Category Archives: Learning

College soccer (football) explained for players and parents

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.

FCD’s emphasis is soccer; with the production of great soccer players, colleges come knocking

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..

USL Championship is another vehicle to professionalism diluting college soccer talent

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.

Aldo Quevedo. FCD Academy product

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:

Rules

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Eligibility

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.

Recruiting:

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.

Amateurism:

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:

Coaching staff:

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.

Weather:

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.

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.

College career:

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.

Season duration:

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?

Program Reputation:

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.

MLS players:

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)

Past experiences:

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.

Johan at FCD’s Chase signing party

Compensation (Scholarships):

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

Young footballers need to get a passport ASAP

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:

Advantages:

Multiple Nationalities:

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.

Mom and Johan at AT&T stadium (Arlington, TX)
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.

COVID-19:

Recently, when countries shut their borders down due to the pandemic, only citizens of that country (with their proper passports) could travel back and forth from that country to the US and vice versa. We struggled a lot with that conundrum for over 18 months in Portugal.

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.

Traveling/tourism:

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.

Professional 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.

Cost:

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.

Disadvantages:

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.

Multiple Nationalities:

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.

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.

Jogo posing with some fans. Credit: LouCity

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: info@thegomezway.com.

PS. As always, thanks for the support for the children. We continue growing the sport in this country together. #theGomezway

Football’s unwritten laws/rules

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:

Players:

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.

Scoreline:

2-0 lead rule:

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.

Goals:

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.

Free Kicks:

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.

Managers/Coaches:

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.

Referees:

Ejection rule:

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.

Penalty Kicks:

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.

Mexican national team call ups

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

Jogo faced a variety of players in camp but Lainez was definitely one that he praised. Watch out for this guy. 06.01.21

Coaching changes are inevitable

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)

Johan

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.

Johan playing against Benfica

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.

Jonathan

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.

Importance of a continuous education for a young footballer

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:

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:

  1. As a profession, a football career span is extremely short. Among all American mainstream sports, it’s the shortest.
  2. Footballers try to prolong their professional playing careers by starting as mid-teenagers but that normally comes at the expense of a free (or cost-reduced) college education.
  3. Footballers, like any other athletes, are only an injury away from football retirement. Having an academic-based contingency plan is good planning.
  4. Very few footballers will ever earn enough money to last post-full-age retirement (from 35-retirement age). The average salary of football players in MLS is the lowest of all American mainstream sports.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Community College:

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.

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).

MLS/USL Players

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 players

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.

Growth mindset

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.

Not everyone will be able to meet Karim Benzema’s lifestyle at such a young age

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

Letter to my teenage footballer

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.

Spending time with family May 2020. Three generations

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.

Enjoying homemade tacos for dinner at Porto, Feb. 2020

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.

Enjoying the sunset at Rio Douro

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

Together again thanks to COVID , Mother’s Day 2020

2020 in hindsight for the Gómez’s

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.

December 2019:

Personal

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

Personal

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.

Global

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…

National/Global

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.

February

Personal

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…

Jogo and mom at the Werder Bremen Stadium, Bremen, Germany (02.18.20)
National

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.

March

Personal

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.

National/Global

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.

April

Personal

Coronavirus forces the stressful return home for the boys from their temporary homes and we had a full house once again…albeit for a short amount of time.

May

Personal

Jogo returned to Louisville and started the second pre-season with Loucity in small groups due to Coronavirus restrictions.

National/Global

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.

July

Personal

Jogo makes his LouCity debut and Johan returns to Porto to start pre-season with Porto B. Our nest is back to being semi-empty but we are happy for the boys and of course the undivided attention that Joana is getting.

August

National

The West Coast fires extend to Washington State in what some may say is unfortunately a yearly tradition. The deadly wildfires burned millions of acres and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

September

Personal

Johan makes his debut for Porto B and scores this beauty of a goal.

Meanwhile, Jogo continues to earn playing time with LouCity.

Loucity (4) vs Memphis 901 (1), Louisville, Kentucky (09.19.20)

National

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.

October

National

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.

November

Personal

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.

National

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.

Global

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.

December

Personal/Global

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.

National

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.

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

10,000 visits and going

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.

3v3: valuable football development tool

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.

He’s been “Jogo” for over a decade -la bola siempre al diez- 01.19.13 (Orlando, FL)

The start

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.

Orlando

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…

Advantages

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.

Cost

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.

Year-round competition

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.

Collin Smith and Jogo playing against each other in an indoor 3v3

Friends/Family

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.

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.

MOB WC 3v3 Champions , Orlando, FL(01.19.13)

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.

Disadvantages:

Ignorance/Fear

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.

Addiction

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 info@thegomezway.com for comments, questions, etc. Thanks for reading us and happy 2021. #theGomezway.