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.
…Ok, not quite yet; however, one of the silver linings of COVID has been our family’s ability to work from practically anywhere in the world. Within the appropriate restrictions and guidelines, we have been very fortunate to be able to safely (and semi-permanently) visit some family members during uncertain times. See, since late January of this year, we have made Louisville our second home.
Bordering the state of Indiana, Louisville is a gorgeous city with a wealth of history to offer to all of its visitors. Strolling through the 85 acres of Waterfront park has become customary and prolonging our daily runs/walks through downtown Louisville is now a routine for the family. We have loved every minute of it. Here are some of the highlights of our time here so far.
We don’t always arrive to Louisville by plane but one thing is for sure; both the skies and the roads always welcome us with open arms. Every time we arrive at the Mohammad Ali airport, there’s a sense of calmness and hospitality. COVID indeed plays a role in that solitude; however, you all should see how crowded the DFW airport was when the below picture was taken (especially during Spring Break).
Louisville Waterfront park
This public park is the closest green area near our new residence. Running parallel to the Ohio River, there’s something in it for all ages. There are spacious lawns, playgrounds for the youngsters, picnic areas for the families, boat docks for water lovers, Lincoln Memorial for history lovers, and possibly the most scenic attraction is the Big Four Bridge.
Our daily runs normally make us navigate through every part of it. When Chuy, our dog, accompanies us, we can’t take him across the Big Four Bridge due to the rules but otherwise, we navigate the entire park every outing. A part of the park runs underneath Interstate-64 which can get a little loud (our pet abhors walking under it) at times. Other than that, we have seen the entire park AND in every season of the year.
Back in January, we saw the park inundated with snow for the first time; it looked majestically white. As the snow melted and more precipitation fell, the vegetation started turning green and the Ohio River overflowed blocking parts of the park. Right at the heart of the park is Lincoln Memorial…
The Lincoln Memorial at Waterfront park is a must-see. A hidden cultural gem that centers around the 16th president’s Kentucky roots. In our walks/runs through the park, the memorial always drew our attention until we finally stopped by to admire it.
The memorial features a 12-foot statue of Lincoln seated on a rock (see below), looking out over the river. Four bas-reliefs (three pictured below) illustrate Lincoln’s ties to Kentucky. The memorial site features an amphitheater facing the river with granite seating that includes engravings of four famous Lincoln quotes. The canopy of trees that lead to the amphitheater includes several species that that were favorites of Lincoln.
“I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better”
– Abraham Lincoln
Adjacent to the memorial is one of the main attractions in Louisville: the Big Four Bridge.
Big Four Bridge:
Every time we go back “home” to Texas, we miss going on our interstate (Kentucky to Indiana) runs/walks across the Big Four Bridge. It is a metallic structure with so much history. Navigating through it, one can see a spectrum of folks exercising (walkers, runners, cyclists, etc.) or photographing. It’s so motivational and inspirational. Sunsets here are also very eye-opening. See below.
On the Indiana side (Jeffersonville), one can stop for a delicious meal at Parlour Pizzawhere the live music, the multiple tv screens with different sporting events make the atmosphere unique. We highly recommend it in between walks or after a run. The ample outdoor space is very welcoming.
LouCity Football Academy
Strolling farther down River Road, one will come across the new LouCity football training facility. It’s 6 fields with state of the art lighting, and configuration (love the L shape concept). During our first couple of month in town, we witnessed a couple of U18s/U19s scrimmages against MLS Next academies: Columbus Crew and FC Cincinnati academies. Without revealing the final score, it suffices to say that the LouCity Academy is well positioned to compete against any MLS Next academy. Mario Sanchez and coaching staff are working hard to build a reputation and indeed made a statement in those two games. Outliers? Time will tell.
If one stops by the training facility any weekday, one can witness practices for any of the two Louisville professional teams. In fact, if you wait long enough, one may get to take a picture with a Champions League and world cup winner…a legend in women’s soccer.
Thurman Hutchins Park
Further down from the new LouCity football training facility, one finds Thurman Hutchins Park. Go there on Wednesdays and you will find a group of cosmopolitan football players of decent quality. Good pickup football being played from 4-6 PM. Music is good, level is better and weather is even more so. Players are friendly and skilled. We will miss them once we move back to Texas. The main reason we discovered them was because we went to watch a LouCity scrimmage against Central College. Jogo looked good.
KFC Yum Center
This place gets packed during college basketball season; unfortunately, we have not been able to be present for any of the Cardinal games or social events. Our time will come but it would have been great to see the #2 Louisville Lady Cards play against the #1 NC State. For now, it suffices to jog around it on the beautiful 65 degree afternoons.
Louisville extreme park
Growing up, what I would have done to have access to an extreme park like this. Extreme sports have been evolving at a rapid rate for many years and we are glad that the city of Louisville recognizes that growth and offers a venue for the practice of such modality. I am envious but happy that so many extreme sports enthusiasts get to use this park on a daily basis. Lighting is great and it’s open 24 hours a day. A must-experience for extreme sports enthusiasts. Growing up, my extreme sport was bicycle freestyling.
Lynn Family Stadium
And how can we forget the “cathedral”? For football fans, it’s a must-see. The behind the scenes tour is spectacular. We can’t wait for the day when the cathedral is able to entertain at full capacity. The Coopers in one end of the field and the Morados in the other.
Starting today, we will be attending several games watching both Racing Louiville FC and in a couple of weeks LouCity kick off their respective 2021 seasons. We are so looking forward to those events and of course continue exploring this beautiful city. Until next time…#theGomezway
BTW, listen to the latest episode of Chumchat when you get a chance. USMNT U20 MNT player Cameron Harper explains his return to MLS. He talks about his time in Scotland, the playing style in that league, his upcoming competition at NYRB and of course his own definition of success. As always, thank your for your support to the Chums and the USMNT program through exploring the different player pool personalities.
Most professionals normally start their careers after the pursuit of a college degree; aspiring professional athletes however, must adhere to a different timeline due to their heavy reliance on their physical attributes. Thus, age (and time) is of the essence for them. Ideally, if the situation is adequate and athletes have an option to turn pro as early as mid-teenagers, many choose to do so. Unfortunately, in some of those cases, their academic development assumes a secondary role. Some athletes only get to finish high school, others only get to start college, but most professional footballers don’t even get to set foot on a college campus to play “college soccer” or pursue an academic degree.
One of our founding fathers Ben Franklin once said, there are two things in life that are certain: death and taxes. Although he continues to be mostly correct, there are other absolute truths in life that are equally certain for professionals. For example, any professional will eventually cease practicing their trade and the corresponding remuneration. More specifically, all professional athletes will be forced into retirement much sooner than other college degreed professions and then, what comes next?
Domestically, one of the most financially life-impacting sacrifices a young footballer (and their family) makes could be forfeiting their NCAA eligibility in order to pursue a professional football career. However, contrary to popular belief, that sacrifice doesn’t necessarily mean the footballer needs to give up the pursuit of a college degree altogether. In fact, as footballers, they probably have the most free time to continue their education (be it high school or college) during their playing careers.
High school (HS) is the most basic level of education an athlete should strive to complete. This education level should be non-negotiable especially with the various flexible online options available. It should not only be completed for the opportunity to one day pursue a college education but ultimately, for personal satisfaction -pride if you will-. If an aspiring professional footballer does not possess the discipline to finish a HS curriculum, what should we expect for the rest of their professional footballer career in terms of objectives and discipline to achieve them? Talent alone won’t be enough.
Most professional clubs’ main focus is to develop professional footballers and (knowingly or not) end up neglecting the players’ academic development. It’s a numbers game; most clubs are not staffed to dedicate time or resources to monitor (and much less assist with) players’ HS academics. Their efforts are almost exclusively focused around finding the next academy player who could either be sold for a hefty fee to finance the academy costs for the next couple of years or who could contribute to the first team. Makes sense. Football is a business and it’s all about winning and money (not in that order for some).
