for goalkeepers college may still be the most logical step in their careers since they have a different soccer longevity. That said, for other positions, college could be a temporary tangent to professional football that may ultimately shorten a career in soccer but cultivate other life professional possibilities. Every player’s path to soccer professionalism is unique.
The flip side is that there are programs/entire conferences (big 10) that guarantee the soccer scholarship money for the duration of a player’s enrollment at the university (provided the enrollment is interrupted by a bona fide reason). In those cases, the player can play a couple of college soccer seasons and secure scholarship money for life. Do your research, it is worth looking into it.
As mentioned earlier, regular season runs from the end of August to mid November (playoffs included). The spring semester is mostly used for training and scrimmages. If professionalism is a goal, this should not be overlooked. A college player can go several months from January to June (July is pre-season) without playing a significant number of competitive games. In a sport where repetitions to master technical aptitude is critical, reducing on the field time, truncates their soccer development significantly. Ask coaching staff what soccer activities are planned for the spring “season”. Some programs play friendlies against USL, MLS sides with USL, MLS sides dominating the outcome of those games. Is the juice worth the squeeze?
A close friend of ours recently selected Georgetown as his college soccer destination due to its recent success. It’s an important factor to consider. Flip side is that past history may not necessarily be a reflection of future performance; however, recent past history could be. Winning becomes a tradition in some programs (ex. Stanford, Indiana, North Carolina). Do your homework.
Does the school have a good track record sending college players to the draft and then on to MLS. If so, that may be an important factor to consider in the decision. In some cases, college coaches have a close relationship with MLS clubs (SMU->FCD)
There have been players who have tried out professional football in a foreign country and didn’t like it. Below is an interview (in Spanish) of Jacobo Reyes’ (2017 U17 MNT WC participant) of his one-year college soccer stint at the University of Portland. He first became a professional in Mexico, then joined the University of Portland (somehow) and then quit college soccer to continue his professional career in Mexico. Players jumping ship in the middle of their soccer college experience could also be an indication of some form of instability.
By NCAA rules, playing in college will not earn players a salary; however, it earns you a free (or significantly tuition reduced) college education which in most cases is much better. If possible, select a school that has a good academic program AND a good soccer program. It’s the best of both worlds. However, remember that most soccer programs can only offer 9.9 scholarships but the good news is that coaches can be very creative in offering financial packages that cover most (if not all) the cost (asking former players to become part of the coaching staff upon graduation). On average, soccer rosters include about 30 players. That said, most kids do not get full rides but if you can secure a full ride, perhaps that offsets some of the factors listed above.
In conclusion, selecting a higher level university only for academic purposes is important. Trying to combine that with a selection of a soccer program is more convoluted. In the end, it’s a very personal decision and one that must be analyzed carefully. Becoming a professional soccer player doesn’t negate anybody the ability to pursue a college education but the cost of it will be out of your own pocket instead of the school’s. Some players, like Johan currently, pursue a college education, albeit at an slower pace, while being a professional player. That’s also another route. Invest in yourself!!!
Aside from the love for the game, the most important aspect of pursuing college soccer may turn out to be the completion of an academic degree with obvious (albeit not guaranteed) long term financial benefits. At some point, it becomes a win-win situation; free higher education and the continuity of the sport the player loves. I will leave you with this thought: In some cases, maybe the family and the player are not totally convinced of the best decision to make. Consider taking a gap year to be more comfortable with the final decision…as always, reach out if you have suggestions or new topics you’d like to see discussed. Until next time #theGomezway
After an almost 18 month hiatus from European trips, we managed to celebrate Johan’s 20th birthday in Germany -a tradition we broke last year due to COVID. From the moment he joined FSV Zwickau for pre-season, the club has showed him plenty of love and we were there to witness it all. Caveat: this post contains many pictures for us “visual learners“.
The experience was superb. The 5260 mile trip (just to Frankfurt) from the Dallas Fort Worth airport was all worth it. It was a 9.25 hour flight plus a 4 hour drive from Frankfurt to Zwickau but anytime you go see your son, distance is never a factor. Upon our arrival, Johan had just returned from practice and welcomed us with open arms (and a spanking spotless clean apartment). Mom was proud.
Renting a car was extremely easy from Enterprise; it’s normally very expensive but we found an excellent rate. We made a reservation for an automatic transmission and were given a VW Passat stick shift (which I loved). Driving in Germany is very fun other than getting used to driving in the autobahns. One needs to stay super alert especially while occupying the fast lane as there’s many no speed limit zones and there’s always a car going faster than you. That’s right, I was able to accelerate to 225 km/hr (150 miles/hour) effortless. Also, there’s no passing on the right lane. Absolutely none.
Station wagons are extremely popular in Germany and that’s what we rented. We first rented a 2021 Volkswagen Passat until it gave up on us. After that, we got a 2021 Škoda Octavia which we loved because it had a lot of bells and whistles that you don’t typically find in American sold cars. Both did a great job taking us all over Germany and the Czech Republic.
