The German market has become a very enticing spot for young American footballers. For some, it’s become a stepping stone to bigger or different football stages. In a previous post regarding our first trip to Germany, I started to list a few peculiarities about visiting and living in Germany so this is more of a follow up hoping players, and families alike find it useful when their footballers (or any professionals) visit or make Germany their temporary home. Beware, some of the characteristics listed below apply to other European countries as well.
There is always the obvious nuances: culture, language, weather (for us Texans), currency, location, football style of play, etc. However, there are some specific aspects within those nuances that us Americans sometimes take for granted. Having spent half of the last three months living in Germany, I have noted a few peculiarities that I would like to highlight and share.
There’s a very important aspect that I would like to point out about Germans; they are known for their pursuit of perfection. They adhere strictly to a set of pre-established rules and values (and expect the same) such as: respect, efficiency, honesty, punctuality, social awareness, and other textbook characteristics. Most of their activities revolve around these values. Thus, in order to create a first good impression, it’s important to understand and honor these traits. After all, you are a visitor in their country.
For example, it’s important to adhere to punctuality because it could quickly work against you. A 5 PM meeting doesn’t mean 5:03 PM or 5ish. Be on time (early if possible); at first, it may be difficult because most of us Americans are very loose on punctuality. Also, as a environmentally friendly culture, Germans rely heavily on public transportation, and chances are you will have to use it when visiting. Despite city size (big or small); public transportation runs like clockwork so always be on time. Note: Uber is not available everywhere.
In bigger cities like Berlin or Frankfurt, English is more predominant, but don’t be fooled, Germans expect foreign nationals to attempt to learn their language. They value continuous learning and knowing a few common phrases can go a long way. Invest the time to learn something new everyday or prior to your arrival, if possible (reading this post counts).
Danke – Thank you
Please – Bitte
Guten Morgen – Good morning
Excuse me – Entschuldigen Sie, bitte
Sprichst du English – Do you speak English?
Ich spreche kern Englisch – I don’t speak English
Nimmst du Euro – Do you take Euros? (Important in Prague)
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)
It may sound ironic that despite being surrounded by multiple countries, Germany is not as much of a melting pot as the US. It also depends the city you will be visiting or living in. Therefore, don’t assume everyone knows English given their geographic location. You may be in for a surprise especially in the smaller cities like Zwickau in East Germany.
At home we speak Spanish mostly with some English sprinkled in at times. That constant practice of multiple languages has enhanced our ability (verbal and written) to learn any Latin-derived language. Johan is fluent in Portuguese, I can read and write French pretty well, and Italian is extremely easy to understand for us. An outsider could think that we have the “learning a new language” skill down but that’s not the case with German…at least not yet. It’s not rocket-science but just like English, there are several regional variations of the German language. In my two trips to Germany, I have discovered that most older folks do not speak English -which forces me into conversational scenarios; seemingly, the older folks are not as good stewards as the younger generation to those of us trying to learn German. Be sure to have an translation app. or a dictionary handy when traveling.
After seven months of living there, Johan is now able to get by conversationally. Okay, he IS my son but he’s indeed a very smart young man. He recently started taking German classes (with Nico Carrera’s aunt) and will continue to improve everyday. He’s now acclimated to the culture and language. His teammates all speak English which has helped and of course, his coach Joe Enochs is American who is also fluent in German.
A lot of Germans live in apartments; that is because on average, Germans are more risk averse than Americans and are more comfortable leasing. Whether you own or rent, homes are not just smaller on average than in the US (I get it, everything is bigger in Texas) but they are also built differently. They are made of masonry which makes organic modifications to the building (interior or exterior) an elaborate task. Homes have to be designed efficiently from inception.
Most homes are not equipped with a central HVAC unit. Therefore, each room has its own heater (aka radiators). AC units are not common even in cities close to the sea (summers are very pleasant). It’s good to learn how to operate these units as the winters in some parts of Europe are harsh. Germany’s coldest months are January and February.
Most homes do not have dryers. Thus, the player may need to learn how to hang dry clothes after washing them. The winters may pose additional challenges to hang dry clothes indoors. There are several reasons why dryers are not popular in Europe (not just Germany):
Energy hoggers: Dryers are appliances that consume a lot of energy. Germans in general are very environment-conscious plus, the cost of energy is high.
Fines: Some German cities impose hefty fines to high energy spenders; Germans not only try to keep energy costs low but also avoid legal fees.