Not only are professional clubs mostly interested in the football development aspect of the player; most players agents are too. Rarely would either talk academics (especially agents) beyond the forced “how’s school going?”. Thus, the academic responsibility falls on the young footballer and their family. As parents, we must not let our footballer neglect their HS education on account of the pursuit of a professional playing career. They are never mutually exclusive and allowing diverging paths, can have long-lasting financial effects for the footballer. Here are some cold facts that could be used to further incentivize young footballers to continue their HS education:
Footballers are on short-term contracts. No money is ever guaranteed beyond a few years. As brutally lengthy as some find MLS contracts to be (3+2), 3 years of guaranteed money is good (especially for a teenager); however, that amount of time doesn’t get footballers to full-age retirement even after playing for an average of 7-10 years.
Very few footballers can make a living in the same industry (coaching, commentating, etc.) after their playing careers are over.
It’s of utmost importance to finish a HS education in order to aspire to higher academic choices and be better prepared for the future. Generally speaking, more education translates into good and more stable employment in a given field later in life.
Some families believe that turning into a professional footballer means giving up a college degree. That is not necessarily true. While professional footballers cannot return to play “collegiate soccer” at an amateur level by earning an athletic scholarship playing, they are welcome at any college/university provided they foot their own bill or rely on non-football financial aid (academics or financial need). So it’s a money situation. A college education is expensive and a community college may be the most financially viable way to start that pursuit.
Certainly, as a late teenager, a college education can be delayed a few years and yet a football career can’t. Postponing a college education a few years until a footballer has gone through the rigors of the profession may result in better preparation to meet life’s demands. The development of skills such as discipline, time management, analytical skills, team work, accountability, networking, and additional knowledge only gained through the sum of playing years (maturity) can be very valuable. But why wait until the football career is over? In fact, very few footballers finish their playing careers and then pursue a degree from scratch.
Take some college courses while playing and get the core courses out of the way. While that HS knowledge is fresh, leverage it. An additional benefit is that when the footballer finally concludes their playing career, they will have fewer credits to complete a degree and will be that much closer to having post-playing academic-based professional career choices. Alternatively, they will have completed enough credits for either an Associates or technical degree, or to transfer to a full four-year university.
Sometimes, a four-year college degree can be pursued during the footballer’s playing days. In the past, players such as Orlando’s Tesho Akindele, Chicago’s Fabian Herbers, and others have either completed what they had started at a brick and mortar university or concluded one from scratch. Currently, players like Mark Mckenzie, Paxton, Johan, etc. are pursuing their college degree during their playing days. It’s very possible but it requires some desire, a lot of motivation and further sacrifices (yes, some PlayStation time).
In the past MLS/USL teams have made it easier for players and staff to pursue a college education by partnering with some higher level institutions. This is a great first step; however, the initiative has to be taken by the player (with a little nudge by the family).
MLS offers (or used to) a partnership with Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) through which they could pursue a college degree. It was a convenient, and cheaper alternative but ultimately players in MLS should be responsible for seeking their academic alternatives that best suit their needs.
European based players do not have the benefit of an NHSU partnership at a reduced cost; in fact, they usually have a higher wall to climb as they are required to learn a new language: Chris Richards (German), Reggie (Portuguese), Bryan Reynolds (Italian), etc. In Johan’s specific case, the obligatory Portuguese classes have served him as a continuity learning bridge between the end of his HS curriculum and the beginning of his college degree. No learning gap in between.
The longer a footballer (or anybody) goes without the academic rigors of a classroom (virtual or not), the more difficult it will be to return to a learning environment in life ultimately reducing the opportunities post a playing-career. Nurturing a growth mindset from early on on children, can be the difference. Parents…lead by example. It’s never too late.
Some may argue that a piece of paper is just as good as the connections in life. While we tend to agree with the general concept, it’s important to keep a growth mindset at all times. Networking indeed opens doors; however, talent, and a growth mindset will keep those doors open and in turn open even more. Always be curious, hungry for more and never stop learning. Whether that’s via a formal education or not. Don’t become stale, learn a new skill, a different language (points at self), a new hobby, etc. It may not necessarily be for a lucrative reason but challenge yourself often.
All young footballers dream of becoming professional players at some point in their lives. After all, who wouldn’t want to reap the benefits of years of intense training, full of sacrifices. Realistically, very few will be financially set for life just from their playing career earnings.
As parents, we must help them transition into that phase of their lives by being educated in certain aspects of the profession. Football professionalism is achievable but nevertheless short. Will the young players be prepared for the career after their playing days are over? Teach them to have a growth mindset and adapt. They will forever be grateful once their playing careers are over. Please continue interacting with us. We love it. #theGomezway
Many years ago, during those “in-depth” conversations with my dad, he told me this: “have a child and you will never sleep soundly again”. At the time, I thought of it as a joke because my baby sister had just been born, but then he explained it to me. As a parent, it doesn’t matter how old your kids are, you worry when they live at home and even more so when they move away. Later, you worry about their families and it’s a never-ending cycle. Now, I fully understand exactly what he meant.
I last saw you seven months ago, for some, it may not be a long time, but for me it is, especially when we were planning to see you for the holidays. As soon as we found out you were not going to be able to come home due to the team’s schedule, we started planning our visit. We made our checklist, packed our bags with your winter clothes and other special items to remind you of home. We gathered all necessary documentation having learned from our experience back in July trying to get you out of the US into Portugal, but things have changed, and your bags are still packed in your room. As the pandemic has extended, travel restrictions have become stricter and more countries are on lockdown hoping to finally drive COVID cases down while spreading the vaccine world-wide.
Our original plan was to visit you the first week of December, we spent a few hours over several weeks researching routes and each country’s COVID requirements. The plan was to avoid Christmas travel and minimize layovers, but as the travel restrictions continued, our date kept moving back. Here we are at the end of February and still not able to travel abroad. And not a lot of hope that we’ll be able to go anytime soon as the lockdown has been extended through early April.
What has made this even more difficult to “swallow” is that we just brought Jonathan to Louisville, helped him get set up in his apartment, made sure he has what he needs and it just made me realize we never had the chance to do that with you. Yes, you are a bit older, but you still had to go through this experience last year. You went on your own to see apartments, had to decide on cost, utilities paid, furniture, location, transportation to and from practice. Not only did you never complain about having to do it alone, but you made us a part of this process as much as you could. Our contribution was watching videos of the apartments and listing advantages and disadvantages, looking at maps for metro routes and easy access to grocery stores and pharmacies. I understand this is a process that everyone goes through in life, buy your first house, rent your first apartment, you just had to do it at a younger age, in a different country and with zero support from English-speaking folks and I am glad. Even though it may have been a bit painful, it’s just helping you grow and mature as a person.
You can tell it has been a couple of emotional weeks and to top it all off….I keep hearing your voice! In summary, I am losing my mind 😊. The first time it happened, I had just woken up and could clearly hear you calling for me “mom”; it was all I heard. I called Jonathan asking if he needed anything but he was still asleep. Then it happened again 2 days later. It is a bit of an agonizing feeling because you wonder if something is wrong. Came to find out you were having a rough week, getting over a cold and not feeling great. The weather in Porto has been cold and rainy and your apartment does not have heating so had to learn to adapt and get an electric heater going. You didn’t want us to worry so you never brought it up, but I have news for you….we are your parents and it is our job to worry even when there doesn’t seem to be an obvious reason. And even when you think we don’t know what is going on, your voice gives it away. If anything, we have learned that we are stronger together and even from a distance we will try to find a way to help you….ALWAYS. Family comes first.
As I have spent the last couple of weeks with Jonathan, I have learned to appreciate even more any time I get to spend with family, especially my children. Working out, preparing meals and having those long conversations with Jonathan before going to bed are priceless memories I will treasure forever. It has been a year since I went to see you in Porto, but I know our time together again will come soon. Meanwhile, stay strong and continue as focused and organized as you have been, all the pieces will fall into place. Through this post I send you a “bear hug” one of those that when you close your eyes and enjoy the embrace makes you smile because you know you are loved and everything will be okay.