One of the first family activities we did was grocery shopping. Johan’s apartment is very close to an Aldi. We didn’t know that Aldi was a German company so these grocery stores are everywhere. Aldis got us out of trouble in a bind as their setup is very similar to what we have back home. Thus, even if you don’t speak German, it’s easier to locate items and navigate the store without needing to be fluent in German.
Having learned Portuguese the past couple of years has helped us learn other languages. Currently, we are learning some German but not at the same rate as Johan. He’s fully immersed in it day in and day out. Our first impression is that it’s not as difficult as people make it sound. Juan Carrera gave us some pretty good advice prior to our trip: the younger generation speaks English fluently due to their frequent social media interactions; however, the older generation doesn’t. It sets expectations when we were out and about. Some phrases that came in very handy:
Sprichst du English – Do you speak English?
Ich spreche kern Englisch – I don’t speak English
Nimmst du Euro – Do you take Euros?
Ich bin Amerikaner – I’m American
Wo kann ich ein nei taxi nehmen – Where can I take a taxi (they don’t have Uber service in a lot of cities in Germany)
Zwickau is the fourth largest city in the state of Saxony. Located in the mid-Southeast part of the country, it is surrounded by a lot of wind farms. Summers are beautiful, and the 60-70 degree Fahrenheit summer days are ideal for strolling through downtown which we often did.
Zwickau is one of the centers of the German automotive industry. While there, we were able to visit the renowned August Horch Museum.
The automobile museum covers the history of automobile making in the town of Zwickau. It takes us back in time when the company Audi was founded by August Horch. Note: The first part of the museum is described mostly in the German language while the more modern sections are in both German and English languages. There may be English speaking museum tours available but there weren’t any when we went. Allocate at least two hours to see it all.
The museum is a must see for automobile lovers (especially German automobiles). There are cars that date back to both World Wars just as seen in the movies. The museum is housed within the old factory where Engineer August Horch established Audi Automobilwerke GmbH in 1910. Audi was founded in 1909. The four rings of the Audi (now subsidiary of Volkswagen) logo each represent one of four car companies that banded together to create Audi’s predecessor company, Auto Union.
Fortunately, we were there to accompany Johan for the obligatory club welcoming pictures. See Instagram post below. Good quality, wonder who took most of them.
Start of the season
The first game was at home (GGZ Arena) against recently promoted Borussia Dortummund II. From the moment we entered the stadium, that experience requires its own post so we’ll leave it at that for now.
We are glad we got to see your pre-match European ritual and at the stadium were treated as VIPs. Thank you Johan.
Unfortunately, the outcome of the game was a 1-2 defeat but it was a great game to watch (Zwickau should have won it). It was his first official game as a professional in Germany in his new position, with the first team. Johan had a very solid game. Below are a couple of actions where he almost impacted the game directly.
For the second game, we drove to Köln. It was a five hour (481 Km) drive from Zwickau on a Saturday morning but the fan support was never lacking and the game against Viktoria Köln did not disappoint. It was Johan’s first game as a starter and the final result was a 1-1. We took the obligatory pictures at the end of the match and coach allowed him to drive back with us. We made some memories on the way back and even got lost…
Mondays are normally off days for Johan and we always wanted to sight-see Berlin. The cosmopolitan city is not only Germany’s capital; it’s a must-see city with so much history. We decided to embark in the 300 kilometer trek in a one-day trip rolling down autobahn 4 from Zwickau. There’s so much to do and see, we’ll have to visit it again in the future.
Berlin Wall Memorial
We visited the Berlin Wall Memorial. It’s an incredible feeling when one is actually at the place where so much history took place. Quick trip but educational and meaningful for the “kids”. At a personal level, the Berlin Wall brings back so many -not so-pleasant memories.
Erected at 368 meters in the midst of the East Germany superiority, the television tower is the main visible landmark in Berlin and the tallest in Europe. We now have visited towers throughout the world. Dallas, Toronto, Vancouver, New York, Seattle, etc. They all offer a unique perspective and view of their respective city. Unfortunately, an due to COVID protocols, we were unable to have lunch at the top of the tower.
Prague is beautiful. One must reserve several days to see it and truly enjoy it. Driving into it from the north, makes it seem like the old communist Czech Republic with its old coal power plans. However, once one reaches Prague, one finds a very cosmopolitan city with a contrasting of old European architecture everywhere. As any big European city, there are designer stores everywhere. We had an opportunity to visit Saint Charles Bridge, Town Square, etc. It was too short but we know we’ll be back to see Johan very soon.
Return to Germany
If the delta variant continues to spread in the US at the current rapid rate, it’s possible entry to Germany may be limited to non-citizens (us). There were changes made yesterday already (they are revised every two weeks).