Clothes last longer: Clothes fade less when not machine-dried and thus typically have a longer lifespans. Hang-drying is very common even indoors
Most home windows open inwards: longways or sideways. Not only are they different but they are more energy efficient than US windows due to their triple or quadruple panes. Also, they allow better ventilation and are safer. It takes some getting used to with their multiple turning positions.
German drivers are required to have extensive training before they acquire their driver’s license. This training equips them for a spectrum of situations and as a result, driving in Germany is safer than in the US. It is hard to imagine having an autobahn in the US. Most Germans own manual transmission cars; however, this could be a trend in other western Europe countries as we experienced the same in Spain and Portugal. Leasing, purchasing or simply repairing an automatic transmission car is more expensive than a manual transmission one. Thus, it also makes financial sense to learn how to drive a manual transmission car before heading to Europe. You don’t want the young footballer to have to worry about learning to drive a manual transmission car, getting a driver’s license and on top of that, learning the traffic laws all at the same time.
Traffic lights are different. The transition to a green light goes through yellow (amber) first. Red->Yellow->Green unlike the United States and Mexico. Always be alert, there are traffic cameras everywhere. Be sure to honor speed limits; otherwise, you can quickly rack up speeding tickets fines. Speed limits do not have much margin for error (like in the US +/- 5 Mph). This is especially true in smaller cities (just like in the US) where speeding ticket revenue is relied upon heavily.
There’s nothing significantly different from the police other than they are present but their presence is not intimidating at all; I have never witnessed anybody getting pulled over. That being said, the “polizei” sirens are unique. They don’t really wail like our patrol cars; they have more of a pleasant sound. When I first heard them, the sound reminded me of the many Pink Panther French inspector cartoons I watched in my childhood.
Gasoline is really expensive even compared to the most affluent areas in the US. A liter of gas in Germany (about 25% of a gallon) costs about the same as a gallon of gas in Texas. A few months ago, the average gas price in Southeast (Saxon) Germany for a liter was €1.65. With those prices, one has to make each trip count which brings us to their environmental awareness and their heavy reliance on public transportation. There are some cities in Germany where certain car models are not allowed entry. They have high car emissions standards.
Germany ranks in the top 10 in the world for green countries. Germans are very environmentally conscious. One can see wind mills everywhere; the stored energy is used for multiple purposes.
Unfortunately, as green as the country is and as environmentally conscious as Germans strive to be, if you are a non-smoker like me, it will be difficult to get away from second hand smoke. A lot of public places are setup to be very inclusive and it’s inevitable to avoid second hand smoke. Thus, having a meal outdoors to enjoy the awesome summer weather could require some getting used to.
Speaking of public places, WiFi access (especially free) is extremely difficult to find unlike the US. Not only that, you will have to adjust your network provider’s data plan before you travel to Germany in order to get some decent cellular upload/download speeds. Otherwise, even playing a Twitter video will be impossible when not connected to WiFi. If you will reside in Germany, consider purchasing a phone and its corresponding data plan which gives you the benefit of having a local phone #.
Germany is beautiful. There are plenty of historical places in and around Germany for which you will want to take pictures and videos. Whether you are visiting or staying, make sure your data plan (and phone battery) is ready for all you will experience. We didn’t talk about the shortage of public electrical outlets in this post but those are also difficult to find so having an extra power bank is a good idea. You can revisit this post about “Going to trials, training stint? Checklist of what you may need Part 2” for additional peculiarities when traveling to Europe.
We will surely be visiting Germany (and other European countries) again soon. As we do that, we will continue to learn new “peculiarities” and will share them here. Until then. #theGomezway
Last year, we all begged for 2020 to end as we were ready to move on… now, here we are. Some would say we are better off while others may vehemently disagree. Personally, as the Gómez reflect upon what 2021 brought us, we must inevitably acknowledge some of the challenges at the global, and national levels of the past twelve months. Just like 2020 was a very tumultuous year from various view points: political, economic, socio-cultural, and technological to name a few, there is always the silver lining and we are grateful for the many lessons learned.