As for my family and friends, one takeaway from these last few months…..take any opportunity you have to spend with your loved ones, you never know what tomorrow will bring or how far away from home they may be. #theGomezway
An off we went 870 miles to drop you off to start the new season. It was unfortunate we were not permitted to drive Ricky up but keeping you healthy in our bubble was paramount and the reason for the long drive.
An added benefit of starting pre-season with the team is working through the necessary process to develop chemistry, trust, and repetitions with all team members…a luxury you didn’t have last year since you were in Germany. Lack of repetitions (and experience) should not be an issue this year.
Weekend before training
As Texans, we are not accustomed to the cooler (frigid?) Louisville weather so we spent most of the time indoors. Well, we did manage to go have dinner at El Nopal. Some of their stuff is top notch but spending time with you was my favorite part.
You also gave us a VIP tour of the stadium. It was our second time (our first tour took place when it was still under construction) and we loved what we saw especially now that the Racing Louisville Football Club theme is in full swing.
First day of training
Well, the above picture is not really the way you want to find your car on your way to the first practice of the season (AND the first time you get to drive to practice -too many firsts-). Was practice called off? No way, it’s moments like these that will be reminisced when the team needs to dig deep during difficult times in the season….the sacrifices make it all worth it.
Those are the some of the adversities that young footballers experience everyday but once you get on the field, it’s all smiles…well, mostly :-). For more experienced footballers, it’s another day at the office. Either way, let’s work on our mental fortitude.
Your week went well with some new familiar faces (new signings and trialists) at training which should help ease your way into it. Midweek, the club published this article on you which was very transparent.
Our week went well with all the support from George. We all adjusted quickly to your new setup and you are now settled in, have started another high school semester and we loved having the privilege to work remotely without any impact to our productivity.
We leave you in good hands but the rest is up to you. The opportunities are there for the taking. We are hoping LouCity gets to play US Open Cup as that will bring additional games and fans to the stadium. We are looking forward to seeing “the cathedral” at full capacity at some point.
Those are always tough but memorable. We made this one quick because we will be seeing each other again sooner than later but mostly because we are not really *leaving*. Make the right choices, you are surrounded by the right people. Reach out to G. He’s heaven-sent.
I always dread the drive back mostly due to the two lane highways and the never-ending construction; 65 to Nashville, 40 to Little Rock, and 30 home. It’s alright but too much for my aging eyes. It’s what was needed to keep you healthy and in your bubble. I’ll do it as many times as I have to before I can’t do it anymore.
We must now stop in Arkansas as the night/early morning is upon us. The Peterbilt traffic on a two lane highway is too much for me. The trip is mostly good memories as your sister sleeps most of the way. Until next time, be good son. BTW, we made it home okay.
As we reflect on what 2020 brought the Gómez, we must first acknowledge the challenges it presented at the global, and national levels. Last year was a very tumultuous year from a health, social, political, and economic aspect but like anything, if you look hard enough, there are always silver lining events throughout the year. Let’s recap some of the most notable events for our family and parallel (especially sports) events around the nation and the world.
We made the decision to continue Jonathan’s football development at Louisville City FC leaving behind great coaches, friends, teammates. Unfortunately, all good things come to an end for everyone.
On December 31st, Johan injured the 5th metatarsal of his left foot forfeiting his chance to continue his good form displayed in the U20 MNT September camp and compromising his participation in the January camp, the spring season at FC Porto, and UEFA Youth League. It was by far not the best way to start the year; however, the adversity was humbling and it reminded us about the true meaning of patience, resilience, faith and brought us closer together as a family despite the Atlantic Ocean.
January saw the inception of Chumchat. A podcast project initiated by three former FC Dallas Academy friends (Judson, Tanner, and Johan) and current football players.
The podcast has been gradually finding its identity and gaining popularity; it recently culminated a second successful season. Due to its freshness, it is growing at a rapid rate. Tanner and Johan recently joined Sam’s Army’s podcast and explained the project more thoroughly. You will find their podcast interesting if you enjoy news about the FC Dallas academy, the different US national teams (especially youth) and other great successful guests in the world of sports.
On January 9th, the World Health Organization announced that a deadly coronavirus had emerged in Wuhan, China. There are many chapters of this book still being written…
On January 26th, the world of sports was shocked with the sudden death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and the rest of the crew in a helicopter accident in Calabasas California. The year was not starting on the right foot for the world of sports either.
Jogo was invited to Germany for football trials and he welcomed that opportunity with open arms. Mom traveled to Europe later to meet up with her sister and the boys. An opportunity well-seized by everyone in the family given what was to about to unfold a couple of weeks later…
On February 5th, the LIV (54th) Super Bowl took place where the Kansas City Chiefs (AFC) defeated the San Francisco 49ers (NFC) 31-20 in a display of craftiness by young Texan Patrick Mahomes.
On March 5th, Jogo was announced with USL-C Louisville City. A new chapter in Jogo’s football development is still being written and we are grateful for the opportunity.
On Monday, March 9th, the Dow Jones plunges over 2000 points in intraday trading -its steepest decline ever- due to economic concerns with the pandemic caused by the Coronavirus.
Just a few days after we dropped Jogo off in his new home, on March 13th, Breonna Taylor is shot eight times by Louisville police starting a chain of social events (including violent demonstrations) requesting an end to police brutality at the national level.
On May 25th, Minneapolis police officer is videotaped kneeling on the neck of George Floyd until he eventually dies. The video of the incident goes viral with a global impact of unprecedented proportions. The Black Lives Matter movement momentum reaches its climax and had a profound reach in every facet of everyone’s lives.
Meanwhile, Jogo continues to earn playing time with LouCity.
On September 28th, the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Dallas Stars in the Stanley Cup Final. We still remember when Claudia and myself celebrated the last Stanley Cup Final won by the stars in 1999 the parade in downtown Dallas.
The month of October witnessed rivalries between the states of Florida and California in two different American professional sports. The NBA’s turn came first when the LA Lakers defeated the Miami Heat in six games. In doing so, the LA Lakers tied the Boston Celtics as the winningest NBA franchise (17 titles) in history tying the Boston Celtics.
Despite what MLB hard core fans and the name itself may imply, the World Series only has national impact (perhaps continental level). Nonetheless, the World Series took place for the first time in a neutral stadium. We were fortunate to have it in our own backyard: Arlington, Texas. The two teams battling it out were the Tampa Bay Rays (AL) and the LA Dodgers (NL). They were not only competing for the MLB World Series but for state bragging rights. In the end, the California team came out on top in six games.
Jogo spent the entire month training abroad. Without a doubt, they were amazing opportunities especially when most young footballers are unable to play in any structured way. Similarly, among rising Coronavirus concerns in Portugal, Johan continued to play full games in his new position which is reassurance that he’s doing it well.
Some would say this would be of global impact…and probably so. On Saturday, November 7th, Joe Biden became the 46th president of the United States among some ongoing controversy.
The football world saw the death of Maradona on November 25th (the day before Thanksviging). Few footballers will ever be as popular and yet polarizing as he once was (and forever will be). The world of football mourned his death globally. His legacy will live forever with us footballers.
On Christmas Eve, FIFA decided to cancel the U17 and U20 Men’s World Cups. It was a devastating Christmas gift for all of those players around the world. At the personal level, we had hopes for both of the boys to continue partaking in the U20 WC cycle in some capacity and that will no longer be the case. C’est la vie mon amis
We spent our first Christmas and New Year’s without both of the boys but unfortunately that’s the life of a footballer and their families. While we are grateful Johan continued playing regular season games, Jogo continued training in Portugal. Priceless development opportunities in uncertain times and grateful that they had competitive continuity.
On December 11, the Food and Drug Administration issued the first emergency use authorization for a vaccine for the prevention of coronavirus. This was perhaps the best news to end the year and a glimpse of hope for 2021.