Thus, we will return to visit Johan before October to ensure we regain entry into the country and stay with him an adequate amount of time to provide him family support. For now, we left him with his super equipped apartment (nice view), his car setup and more importantly, in great hands with Coach Joe and staff. Enjoy the time in Germany son. #theGomezway
Give Chumchat’s new episode a listen. Johan talks about his move to Germany from Portugal and how that is going. For those of you thinking about playing in Portugal, he compares the Portuguese playing style to the German playing style and sets some expectations based on his experience. Playing for the first team now is a different responsibility (player experience-wise); one that still carries the weight of a promotion/relegation eco-system but one that he has welcomed with open arms. Go show Johan and the Chums some love.
By definition, a passport is a document purchased from the government primarily to allow its holder to travel internationally. In our case, MLS football and futsal provided our boys opportunities to travel abroad several times but none of those trips could have ever been possible without first acquiring an American passport.
As an American citizen and prior to joining a competitive football setup, it is of utmost importance to obtain an American passport especially if your child is under 18 years of age. So parents, do your footballers a favor and start the process for them ASAP.
In reality, access to just one passport could have additional benefits that transcend football. Furthermore, if your player has mixed ancestry and you can process multiple passports, having access to them can magnify those benefits. With the global characteristic of football, the parents of the player, should try to expedite getting a passport from each of the eligible ancestral countries. Before you know it, football or not, opportunities will necessitate access to one, or more, passports. Below are some advantages:
If the country of ancestry recognizes multiple nationalities, the player could potentially be a dual (or multiple) nationality citizen. Also, the player could gain access to additional non-football benefits such as voting, free medical care, social-security-like retirement, etc. as a minor or as a potential adult living in that country in the future.
Furthermore, having access to multiple passports offers an opportunity to: enrich one’s cultural IQ, learn and empathize (with) new (different) customs/habits, master a second/third language, support another country in important world events (ex. the Olympics/World Cup) or simply put, visit that country with fewer restrictions.
Learn new customs:
Locating the player’s ancestral country in a world globe, naming its capital, or even identifying the respective flag are great geography skills to posses but having a secondary passport goes beyond that bragging benefit. The player could learn a thing or two about their ancestors’ customs and traditions by visiting the country. The passport is not, by itself, going to force a behavioral change on the player (or family) but organically grow the player’s cultural IQ, perhaps remove some American biases, and who knows? maybe incentivize the player to start learning another language.
Master/learn another language:
Having access to multiple passports isn’t necessarily the main reason to learn a second (third or fourth) language but it helps. In fact, some multi-cultural families already speak a second language at home; however, the youngest generation may not know how to read or write the second language and thus passing on that skill onto the next generation could be very valuable to parents/grandparents.
The passport could be the vehicle to incentivize the player to polish reading/writing skills of the spoken language at home -especially if that country is one geographically close to the US (ex. México). Ownership of that legal document may also spark interest in learning a new national anthem, watching movies or listen to music in another language, etc. There’s some pride that goes along with being fluent in another language which is definitely magnified by ancestry (ex. pleasing the elders). As an additional benefit of learning a different language, the player/person is better prepared for an ever-increasing need of a global workforce.
Will borders close again with the delta variant or in the future? We don’t know, but as we attempt to reach normalcy, having a passport can even be of greater value just for visiting a country for vacation.
Upon arrival to some countries (ex. US, México, European Union countries), entry to those countries is expedited to citizens (or passport holders) of those countries right at the airport. That in itself is a benefit, albeit an ephemeral one. In some cases, ownership of a single passport can facilitate entry to many other colony-related countries (ex. a passport from Ivory Coast can allow entry into France). Thus, another great benefit of having multiple passports is the ability to visit (and stay) countries at will without a visa or without being questioned as to the duration or the frequency. This can be extended beyond leisure and for professional (football) reasons.
If an individual has access to multiple passports, professional possibilities grow naturally. Similarly, if a young player (prospect) has a EU passport, the parents could leverage that nugget of information to diversify opportunities and then negotiate a better professional domestic football contract. See Twitter thread below.
It’s a good card to have and one that cannot be taken lightly. For example, there are MLS clubs which require disclosure of this information on the player profile upon joining their academy ranks. Future professional path projection within a club could be influenced accordingly.
That card can be leveraged by football agents even at more senior levels. As an example, Tecatito Corona recently acquired his Portuguese passport which will facilitate him the opportunity to play in a top 5 European league without having to take up an international spot (now or in January). As a result, his player market value is more elevated than a player without such document.
The cost associated to reap any (or all) of the benefits named above is relatively low if you do it yourself. As an example, if one has the appropriate heritage and corresponding documentation, for $165, one can process a Mexican passport in a matter of hours at the Mexican Consulate in Texas. A Spanish passport can cost a little more if you hire an attorney and a is a bit more complicated to process but it can be done easily as well.
There aren’t really any disadvantages other than the time consumed gathering the proper documentation, hiring an attorney (if you have to for guidance) and following through with the necessary appointments at consulates, etc. to monitor the progress from inception through conclusion (especially during COVID times). The process is very simple. We have now done it multiple times.