The pandemic uncertainty has not ceased but it’s encouraging to know that help is on the way. Hope is the last thing to lose and we certainly hope 2021 turns out to be a better year. For now, we can only plan our pathways with the information available; in the process, there will be definitely be twists and turns that will require adjustments. Rest assured that the Gómez will do their part…to control, influence and monitor events for a better 2021. Until next. #theGomezway
In its first year of existence, we have reached 10,000 visits on our site. Thank you for the continued support to our family. As we embark on yet a new journey with our daughter, we are always striving to incorporate more educational material in a way that relies mostly on our own family experiences supplemented with information readily available online.
We understand that each family’s/player’s football journey is unique but having a repository of family-based football information available, at the very least, should serve as a point of reference that we wish had been available when we started our journey. We want to continue engaging with you via emails, texts, phone calls, and social media interactions. Keep the inquiries coming; we enjoy helping families/players and will always provide you with an objective point of view based on the nuances of our own journey and hopefully those will help build your own path in a more meaningful manner. #theGomezway
BTW, enjoy the most recent Chumchat interview with Thomas Roberts. For those of you who may not know, it’s a podcast that Johan and friends have which is sports (mostly football) centric. In the third season coming up, they will have more footballers making their way to Europe.
Last week we were observing Joana’s final football practice of the year. Since most players were already out for the holidays, the session consisted mostly of 3v3 play with players from other teams participating. The girls seemingly had a blast and it brought back so many memories. It then became tempting to write about 3v3 as a football development tool like we did with futsal.
Just like other tools which include indoor soccer, private training (i.e. Coerver), Olympic Development Program (ODP), “the wall”, street football, beach football, football tennis, etc. they all have their unique usefulness. In the future, we may also write about those. Today, we will be writing about 3v3 and its advantages and disadvantages as used extensively by our boys.
For those unfamiliar with 3v3. It’s a small-sided variation of football where 3 players take on the opponent’s 3 with no goalkeeper. For a better definition including its rules, check 3v3 Wikipedia’s page. It’s the fastest growing form of the sport in the United States. Our boys played small-sided A LOT (concurrently with “outdoor” football, futsal, etc.) for several years; it not only aided in their football development in a fun environment, but also provided a platform to compete at a high level at an early age. For parents with young kids interested in football, you may find this post useful. BTW, thank you Quickfoot, Kick it 3v3, Live 3v3, and many other organizations. We had a blast and the memories are countless.
The year was 2010 and we knew that one (sometimes two) practices a week at Solar for Johan were not enough to quench his football thirst. His desire to knock the ball around was just too frequent. We had played, coached and officiated the game all our lives; ironically, we had never coached 3v3 competitively (only rec.). It seemed fun so we said, “what’s the worst that could happen?”. And on we went to participate in Quickfoot’s 3v3 at Keller High School. We coached both Johan’s 4v4 and Jogo’s 3v3 with very little preparation and picking players from their current club teams. The outcome? Johan’s team won while Jogo’s earned second…the seed was planted from then on.
The tournaments in Texas became frequent and the competition was excellent. It gave us an adequate amount of preparation, and confidence to want to take our teams to higher level competitions. We participated at the national level in Orlando three times. Jogo’s team (MOB) went on to win the 3v3 national championship in 2013, our team (La Banda) won third place in 2014 and (MOB) reached the quarter finals in 2015 playing up. Johan’s team only participated once and took 3rd place in 2014. We had the pleasure of meeting many future YNT players at these 3v3 competitions.
Oftentimes, positive results build confidence and perpetuate a love for the game and that’s what we achieved with that group of boys. As of now, every single one of them will be playing college soccer or playing football professionally. We will always be very proud of this group of players and grateful to their parents for allowing us to coach them. We built something special together which has transcended the football field. That said, here are few things we learned along the way…
More touches on the ball
Smaller rosters naturally translate into more touches on the ball. We typically carried 5 or the maximum-allowed of 6 players to maximize time on the ball. All players had about the same technical and tactical level and played an equal amount of time.
Technical aptitude and tactical awareness
Technical aptitude is enhanced by the amount of repetitions generated by smaller rosters. Specifically, muscle memory in a competitive environment is gradually developed to the point of normalcy; it ultimately leads to higher confidence and creativity on the ball. For example, if you have a player who likes to dribble, 3v3 has a ton of space for them to hone that technical skill, become proficient at it, and try out new skills.
Even though it’s a small sided competition, players are tasked to cover a lot of ground which teaches them accountability: play offense and defense simultaneously. The game requires constant decision making by the use of imaginary geometric triangles on the field to figure out ways to outnumber the opponent in order to create scoring opportunities. Players not only learn tactical (positional) awareness but also movement off the ball which can be extrapolated naturally to a normal size football field.
Of all the football development tools, 3v3 is probably the least expensive and the one that requires the least time commitment. It’s typically half of a day worth of short-duration games (normally in the offseason and a Saturday) which is also very fun-packed for players and parents. Sometimes the out of town tournaments could last two to three days but those would normally take place over a holiday weekend and the cost is not significantly higher.
In Texas, there is plenty of strong competition; thus traveling is not necessary and costs can be kept to a minimum. However, if there is a strong desire to compete elsewhere or the “harshness” of the winter prevents outdoor play, there’s always 3v3 indoors.
The game is versatile and can be played indoors too. Most of our competitions were outdoors but we certainly enjoyed playing indoors as well. The indoor 3v3 tournaments were sometimes played in basketball gyms, indoor soccer fields, or futsal courts (3v3s led us to discover futsal at City Futsal). The tournament experience with family and friends was unparalleled; those football bonds are still strong to this day.
We loved having the opportunity to play with players from other clubs. We now reminisce about those times via pictures and clips.
Not only were the tournaments good opportunities to socialize with other families but great bonding times where we created a lot of our own family memories.
More than the football aspect of the entire experience, the boys will always cherish memories with friends, family, teammates, opponents and most of all, the fact that we got to coach them. Those 3v3 memories will live in our hearts forever.
Style and drip
Just like the players wanted to express themselves on the field via their football, they loved selecting their “drip” (and team name) regularly. We mostly stuck to two uniforms per tournament. All were replicas of the original jerseys and purchased via a Chinese supplier for less than 25 dollars for the entire kit. They were very affordable and allowed us to wear different kits like the professionals. That was another cool reason for playing 3v3. The kids could emulate their idols and personalize their jerseys. Jogo became well known as Jogo via his jerseys but let’s not forget that the original Jogo was Johan.
Johan’s first coach at Solar was completely against 3v3s. We always assumed he felt threatened by the possibility of losing players at these events as 3v3 teammates normally belonged to different clubs and inevitably parents socialize. It became difficult to request permission to participate in 3v3s even during off weekends as Johan’s Solar coach frowned upon it. He was an older coach too but we felt this truncated his 3v3 development to a degree.
Similarly, there are parents who think that football development tools such as 3v3s and futsal are NOT adequate for goalkeepers. That couldn’t be any farther from the truth. Jogo played futsal with what would have been one of the U17 MNT goalkeepers (U17 MNT WC was recently cancelled): Jeff Dewnsup whose footwork was phenomenal for his age. This was probably one of the characteristics that gave him national team visibility. Both Johan and Jogo played 3v3 with numerous goalkeepers whose footwork improved as a result of the competitions. Truth be told 3v3 can become addictive.
3v3s are very addictive. They are high scoring ordeals which could be decided in the last second of the game. They cannot get any more American than that.
There are parents who want to compete in them all the time and there’s nothing wrong with that level of involvement. However, at some point it could create a conflict with club football and other life activities. As long as your family knows how to manage the experience and you have a club coach who supports it, go for it. The 3v3 coach may want to define a style of play and shuffling players due to their unavailability makes it challenging to gel as a team. We were fortunate to have 6 very committed families for several years who were as crazy as we were about it.
There are many tools to build and improve a player’s football development. Each one serves a unique purpose. There’s no silver bullet to develop a footballer; there are however, many ways to nurture the love of the game by “making it fun”. As you reflect on your achievements for 2020 and plan for your kids activities for next year, consider incorporating 3v3s into their pool of available activities. You won’t regret it.