Domestically, some people may perceive the pursuit of multiple nationalities as opportunistic. In Mexico, naturalized citizens who happen to be football players are questioned tremendously when pursuing the multi-passport route. In the US, accepting a second citizenship can be perceived as anti-patriotic, or even as a dent to their true American identity. For a young football prospect, access to multiple passport could sometimes attract an undesired type of attention.
As a dual (or multi) national player, the attention drawn to your player is immediately magnified by different people from the corresponding ancestral countries. In some cases, people (fans maybe) will feel more identified with your player (not a bad thing); yet in others, player agents or coaches will be more direct in the recruitment or communication with your player to grow his spectrum of options.
In extreme cases, national team coaches may suddenly reach out to the parents. It’s situational. We are not advocating a higher attention towards the player being the reason for obtaining a passport. Quite the opposite. Be aware that the battle for dual-national players (in any discipline) has recently intensified and perhaps, to a non so-cool degree and cannot be ignored. The added attention/pressure could be viewed as a disadvantage or unnecessary distraction which ultimately could force a young player to have to justify their final country selection for representation. Something to think about as a parent. It’s not easy.
We hope you have found this information useful; minus the personal experiences, it’s information that is all online. As with other posts, we just centralize it, and tailor it to our own experiences. Recently, we have been approached frequently by different families about this same topic. Hope you enjoyed it. If there’s anything you want us to talk about, please reach out at: email@example.com.
PS. As always, thanks for the support for the children. We continue growing the sport in this country together. #theGomezway
Most of us football fans (aka experts) will pride ourselves in thoroughly knowing the ‘beautiful game’; some will claim empirical knowledge: “I have been playing since I was five years old“, “saw the ‘hand of God’ live in 86“, others may brag: “I played college at the D1 level” (applicable to American “soccer” fans). Our favorite one is when the Geography card is played: “I grew up in <insert traditional football nation>…err England, Argentina> or the social media one: “I have ‘X’ soccer followers on Twitter“. Yet others, in an effort to establish ultimate football credibility, will state that they played pro football with <insert football star’s name> but an injury prevented them from going further. Whichever the case may be, the common denominator is the football “expertise” that the average fan claims to possess.
Ironically, another common trait among some of us football “experts” is often that few actually know the most fundamental piece of information: the rules (aka as the laws) of the game. In fact, even fewer actually know how many laws of the game there are. Why is it important to know the laws of the game you wonder? Well, for starters, you can’t either play or critique a game that is not understood. More importantly, it establishes football credibility and honestly, keeps controversy discussions (ex. VAR, offside, refereeing, etc.) to a minimum. Second, it aids in one’s understanding and analysis of the totality of the game (ex. What quadrants are referees less likely to issue a yellow card?). Using non-existent words/phrases like “offsides”, “hand-ball”, “high kick”, “playing on the ground”, “scoring points”, etc. quickly gives it away. Third, it elevates one’s football IQ and if the knowledge is channeled correctly, one can become a better player, coach, official, fan, etc. If not for self-advancement purposes, learn the laws of the game to further appreciate the beauty of the game including the referees.
While it’s true that there are frequent revisions to the laws of the game, the quantity (and spirit of each) hasn’t really changed in a while (that could change quickly). Thus, next time, there’s a desire to boast how much you know “soccer or football”, please take some time to at least revise the latest revision of the laws of the game. All that being said, for those of you whose knowledge goes beyond the laws of the game, there are unwritten ones (some may call them clichés or rules) that only those who have played the game (at any level) would know by heart. Here are a few:
Former player rule:
When a player faces their former club, it’s an unwritten rule that the player will either score or have an assist. Nobody really understands the underlying reasons: chip on the shoulder, stamina, prove a point, luck, revenge, etc. Any of those factors could be a contributor. A recent example close to home, Michael Barrios, ex-FC Dallas player scored against his former team in Colorado’s 3-0 rout of ‘Los Toros’ earlier this year and then again yesterday. Below are additional examples from around European clubs. BTW, sometimes a lot can be inferred by the way the player celebrates their goal against their former club if you know what I mean.
Some may say it’s a cliché but the reality is that one of the cruelest and most deceiving score lines in football is a 2-0 lead. Teams leading by this score tend to reach a relaxing comfort zone and that normally becomes a recipe for disaster. It’s always best to treat this score as a 1-0 loss; otherwise, complacency could become the precursor for an opponent’s comeback. See Borussia Dortmund vs Bayern Munich game recently.
Goal vulnerability rule:
Teams are the most vulnerable in the ten minutes after scoring a goal; nobody really knows why: zealousness caused by over celebration, high emotion, lack of discipline, etc. There have been studies done on it but some may still say it’s a cliché. Either way, it’s of utmost importance to celebrate the goal but hastily prepare to continue playing and scoring again; otherwise, the opponent could capitalize on the goal celebration distractions/mood and a momentum reversal can occur within minutes. In a low-scoring game such as football, you want to minimize the opponent’s chances of scoring. Be ready from the time your team leaves the dressing room to the final whistle.