On a personal note, we will conclude this post wishing everyone a better year than 2020. For the Gómez’s, it’s was a challenging year in many regards but a blessing in others. We’ll be re-capping the year in a future post. For now, let’s be hopeful, patient, positive and most of all, safe. As always, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for comments, questions, etc. Thanks for reading us and happy 2021. #theGomezway.
2020 has brought a plethora of unfortunate events around the world; most were caused by the pandemic. Sports have been impacted in a global scale: no Olympics, no Wimbledon, no Tour de France, closed doors sporting events, football leagues getting canceled/shortened, etc. From a football viewpoint specifically, the silver lining is that 2020 became an excellent year for young American football players as they have cemented American football credibility in front of an avid football watching world.
Young American players continue to become very attractive investments for European clubs. Back in the US, that enhanced credibility has had a ripple effect on domestic clubs, coaches, scouts, agents, and specifically high-school-age football players. Now more than ever, they all see a new opportunity. Young footballers with European playing aspirations, vehemently believe their dream of becoming a professional player is within realistic reach. Similarly, fringe high-school-age young players whose aspirations may be exclusively domestic (USL, MLS) are hesitant to pursue “soccer” in college following their HS senior year.
For some families, the decision to potentially forego a college “soccer” scholarship (either partial or full) and delay a college education to pursue the professional football dream is too risky, costly and not an option. On the other hand, for other families, it’s the most logical (and only) step forward as time is of the essence for young footballers. There is however, a third group who are indecisive and perhaps this post is geared towards them. Is a gap year following high school (HS) worth pursuing in order to persuade/dissuade them one way or the other? Below are some aspects to consider.
Some HS-age players may neither be physically/mentally ready for the rigors of college soccer or football professionalism. In college, competing against players up to four years older may not be the easiest transition. The physical/mental gap choosing the professional route may be similar in age but wider in experience and maturity.
Thus, having the player take a gap year to continue his development before embarking on the next endeavor could be very advantageous. After all, what’s wrong with bossing the game around for an additional year while building the player’s confidence? Well, it depends. So long as their game continues to be carefully nurtured, and evolving during the gap year. In the process, other opportunities could also become available.
Indecisive families who are not yet convinced about the college path and whose MLS or amateur club has not shown them a satisfactory path to football professionalism may opt to take a gap year to explore additional options that could result in new opportunities. Among those options are:
Join the professional domestic market (USL) with an academy contract to maintain NCAA eligibility
Attend domestic/international trials in different markets/clubs to set realistic expectations and for self-evaluation
Practice and play in a semi-pro league to maintain NCAA eligibility, network, and gauge other football options in parallel
Continue playing at the current club to maximize exposure to professional agents and college scouts/coaches
Switch to a different non-MLS club (domestic or international) or vice versa (if not playing for an MLS club) to increase exposure to professional agents and college scouts/coaches
Join a play football abroad (England, Spain, Germany, Italy) gap year program while earning college credits
2020 saw a dramatic increase of local gap year participants. In hindsight, the trend may have stemmed from a shorter 2019-2020 season which caused players to miss out on important youth tournaments such as Dallas Cup, GA Cup, DA/ECNL Showcases/playoffs, National League, etc. It wasn’t just missing out on participation in those tournaments but also the corresponding experience and exposure to professional agents/scouts/college coaches/etc. In most cases, players did not get a fair opportunity to draw enough interest from colleges or the professional ranks which incentivized them to take a gap year. Below you will find examples of recent local U-17 MNT pool players who are pursuing a variation of the five categories above:
Bailey Sparks and Josh Ramsey left their longtime Solar club to give the USL-C (Sporting Kansas II and San Antonio FC) market a try respectively. Similarly, Kevin Bonilla returned from a short stint at the University of Portland to join USL-1 North Texas SC during his gap year
Seth Wilson who once played for the MLS FCD academy went on a series of international trials. However, COVID may have temporarily cut his trials short during his gap year
At present, Kevin, and Seth, have joined a local semi-pro league (La Roja League) for the winter along with many college players currently home for the break to remain active
Cesar García, scheduled to join SMU soccer in the fall of 2020, is now back at the MLS FCD academy to increase his chances to professionalism or academia during his gap year
Players like Johan Guereca and Riley O’Donnell left the longtime Solar academy powerhouse to search new opportunities at FCD academy in their last year eligibility
There is no solution that fits all. Each player is building their own path and we are all learning from each other. For most families, the ideal scenario could be to secure a college “soccer” scholarship during the senior HS year and prior to taking a gap year. This option allows a fallback plan in case one of the alternatives above (or others) does not materialize. If you are fortunate enough to secure a soccer college scholarship, be honest and transparent with the college staff about professional intentions.
Once/if a scholarship is secured and if professionalism does not become a viable option during the gap year, attend college with the scholarship and earn a life-lasting academic degree while still playing college soccer.
Sometimes a pathway to football professionalism will open up while playing college soccer: Reggie Cannon, Brandon Servania, Brecc Evans, etc. to name a few. After all, there are plenty of colleges or entire conferences (ex. Big10) which “guarantee” the athletic scholarship for life as long as the footballer leave the college for “a bona fide reason”. Do your research, there could be some caveats for this guarantee to apply. However, if you can make it work, the financial impact on your family could be significant.
Current club situation
Amateur clubs (ex. Solar, Texans) offer limited options to football professionalism. Staying a gap year at an amateur club may only increase opportunities to a wider gamut of college choices and not necessarily to football professional pathways. Taking a gap year to switch to play a full year at the U18/U19 level with an MLS club could be very attractive but risky nonetheless. You can read more about this possibility in a previous post. If a switch is made and the MLS path at the U18/U19 level doesn’t work out, keep in mind that the MLS club also limits the player contractually in terms of other domestic opportunities that could be pursued during the gap year. Some MLS clubs are very restrictive not allowing the player to trial with other clubs (domestic or internationally) even though the MLS club does not have any plans for such player. Amateur clubs will be more open to that possibility as they don’t have a path to professionalism.
On the other hand, if the player has been part of an MLS club and said club has not “shown any signs of a professional plan” by the time the player turns 16, the player is serving a unique purpose in the club: filler player. The family may want to explore other possibilities outside the MLS club immediately. Maybe one reason to stay with a prestigious MLS academy is for the college exposure; however, amateur clubs are not only less strict on pursuing parallel professional alternatives but offer more college showcase possibilities since they are family-funded.
if there’s an aspiration to play in Europe at the U19 level as a stepping stone to a first team debut and the player is turning 18 years of age after the start of their HS senior year, it is not worth taking a gap year. The post September 1st (international transfer window deadline) birthday by itself complicates that possibility and staying an additional gap year further delays the move to a European market.
Foreign nationals (especially unproven young Americans) in Europe without a EU passport will find more scrutiny being recruited for a U23 or “B” team than for a U19 side. Goalkeepers (GKs) can find an easier pathway to a U23 or B team than a field player; however, the path to a regular-minutes first team usually takes longer for GKs. Historically, there have been a few exceptions: Casillas.
Player positions matter when it comes to taking a gap year. Offensive players tend to have a faster route to professionalism than defensive players. A GK may very well be better served going to college right after HS and complete a degree in 3.5 years. GKs tend to have longer careers and very few become starters for first teams before the age of 22 (a college degree can be pursued during these years). Going to college immediately after HS will hardly impact their professional football aspirations. In fact, playing college, combined with a local league during their school breaks will keep them active year round. A similar reasoning could be drawn about defenders who tend to have longer careers than offensive players.
Football positions by number
In addition to gaining additional football experience and potential opportunities, with some planning and motivation, families/players can benefit from a gap year to save money, travel, volunteer, or do all of the above. Just be sure to have a plan around the objectives to be achieved during the gap year and adhere to them. In the end, whichever road you take, a gap year is the ideal time to think about short-term and long-term goals. Just make an informed decision, have no regrets, and enjoy the ride.
Lastly, this month we will likely reach the 10,000 visitors mark. We want to take an opportunity to thank you for reading us hoping that you continue to find our posts useful. As a token of appreciation, the first 10 readers to fill out & submit the form below will get a free Nike Men’s dri-fit shirt. Winners will be contacted via email. Thanks for your continued support. #theGomezway
I will preface our family status by addressing the elephant in the room. It’s been a shocking past couple of days for the football world since Maradona’s passing. There’s nothing we can say that hasn’t been said already. He was a polarizing figure off the field but he earned the respect of most of us on the pitch.
From a football perspective, his legacy will live with us forever and we are grateful our eyes witnessed his God-given talent. Living in Mexico City in 1986, his impact on me was exponentially magnified; however, I first laid eyes on him in 1982 with Brazil robbing my attention most of that WC.
His life becomes more remarkable when you read his autobiography. I first read it 20 years ago when it came out. I’m giving it a second read now and truly recommend it if you have some spare time over the holidays. You will understand a lot of his decisions and learn some about his preferences:
Maradona started off as a defender. He appreciated the ability to see the whole field and the additional time to make decisions. (soccer IQ)
He had 7 siblings living in Fiorito. He had a very humble upbringing but always surrounded by a close-knit circle of friends and family (failure was not an option)
He acknowledges his comfort with the ball stems from spending 4-5 hours daily from a very, very young age (unstructured repetitions and muscle memory)
The worst day of his life…the day he learned he was not part of Argentina’s 1978 WC squad to be played at home. This was the reason he “only” played 4 WCs (setbacks fueled him)
The “Hand of God” goal was not the first one of its kind he ever scored (gamesmanship)
Why did he often wear two watches when he traveled? (loyalty)
I could go on and on about him but onto family matters…as the show must go on…
Solid crescendo performance helping your team win another tournament. You improved on technical and tactical aspects of the game that you had been honing.
To us, the progress was the real win as we know game results are circumstantial. We loved the total control you displayed of effort and attitude. So proud of you mamita!!!
Due to the international break, Johan had the past two weekends off but participated in training with the first team. Good stuff on both of the scrimmages. Continue seizing the opportunities and getting all the available playing time. Baby steps. We now move on to actual games.
Successfully and safely left Denmark and has finished a new quarantine. He continues to train with/against top competition and most importantly, staying healthy, and in shape during the long off-season. The objectives of the trip are being met.
Yesterday was the first of its kind where we didn’t have the boys with us. Considering we spent the last one in Portugal, it was somewhat expected. We are grateful for what God has given us. Can it be better? Sure. It can also be worse so we are extremely lucky to have health especially in uncertain times.
We don’t listen to Adam (and Greg) weekly but we listen regularly. They have excellent football material for US football fans; however, it’s not always geared towards player parents. This episode has a good bit of educational material as it relates specifically to Caden Clark’s journey. Jogo is great friends with Caden and it’s good to go full-circle on a lot of stuff. Furthermore, it’s validation that we are doing some things well, and perhaps others, not so much. Give it a listen if you want to learn more about:
Additional training: mental speed, hip mobility, ball control, center of gravity
Playing for a non-MLS club
Developing the love for the game
Encouraging decision making, mistakes, and losing the ball
Opinion on strength coaches
Note that all journeys are different but it’s always good to know what other families are doing in the pursuit of the dream and HOW they are doing it. After all, this is what this blog is about.
As the LouCity season started to wind down, we were blessed to have Jogo back home earlier than anticipated. It was great to spend unexpected (albeit limited) time together as his next endeavor was looming over the horizon. In fact, the rapid proliferation of Coronavirus accelerated a few of our planned activities with him.
As flattered as I always feel that Jogo still wants to train with me, it’s probably best for him to stay active in a team environment especially with the rumors of the USL-C season delaying its 2021 start. Don’t get me wrong, I love training with him. He makes me a better teacher and I hope I can still make him a better person and specifically a better player. One thing is for sure, when Jogo is around, Joana feels extra motivated to practice football and improve.
Luckily, we did manage to get some sessions in and work on some technical and tactical stuff we have been wanting to polish for a few months.
He spent just an adequate amount of time with us to celebrate an improvised version of Halloween. It was a fun one.
As most of you have watched via one of the Chumchat episodes, we are not a Golf family; however, that is slowly changing. While Jogo was in town, we managed to go play at Topgolf with the family for the first time. If I’m being honest, I was dead last but the highlight of the day was spending quality time with the extended family. It brings the boy so much joy to do that…in the end, football is only a small part of our lives.
By now, one would think that we are farewell experts but truth be told, these never get any easier especially during uncertain times. We love seeing Jogo pursue new opportunities but the sacrifice is significant.
We miss you A LOT but we know that you are doing important things for yourself and your future. Keep at it son. We are cheering you on from afar. Be humble, stay healthy, and we will see you when we see you. Coronavirus is unforgiving. Also be careful son. #theGomezway
Last week’s guest was former U20 MNT co-captain Paxton Pomykal. Learn about his reasons for playing ‘the beautiful game’ and whom he praises from youth national team camps. You’d never guess. He also updates the audience on how his rehab is coming along and he picks 5 players whom he would select to play along in a small sided pickup game. Hope you enjoy it.
En la medida en la que la temporada de LouCity llegaba a su final, nosotros teníamos la fortuna de tener a Jogo en casa antes de lo anticipado. Fué muy placentero convivir con él (aunque de forma muy limitada) efímeramente ya que su siguiente aventura no podía demorar. De hecho, la rápida proliferación del Coronavirus aceleró algunas de las actividades que teníamos planeadas con él.
Es recomfortante saber que Jogo todavía tiene deseos de entrenar conmigo. Sin embargo, era mejor que se mantuviera activo en un ambiente grupal especialmente si los rumores de que la temporada de USL-C demoraría su reanudación en el 2021 llegasen a ser ciertos. No me malinterpreten, me fascina entrenar con Jogo. Hacerlo inmediatamente me transforma en un mejor mentor y espero que él todavía se beneficie de mis enseñanzas. De hecho, una cosa es muy cierta, cuando Jogo entrena conmigo, Joana tiene una motivación extra para la práctica del fútbol y así continuar su ascenso.
Afortunadamente logramos entrenar por algunas sesiones y trabajar en unos pequeños detalles técnicos y tácticos los cuales habíamos querido pulir desde hace rato. ¡Quedaste listo hijo!
Jogo pasó la cantidad adecuada de tiempo con nosotros para celebrar un año más de Halloween. La verdad estuvo bastante divertido ya que fué algo muy espontáneo.
Como muchos ya han observado en uno de los episodios de Chumchat, no somos una familia “Golfista”; pero eso va cambiando poco a poco. Mientras Jogo estuvo con nosotros, nos escapamos a jugar a Topgolf con la familia. De hecho, debo confesar de que quedé en último lugar pero vale la pena resaltar que lo mejor fué haber convivido con TODA la familia. Le da tanto gusto al chamacón involucrar a Kammie.
Estas son lozas pesadas pero paulatinamente hemos desarrollado entereza . En realidad, Joana nunca se acostumbrará pero sabiendo que regresarás a casa nos consuela.
Te extrañamos como no tienes una idea pero sabemos que estás tratando de forjar un futuro. Nunca te des por vencido que desde acá te estamos apoyando. Se humilde, manténte sano y nos vemos cuando nos toque volver a vernos. Recuerda que el virus no discrimina. Ten mucho cuidado hijo. #theGomezway
El invitado de honor de la semana pasada fue nada más ni nada menos que Paxton Pomykal. Entérense de sus razones por las que juega “el deporte de las masas“. También nos comparte el progreso de su rehabilitacion y al final del episodio selecciona a 5 de sus cuates pamboleros para una cáscara imaginaria.