Dressing room goal rule:
Similar to the reasons stated above, a team could also be vulnerable shortly after taking the field after from the dressing room (at either half). The USA vs Canada game on Sunday is an example of this. Although Canada dominated the US, the solid US defense kept Canada from scoring and the score was maintained throughout the match.
To be clear, if your team is scored on in the first few minutes of the game (dressing room goal), don’t panic and regroup. If a second goal takes place in the first 20 minutes, the final score line can get out of hand and result in a high scoring rout of your team. See the recent relegation-promotion Bundesliga playoff game between Kiel vs Koln where 3 Koln goals were scored in the first 20 minutes.
Double header in the 18th rule:
Everyone knows how efficient set pieces are (over 33% of goals are scored off of set pieces). Therefore, avoid offensive headers in your penalty area (normally from corner kicks). More specifically, avoid two consecutive (double) headers in your own penalty area as most of the time those will result in a goal for the opponent.
Determining the free kick taker:
As stated above, free kicks (set pieces) account for a high percentage of goals. Learning how to defend them starts with knowing who will be the free kick taker. Thus, whenever there are multiple players standing behind the ball trying to deceive the opponent as to who will take the kick, know that whoever placed the ball on the ground and touched it last will be the shooter. Defend accordingly. The other guy is just standing there as a decoy.
New manager rule:
Managers who take over for a team mid-season usually win their first game no matter how bad the team was doing prior. At the very least, the team won’t lose. Nobody knows what it is but the influx of new ideas and the concept that all positions are “up for grabs” seems to bring out the best out of all players.
We recently experienced this close to home in a LouCity loss against new Atlanta United II boss: Jack Collison. He secured his first win in his first match as the new head coach. After that win, Atlanta United has been unable to win in the 6 matches following the coaching change.
Hand to the back pocket is always a red card. In pre-VAR times, there were no “if’s” or “but’s”. Once you saw that hand reaching out the back pocket, the player was gone. VAR has changed that a bit in that in some cases, the card could be rescinded. In general, there’s no point in arguing the red card unless it’s for game management purposes. It’s always best to minimize the walk of shame to the dressing rooms.
50/50 ball out of bounds rule:
After a 50/50 challenge and when the ball ends up out of bounds (especially in the referees quadrant), make it a habit to fetch the ball immediately. Having refereed games for over 20 years, I will tell you that referees, in the absence of a clear angle to grant the next possession will ‘often’ use the honor system and err on the side of whoever fetches the ball first. Weird but true.
Whenever a referee calls a PK in favor of team A in the first half, there a very high probability that he will try to compensate and call another one for team B in the second half provided the game is close. It’s human nature and referees are compassionate at times.
There are plenty more rules so this publication will continue to be amended forever...I should be charging for sharing this information. In summary, while it’s good to educate our kids (and ourselves) first on the 17 laws of the game; it’s just as good for us to know the unwritten ones whether you pass them on or not. No coach will ever teach you these unwritten rules. The game itself will teach them to you (and your kids) and sometimes in the cruelest of ways. One thing for sure, the sooner you learn them, the better prepared you will be and the narrower the football knowledge gap will be between us and the rest of the world. For more useful information, continue following us. #theGomezway
BTW, the next Chumchat season is around the corner, the guests have been busy making some football adjustments. For now, I’ll leave you with one of the latest episodes where one of current USMNT left-back starter talks about a multitude of things. He had a solid game against Canada. Get to know Sam Vines a little more. Hope you enjoy it.
This post is just a quick reminder about the impact that a positive mentality can have in any walk of life. We see it every day in our line of business and sports -football in this case- is no exception.
It is no coincidence. A national team call up can definitely boost the player’s self-esteem for any age group, but even more so when such invitation comes from the Senior team. A greater confidence boost occurs when the club allows the player to participate in the activity. There’s no magic transformation; technically, tactically, and physically, the player continues to be the same player pre and post call up.
However, a player’s mental aspect needs to be carefully nurtured by the people around him/her. Specifically, if the club can afford a few days without the player, let him go but no call up should ever be kept from a player (especially a youth call up). Club staff members who withhold this information, unfortunately, do not realize that driving their own agendas could be most detrimental to their own club. We are very thankful and blessed for LouCity’s transparency on the call ups so far.
When a call up is made public, sometimes it can have an outward domino effect; being in a preliminary roster is also a great accolade. Then, for various reasons, making the final roster cut isn’t possible but just knowing that national team coaches appreciate the player’s CURRENT efforts can go a long way. Word of advice for parents/prospects joining a new club, always ask the question, “if invited by a federation for a call up, will there be information transparency towards the player/family?
As always, reach out if you have specific questions. #theGomezway
Representar a tu país en cualquier ámbito de la vida es uno de los mayores logros. El fútbol no es la excepción. De hecho, la familia del jugador, amigos, compañeros, cuerpo técnico, y fanáticos deben de alegrarse por tal honor y si es posible, celebrarlo de manera pública. Después de todo, es un logro en conjunto. ¿Por qué entonces, alguien quisiera impedir tal distinción?
Un jugador bajo contrato es “propiedad” de su club y este puede y debe reservarse el derecho de prestar a su jugador juvenil a una convocatoria a selección nacional si las circunstancias no son favorables para el club en ese momento. Las convocatorias nacionales (no de Estados Unidos), usualmente ocurren durante las fechas pactadas por FIFA (irónicamente, no siempre se alinean con la temporada de MLS) que es cuando los clubs son más propensos (casi obligados) a ceder a sus jugadores. Sin embargo, y por temas contractuales, todos los jugadores (amateur ó profesional) siempre se deberán regir por los reglamentos/limitantes de su club.
En el caso de una negativa del club de prestar al jugador, pensamos que el tan solo informarle al jugador sobre la convocatoria, si no una obligación, debe ser una cortesía hacia el jugador/familia. La confianza del jugador se multiplica al tan solo de saber que la gente adecuada lo observa y que tal vez los tiempos de esta convocatoria no funcionaron pero la siguiente tal vez si. La comunicación transparente es primordial. El mensaje (explicito ó no) hacia el jugador es: “Continua echándole ganas ya que puede haber futuras convocatorias”.
Cuando empezamos la relación con Louisville City FC, lo hicimos con una gran esperanza pero con certeza de las expectativas de un club que se maneja de manera profesional. Por ejemplo, en estos momentos existen muchas lesiones en el equipo de Jogo y a pesar de ellas, no sólo se le informó de su llamado a selección sino que también se le otrogó el permiso sin ningun traba.
En términos generales, no debería de existir alguna razón por la cual una convocatoria de cualquier federación de fútbol -rival ó no- se le deba ocultar al jugador ó a su familia. Después de todo, en un mundo moderno donde las noticias viajan tan rápido, es casi imposible esconder un llamado a selección nacional. El resultado de esa perversa y fallida falta de comunicación y profesionalismo por ciertos individuos en un club puede dañar la relación entre familia y club de forma permanente.
El tener la oportunidad de representar a varios países es una bendición total pero conlleva mucha responsabilidad para todos los involucrados. Los verdaderos hinchas del jugador apoyan incondicionalmente; sin embargo, hay pocos, que tal vez de forma justificada ante sus ojos, se disgustan por que el jugador decidió representar temporalmente a una seleccion que no es de su preferencia. A final de cuentas, como familia, siempre vamos a preferir lidiar con hinchas nacionalistas decepcionados que con la ausencia de información sobre un llamado a la selección nacional de tu pais por medio de algunos trabajadores de tu propio club.
Esta es una gran ocasión para Jogo y la verdad es complicado complacer a los fanáticos de ambos países. La vida de un futbolista es efímera y con pocas oportunidades así que hay que aprovecharlas mientras existan. Jogo se ha ganado esta oportunidad y estamos muy contentos porque, al menos en este caso, el club lo dejo participar. No solamente regresará un jugador más maduro pero además con experiencias enrriquecedoras que también le ayudarán a LouCity a plazo corto. Nuestra familia y Jogo estaremos agradecidos eternamente con el club. Gracias LouCity. #theGomezway
Representing one’s country in any walk of life should be at the top of anyone’s list of honors. In football specifically, the player’s family, friends, teammates, coaches, technical staff, fans, etc. should all be joyous of such player accomplishment and if possible, the distinction should be celebrated publicly. After all, it’s a collective achievement. Why then would anybody want to impair such accolade?
A player under contract “belongs” to the football club; the club can and should reserve the right to release a youth player for a national team call up if the club circumstances are not favorable at that moment. Non-US call ups typically occur during FIFA international windows (which ironically, are not always convenient for MLS clubs) when players should be released by their respective clubs. Contractually though, players (amateur or professional) are bound by the club’s current competition/medical needs/concerns/restrictions and should adhere to them at all times.
In the case of a release denial (capricious or not) by the club, we advocate informing the player regarding the national team call up. If not an obligation, sharing the info should be a courtesy towards the player/family. The player’s confidence can easily be magnified just from knowing that the right people “are watching” and that perhaps the timing of this call up didn’t work out now but maybe the next one will. Transparent communication is key. The message to the player verbal or not would be: “Keep grinding as there would be other future call ups“.
When we started a relationship with Louisville City FC, we did so without hesitation knowing what to expect from a professionally ran club. See, despite a current abundance of injuries on the team, the staff not only immediately informed Jogo about the Mexican senior national team call up but allowed him to attend. Furthermore, it was celebrated publicly. Words can’t suffice: thank you. They clearly understand the emotional impact on a player and the potential future effects on the field.