When an opportunity arises for a teenager to play football away from home, there are very few parents who can afford to drop everything and accompany the player in such pursuit. We continuously hear that young footballers and their families sacrifice core family experiences to “chase the football dream” away from home. The narrative behind those sacrifices typically involves generic terms/phrases such as family, friends, finances, education, and an overall support system normally provided by a place called “home”.
But what does that mean? Well, it’s all relative; see, moving within the United States beats having to relocate to another country and that will be part 2 of this post. Similarly, moving within the same state beats moving across time zones. For now, let’s talk about the Gómez’s most recent experience.
Earlier this year, we embarked on a new football adventure and as prepared as we thought we were thanks to Johan living in Portugal and after having both boys live an hour away in Frisco for years, Louisville threw a few curve balls at us.
Jogo has always been a solid student (what can we say as his family right?). Well, he regularly takes AP classes, is learning a new language and overall holds himself to a high standard academically. In his first move to Frisco, he went from a Christian learning setup to a secular one. As expected, the quality of instruction at the FC Dallas mandated schools was significantly lower but ultimately free of charge. On the bright side, those schools were more diverse in many aspects and we loved that. Jogo made the best of his time there and to be honest, he suddenly had access to other extracurricular activities that his small faith-based school didn’t have. Unfortunately, he was not allowed to participate in any of those due to football training restrictions.
Back in February of this year, he moved to Louisville, Kentucky which forced him onto an online high school setup due to practice times. Remote learning as a sophomore wasn’t ideal but it’s what the circumstances necessitated. While we are very satisfied with the online setup our family found for Jogo; it’s less effective than onsite learning which is what empirically works best. However, COVID ultimately changed a lot of learning platforms this year for everyone. In hindsight, one could argue that Jogo had a head start with remote learning when it came to self-paced education.
As most of you know by now, most online learning setups involve a ton of work for parents. In our case, we have an adequate amount of time to devote to that activity but not every parent does and thus, consider that time commitment if going this route. Jogo is thriving at school with an online setup but the motivation to do academically well isn’t ever going to stem from the team staff and much less from his classmates like it was at the FCD’s brick and mortar schools. Sometimes Jogo has to dig deep and be extra resourceful to stay on top of his academics whose activities don’t always align with LouCity football activities. Consider the player’s self-motivation (grit) aspect carefully when choosing an online setup. Similarly, the high school social aspect is lacking in a remote-learning environment as important events such as PROM, and a regular graduation will never take place for Jogo…other more banal activities he’s missing out on are attending football games or simple stuff such as just sitting down to eat with his non-football friends in the school cafeteria on a daily basis…
Jogo has to cook everyday. While it’s a very useful life skill; it could be very time consuming and of course something to factor into a decision by the family. We are fortunate enough that Jogo has enjoyed the culinary arts from an early age. Mom enjoys cooking and teaches him remotely (makes videos) so it has never been a chore for Jogo. He finds cooking very therapeutic. However, as a teenager, eating three (or more) daily meals could be a financial blow for the parents of a young player who doesn’t find cooking appealing, has a limited desire to learn or for a player who dislikes grocery shopping as eating out gets expensive quick.
Jogo grocery shops about twice a month and it has proven to be logistically challenging where he lives in Louisville. We thank his roommate, LouCity’s Chaplain, and Uber as without them, it would be extremely difficult to purchase food (hot or cold). Be aware of transportation needs as you embark on a new football adventure for your teenager. Will a car be needed? Is there public transportation? Louisville has public electric scooters (Lime) which are fun and practical rides for short distances but just like eating out, using them gets extremely pricey quick.
When Jogo moved to Louisville (and up until now), he didn’t take a car with him. We made that calculated decision because the apartment where he stays is near the training facilities and Lynn family stadium. Both are within a walking/biking distance from his residence but sometimes the weather inclemency make it difficult to do either. As a result, he rides with his roommate or other teammates for football related activities. This however, poses a challenge as there are times when he has to be at the training facilities or stadium earlier/later than his roommate/teammates so he must hike. The additional exercise is great for a young athlete given Louisville beautiful weather; however, 2020 has brought some unique social-political nuances to several US cities, among them Louisville, which make walking a questionable choice and living so close to downtown Louisville hasn’t exactly been a blessing.
As most of you know, Louisville has been severely impacted by socio-political events in 2020. At times, it was worrisome to have our then 16-year old son be within walking distance from all the daily protests (which sometimes turned violent), police presence (blaring helicopters, curfew enforcing activities, etc.), and everything that came with those events. As a family, we prayed and hoped for the best especially when Jogo had to walk through some of it on his way to/from football activities. We learned a lot from the past few months.
One would think that common sense can keep somebody safe but that’s not always true. Jogo’s inexperience and “look” sometimes kept us up at night as he navigated through a new city. We understand socio-political protests and demonstrations are somewhat random but there are cities (even countries) that are historically more prone to those events than others. Do your homework and make a holistic decision for your player. The player’s safety -on and off the field- when making a decision to go play away from home should be paramount.
Other safety uncertainties (not unique to Louisville) that 2020 brought with it were health concerns. As if having your teenager a thousand miles away wasn’t enough, COVID happened. To be fair, we are somewhat thankful for it as it kept people off the streets in downtown Louisville (well, to an extent). Jogo started undergoing frequent COVID tests, and LouCity’s medical staff did what it could to keep everyone safe. Jogo did an excellent job at staying in his “bubble” and not having a car helped a lot. All of a sudden, other medical aspects of his health turned secondary but they shouldn’t be neglected.
It’s never ideal having your teenager miss doctor’s checkups. I mean, going to see the family doctor, dentist, chiropractor, optometrist isn’t really the same when one is a thousand miles away from home with no car and limited support from the people around you. Make sure you do your research and locate medical staff for your player near the location where he’s staying. Jogo’s location in Louisville proved to be a bit too difficult to locate nearby medical staff (outside the team’s) for our insurance carriers so when he returned home recently, we immediately took him to every possible doctor since he needed to embark on his next opportunity.
In summary, there will be many sacrifices that a family and player will have to endure to pursue any dream with professional aspirations…professional sports just happen to start at an earlier age. In the end, any life decision will involve some level of risk; however, make it a calculated risk by trying to remove as much uncertainty as possible AND more importantly remove it from the player’s already full plate. The players need to focus on “on the field” stuff as much as possible.
Ask questions, talk to current/former players, young player’s parents and definitely team staff. Know that in the end, there’s no unique way to “chase the dream” and everyone’s path is unique. Understand that each person will give you their version of their truth and you as a family will have to consume, process, and make a decision based on that information. We hope that blogs like this one continue helping football decisions for the betterment of the sport.
Please reach out to us if you ever want to know more about any of our experiences and the paths we are pursuing for our kids. We don’t write every detail of our experiences for obvious reasons and there’s more that meets the eye. We are always happy to help: email@example.com. Until next time. #theGomezway
The chums continue producing quality content for the football community. This week’s guest is QPR’s Charlie Kelman. He’s not only a clinical U20 MNT pool striker but also a very humble teenager. Although he never played for the FCD touted academy, he has a great relationship with FCD current and former players. In the podcast, he was asked about “the game” where he scored 4 goals against the FCD’s pre-academy team after being turned down by FCD staff to join the academy. He also talks about his aspirations, dream club and as every other guest on the podcast defines success in a very family-oriented type of way.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Es fundamental para familias y jugadores entender que el fútbol es una actividad emocionalmente volátil. Produce sentimientos opuestos en lapsos muy cortos. Un día te encuentras saboreando las mieles de la victoria y al día siguiente, viendo al rival celebrar. La paciencia y perseverancia son atributos importantes para lidiar con momentos tan cambiantes. En nuestro caso, uno podría asumir que Johan nos preparó muy bien a la adversidad ya que la temporada pasada tuvo una lesión grave que lo alejó de las canchas y nosotros a miles de kilómetros de poder brindarle cuidado. Y para ser honestos, la volatilidad vivida recientemente en la familia, no fué tan dramática como lo describo arriba, más sin embargo la semana pasada se alejó mucho de lo común.