In general, there’s absolutely no reason a call up (amateur especially) from any world football federation (even a rival one) should ever be kept secret from the player (or the family) by the club. After all, in the fast-traveling news and transparent communication world we live in, it’s almost impossible to keep a national team call up undisclosed. The result of such Machiavellian miscommunication from certain folks in a club can introduce fragmentation between a family and the club…
Having the opportunity to represent multiple countries is a blessing but one that carries a lot of responsibility for everyone involved. In general, genuine fans are very supportive for the boys having choices; unfortunately, few -maybe understandably- take the player’s choice personal. Truth be told, we prefer dealing with disappointed nationalist fans than not ever knowing about the national team call up.
This is a great opportunity for Jogo and as much as we wish we could influence how other people feel about it, we can’t. The life of a footballer is short and opportunities are often scarce. Jogo has earned it and we are so glad that in this case, the club has allowed him to participate in this training stint. Not only will he return a more mature player but one with life-enriching experiences that will also help Loucity in the short term. Jogo and our family will forever be grateful with the club. Thank you LouCity. #theGomezway
Coaching changes are an inexorable part of professional sports. More often than not, coaches are judged by results…more specifically wins; however, sometimes they are not. When coaching changes occur due to undesired results, people tend to have different perspectives. Some would argue that immediate coaching changes are always necessary to bring new blood in while others (more tolerant) would prefer coaching process be honored and given time to yield the necessary results. It’s all situational.
In 2021, both of the boys teams have experienced a coaching change for what appears to be different reasons. Coaching changes always bring uncertainty for some and yet hope for others (staff, fans, and players themselves)
In the 20-21 season, given their financial recovery initiative, Porto B continued to rely heavily on their youth. After half of season of mixed results (accompanied by two previous seasons of similar ones). Rui Barros (a Portuguese legend) was sacked because Porto B was nearing the relegation zone at the end of January. By the league rules, Porto B is not eligible for promotion because Porto already has a team in the top league; however, Porto B is indeed eligible for relegation.
For Johan, the coaching change was an unfortunate event for two reasons. 1. Rui valued Johan dearly and although he never played him as a striker, Johan was developing well and was playing 90 minutes each game. 2. For Rui’s last two games as the coach of the team, Johan was out sick and couldn’t play. As soon as the new coach (Antonio Folha) took over, he adhered to the scientific method…no changes to the existing starting lineup. Well, Johan had not been part of it and has seen extremely limited action since Coach Folha’s arrival. In fact, one could say that Johan has seen more action with the first team than with Porto B. To exacerbate the situation, Coach Folha brought with him his son (see below) who happens to play the same position as Johan so naturally, it’s become more difficult to challenge for playing time.
We continue to be supportive of the team and Coach Folha although it’s a challenging situation; however, it’s moments like these that help players, and families grow together. We know Johan is dealing with it in a mature manner and has kept a growth mindset. He’s consistently making rosters and yesterday he finally saw some playing time when the team was already down 2-0.
C’est la vie. Ironically, with Coach Folha, Porto B is in more danger to get relegated even when using mostly Porto first team players. In this particular case, a coaching change has not improved the existing situation. But rest assured, Porto B is NOT going to get relegated… In the event that Porto B team were to get relegated, the club will have to honor the coaching process, be patient, and keep Coach Folha until they earn promotion in the future. We shall see.
We can speculate as to what may have happened here but we won’t; Coach Hackworth is no longer with the club and unlike Johan’s case, it’s obvious that the decision was not based on results (post winning team in the US). His departure is a big loss for the club, its fans, players, and of course us (the Gómez).
Changes have started. Danny has taken over as the interim coach and that’s great news as there’ll be some continuity for Jogo. Time will tell. For now, we all need to rally our support for Coach Danny and new staff for the season that has just started. The first game was promising given all the injuries.
In sports, coaching changes will always take place. When they happen, new opportunities will become available for players that maybe did not have as much participation with the former coach or maybe the new coach will implement a new way of coaching like Johan’s. Whichever the case may be, change is constant and as fans, players, families, we must adapt. That’s the way life is. The following book: “Who moved my cheese?” is a short recommendation on the subject of change being always constant. I recently had a chance to chat with Coach Luchi from FC Dallas on a related topic. Have any of you readers wondered what could happen to the FC Dallas homegrowns when/if Luchi et al depart?
Speaking of FC Dallas, as we start wrapping up this post, Mourinho was recently named the new Roma manager last week. What will that bring for our good friend Bryan? Hoping it brings stability above all in his new journey. Mourinho is a polarizing figure. One thing is for sure; we are all rooting for Bryan because he’s always been a great kiddo and even a better player. His family is top class, and in the end, we are all in this together…we have been since the kids were young.