La semana pasada FC Porto B jugó su primer partido de la temporada 2020-2021 y nos encontrabamos felices de que Johan fuera parte de la plantilla; sin embargo, por situaciones diversas, no tuvo la oportunidad de jugar (algo raro). De hecho, en el transcurso del juego, FC Porto B cedió un gol tempranero, y el jugar de visitante en una cancha brava tampoco contribuyó a que Johan pudiera ingresar al terreno de juego. Johan es muy inteligente, mentalmente fuerte y entendió a la perfección el planteamiento táctico del cuerpo técnico dadas las circunstancias del encuentro. Por otro lado, en Louisville, Jogo recibió los llamados minutos de “manejo de juego” en la victoria contra St. Louis. Nosotros lo vemos muy bien, fuerte, participativo, entrón, atrevido y probablemente debió de haber marcado gol. El equipo se encuentra en una excelente racha con su cuadro titular asi que ¿porqué cambiar lo que les está funcionando?
A la tercera Jogo le fué un poco mejor. Jugó uno de sus mejores partidos y tuvo una asistencia pero su equipo terminó perdiendo siendo ampliamente superado por el rival. Irónicamente, el equipo de Joana había dominado al mismo mismo rival tan sólo una semana antes…esas son las cosas que nos brinda el fútbol. Como familia, reflexionamos y aceptamos las lecciones aprendidas ese fin de semana y bueno, nos preparamos para las oportunidades venideras. “El fútbol siempre da revanchas” y eso fué lo que sucedió este fin de semana pasado.
“Los mejores éxitos suceden después de los mayores fracasos” – Henry Ward Beecher
Todo empezó el Viernes a mediodía con la primera competencia interescolar a campo traviesa de Joana. La temperatura era la ideonea y aunque no logró establecer un record personal, cubrió el trayecto de forma eficiente y terminó en primer lugar de su escuela y séptimo en la general. Fué un curso difícil (con pendientes pronunciadas y súper lodoso) pero al final nos representó muy bien.
Las buenas noticias continuaron el Sábado por la mañana (+6 horas in Porto). En una tarde típica lluviosa de Porto, Johan no nada más estaba en la plantilla una vez más pero en esta ocasión iba de titular ante el favorito FC Vizela en casa. De hecho, el Presidente del FC Porto estaba en las gradas presenciando el juego. Ese tipo de vitrina no se da todos los días.
Johan tuvo 40 minutos muy buenos y estuvo involucrado en cada uno de los tres goles en la primera parte. Su segunda mitad fué más para manejar el partido. Esta es su asistencia que derivó en el penal para el segundo gol.
Lo que se robó el show para nosotros fue la jugada sublime que terminó en el tercer gol del FC Porto B. El primer toque dirigido y la definición fueron exquisitos. Felicidades hijo.
El Sábado continuó siendo benévolo para los Gómez ya que Jogo registró su cuarto juego como titular con LouCity. Sus duelos aereos han mejorado muchísimo, su presencia técnica y táctica también va madurando. En general, está aprovechando sus oportunidades y manteniendo un mentalidad de aprendizaje. Línea por línea el equipo es muy talentoso y el sigue peleando por minutos y contribuyendo cuando se le require. El equipo lleva una racha invicta de 9 partidos y ya casi aseguran un lugar en la liguilla. De hecho, el partido de mañana entre St. Louis e Indy es crucial para sus aspiraciones.
Ya el Domingo, el fin de semana terminó de forma excelente con Joana. A pesar de jugar una nueva posición con tendencias más defensivas, tuvo una asistencia en un juego importante en Houston. Las inclemencias del tiempo jugaron un papel importante pero aun así jugó muy bien. Estamos empezando a ver el principio de algo especial con ella y nos alegra lo que le espera si se sigue aplicando. Hay mucho trabajo por delante con toda la tribu Gómez pero necesitamos ser pacientes y perseverar ante toda adversidad. Sin duda, habrá tiempos complicados en la vida de cualquier atleta pero con el apoyo de la familia y amigos, esos tiempos difíciles se convierten en lecciones de vida efímeras. Así es #theGomezway
Ya para despedirnos y en un tono más ameno, disfruten del último episodio de Chum Chat. Judson, Tanner, y Johan invaden las cuentas de Instagram de dos jugadores del ciclo de la selección sub-20 de Estados Unidos: Cole Bassett y Kevin Bonilla. Es uno de los episodios más cómicos y uno que no se van a querer perder. Estos chavos tienen una química impresionante y le damos gracias al fútbol por haberles otorgado esa amistad tan especial que tienen.
It’s important for families and young players to understand that football is an emotional (sometimes draining), volatile endeavor. One day, you are enjoying victory at the top of the pinnacle and the next you are tasting the sourness of defeat. Patience and persistence are key resilience characteristics to prevail. In our case, one could argue that we were well-prepared for adversity since Johan spent most of last season (thousand of miles away from us) injured. Honestly, the recent volatility we experienced wasn’t as dramatic as described above but let’s be honest, last week was far from ideal for the Gómez’s…
FC Porto B had their first game of the 2020-2021 season last week and we were happy that Johan made the 18 (celebrate small victories, right?); unfortunately, he didn’t get to play. FC Porto B giving up an early goal, and playing an important away game didn’t help his cause either. He’s strong mentally and understood it to be a tactical move given the flow of the game. Meanwhile, at LouCity Jogo received some “game management” minutes in their “do or die” victory against St. Louis. He looked really energetic and daring in his short cameo and should have had a goal. LouCity is in a hot streak and honestly, why change something that is currently working.
The third Jogo fared a little better and played one of her best games having an assist but her team lost in a lopsided defeat by a sister club team. Ironically, Joana’s team had previously dominated that same team a week earlier (volatility). That’s the way the game goes sometimes. As a family, we moved on and prepared for the next opportunities to rebound and that’s exactly what happened this past weekend.
“One’s best successes come after their greatest disappointments” – Henry Ward Beecher
It all started Friday at noon with Joana’s first Cross Country (CC) meet. The temperature was great and although she did not set a personal record (PR), she ran a new course elegantly and finished first in her school team (7th overall). It was a difficult (hilly and super muddy) course but she managed to represent us all really well.
The good news continued Saturday morning (+6 hours in Porto). Johan was not only on the 18 but starting against favorite FC Vizela at home in a typical rainy Porto September evening in front of FC Porto’s President. That type of exposure doesn’t happen every day.
Johan had 40 solid minutes; he was involved in each of the three first half goals. His second half was mostly about game management. Here is his assist that led to a PK for the second goal.
What stole the show for us was this sublime play that led to FC Porto B’s third goal. The first touch is exquisite and the finish followed suit. Congrats son.
Saturday continued with a good showing for the Gómez’s as Jogo registered his 4th start of the season with LouCity. His aerial duels have improved, his technical and tactical awareness are very solid. In general, he’s making the most out of his opportunities and keeping a growth mindset. LouCity overall is very talented all-around and he’s fighting for minutes and contributing when called upon. The team is undefeated in its last 9 games and have almost secured a place in the playoffs. Looking forward to St. Louis game tomorrow against Indy.
On Sunday, the weekend ended extremely well with Joana. Despite playing a new position which is more defensive, she had an assist in an important away game in Houston. Inclement weather was a factor but she played well. We are beginning to see the start of something special with her and are excited to see what will soon come her way if she applies herself. There’s a lot of work to be done with all of the Gómez’s clan but we need to be patient and persevere in all the adversity that may come our way. There will be rough times in the lives of athletes time and again but with the strong support of family and friends, those rough times can be ephemeral life lessons. It’s #theGomezway
On a lighter note, please have a laugh. Enjoy the latest episode of Chum Chat. Judson, Tanner, and Johan raid two U20 MNT pool player Instagram accounts: Cole Bassett’s and Kevin Bonilla’s. It’s one of the funniest episodes yet and one that you don’t want to miss. These young adults have such chemistry and we have football to thank for that friendship.