BTW, this week’s guest in Chumchat is Benji MIchel. He was requested by Daryl Dike and the chums came through. Meet University of Portland (UP) alumni. He’s good acquaintance of Johan from the UP days. Benji talks about what’s like to compete against Nani, Pato, for playing time, his preferred position, and his dual (Haiti) nationality. What’s like to play in Oscar Pareja’s (who wasn’t the coach who drafted him) system and of course his sneaker business on the side. How does Benji define success? Find out.
Athletes approach their respective crafts differently; footballers have their own pre and post-game routines -especially the more experienced ones-; some may have their talismanic rituals. Younger footballers like Jogo are barely developing habits. He is figuring it all out likely based on game outcomes. Today, I will write about his pre, post and game day routines in case anybody finds them helpful. Nothing unorthodox but this is how he prepares for the last pre-season game played on a cloudy 60+ degrees Saturday at 3 PM and what he does afterwards.
We ate Mexican food kinda late maybe out of convenience and to celebrate my arrival to the beautiful city of Louisville. The food was takeout at Los Aztecas from downtown. Decent portions but a bit pricey. Meanwhile, the club’s social media department continues to be generous with Jogo.
He gets up around 9 AM and cooks breakfast for both of us; he makes scramble eggs for me and an egg bagel for him. Right after breakfast, he heads to his room to use the deep tissue massage gun. He refuses help; I guess he knows his body well or he knows how much of a savage I could be when giving massage.
Around 11:15 AM, he runs to the group room to pick up his pre-game meal. He returns home around noon and takes a shower (have to look good for those game day pictures, huh?). He eats most of the pre-game meal, heads to his room for a prayer and is ready to go.
Right before 1 PM, it’s time for him to drive to the stadium. Exciting times for all of us. It’s the last game of a three-month pre-season but the first with limited fan capacity at home. Fans here are very special and have an appreciation for Jogo. You can feel it. Please know that our family is so grateful for the hospitality and love displayed.
I then walk over to the stadium at 2:15 PM and arrive around 2:45 PM. I did not get to watch warmups but that’s okay. I get to take some selfies and share them with the family.
Most importantly, I am inside the cathedral once again and better yet, I am happy Jogo is playing. All is well.
After a hard-earned victory (2-0) against a quality undefeated opponent, I meet up with Jogo on the field for the obligatory picture and to thank him. Pittsburgh is the team LouCity faced when Jogo made his debut and had a knock. I didn’t realize this game had a subliminal meaning to him.
After the brief pleasantries, I exit the stadium and walk back home; he arrives home around 6 PM. He immediately eats dinner and wants to talk about the game. I tell him we must wait the “recommended” 24 hours or until he gets the film. He insists (and I did jot down some notes) so we briefly just go over some general team stuff. Gotta love his passion but more so, his drive and desire to improve. We wind down the rest of the evening watching some MLS and LigaMX games. It’s non-stop football with him.
Jogo gets up around 8:15 AM on Sunday, eats a banana for pre-breakfast and goes to the stadium for recovery. Since no teammates are using the recovery boots, he borrows them for about an hour. Soon after recovery, he eats his real breakfast while doing some school work (multi-tasking is a gift with teenagers).
Around noon, we go to the beautiful LouCity Academy fields to support the U18s/U19s taking on Ohio Premier in ECNL action. Entertaining game, he sees a lot of familiar faces and introduces me to teammates and staff (mental health recovery is also a must). LouCity Academy wins 2-1 and we then go grab lunch at “La Rosita”. Semi-cheat day eating some delicious tacos accompanied with agua de horchata. All that recommended by none other than Oscar Jimenez.
While we are eating and watching the Miami FC vs LA Galaxy MLS game where some of Jogo’s friends are playing, he informs me that he received game film from the day before and wants to go over it with me. We head over to Home Depot to buy a plant and then back home with a full stomach. Now I have video homework to do for the rest of the weekend.
At 5 PM, he takes about a one hour nap to recharge his teenager batteries. Then around 7:30 PM, he invites me to the gym and goes there to work on some agility drills. He is anxious to work on some feedback he received recently. I decide to work out with him (having a partner in crime is more motivating). We end the day with a light supper (vegetable/broccoli soup) and off we go to bed around 11:30 PM to start another week.
I am so grateful that I get to be with him for a few days. Thank you Hack and Danny but mostly, thank you Lord for allowing me to “see” him one more day. Looking forward to opening day.
Note: At the writing of this post on Monday evening, we just returned from shooting/finishing practice at the park. That left leg is dangerous. Until next time #theGomezway.
BTW, listen to the latest Chumchat episode and support Tanner and Johan. Bryce Duke is the latest guest. He talks about his eccentric life in LA. What car does Carlos Vela drive? How about those Sounders players? Did y’all know Bryce played with Noah Beck at RSL academy; he’s great friends with all the famous Tik Tokers. On the pitch, what are his goals with LAFC this year? Bryce is a well-rounded player, silky smooth whose style is similar to that of FC Dallas’ Thomas Roberts but life wasn’t always easy. Bryce is one of the first merch supporters of Chumchat. Enjoy.