Our family was blessed in many ways but not without overcoming challenges. Reminiscing about this year’s events is a reminder to live each day at its fullest with no regrets. Thus, with a few days remaining in 2021, let’s recap some of the most notable events for our family and parallelly (especially sports) events around the nation and the world in chronological order. In the sporting side of things, 2021 could definitely be labeled as the year of the “sports resurgences” or better yet, “title droughts end“
After having spent the Christmas and New Year holidays with Johan in Portugal, Jogo finally returned home from successful Portuguese trials. We were very thankful for the invitations to train with different clubs during difficult times. Although opportunities with those clubs ultimately did not materialize, sometimes the journey starts with filtering out potential opportunities.
On January 6th, in an unfortunate turn of events, the US Capitol was invaded and attacked by a group of alleged President Trump’s supporters. Their objective was to overturn President Trump’s electoral defeat by disrupting a Congress session.
The Capitol was locked down and lawmakers evacuated while the rioters vandalized it. In the end, five people died with more than 140 people injured during the storming.
On February 1st, Jogo officially started his first LouCity pre-season. Frigid weather was awaiting the start of the first practice but that wasn’t going to be an impediment. In a fun, unplanned team-bonding activity, teammates, and members of the technical staff shoveled snow to make way for the first practice of the season. When one has clear objectives, a little cooler weather won’t stop the will to succeed…and on he went to his first practice of the season driving for the first time in treacherous conditions.
Winter storm Uri brought unprecedented weather which impacted the entire state of Texas (and some surrounding states) leaving millions of households without electricity or water. For us, the silver lining was that Joana and I were stranded at home for several days and we made a ton of memories surviving with basic stuff. We will cherish those moments forever. People all over the state came together to help in the most unexpected ways.
On February 7th, then-43 year old Tom Brady led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a franchise second Super Bowl LV (55th) victory. History was written as the Bucs became the first team to win a Super Bowl in their home stadium.
In the process, Brady earned his 7th Super Bowl ring over heavily favorites reigning champs Kansas City Chiefs by a score of 31-9. He is the epitome of consistency.
FC Porto makes the difficult decision to rescind Portuguese legend Rui Barros‘ contract as the Porto B coach. The sacking unfortunately coincided with Johan’s nursing a slight knock. As the team quickly gets into a fierce Segunda Liga relegation fight (Welcome to Europe Johan), Johan sees his playing time gradually reduced. In an attempt to help Porto B survive the relegation battle, the new coach (Antonio Fòlha) started adding first team players to Porto B’s game day rosters which proved inefficient. In the last game of the season, in a lucky yet divine way, Porto B managed to stay in the second division, despite losing the derby against Benfica by a one goal difference and using 8 first team players in the game. Johan tells us about it in this article.
2021 was a memorable year for boxing legend deaths. On March 13th, “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler passed away at the age of 66. Hagler was an undisputed middleweight champion, with his most-dominant performances coming in the 1980s when he defended his title 12 times. In 67 total fights, he was 62-3-2.
Other boxing legend deaths in 2021 included: Leon Spinks (February 5th) who is part of a very select group who once defeated the great Mohammad Ali.
BTW, this year, we also had the opportunity to visit the Louisville, Kentucky native Mohammad Ali museum. It’s a must-see attraction if you are into boxing -like I am- in downtown Louisville.
On March 27th, days after an Evergreen container ship became lodged in the Suez Canal blocking all commercial traffic, it was reported that it would take days to weeks to dislodge it. The 224,000 ton vessel first became lodged on March 23, with no sign of budging. On March 29, the rear of the ship was dislodged, but rescuers believed it would still take time to refloat the vessel and fully open the canal. On March 31, rescue missions failed yet again as rescuers announced that they may need to remove 706,000 cubic feet of sand in order to move it. Water may also need to be removed from around the area in order to remove the ship.
As a family, we made the calculated decision to allow me to spend a good portion of the USL-C season in Louisville to help Jogo out during this important year. After 60+ days of preseason, Jogo started regular season play on April 24th under then-coach John Hackworth. He performed well in a 2-0 victory over Atlanta United II. His first and last hockey assists for the season ironically coincided with his first and last games of the season.
On April 5th, the NCAA March Madness championship game was played at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis. The big XII underdog Baylor Bears (which defeated my running horns) were crowned national champions by beating the then undefeated Gonzaga Bulldogs by a score of 86-70. This was the first time the Men’s Baylor Basketball team won the championship game.
Upon FC Porto’s season conclusion, Johan briefly returned home after being away for an entire year and playing without fans. 2020 and 2021 will undoubtedly go down in the world history books as tough years for professionals and footballers were not the exception. Johan, playing exclusively as a midfielder, helped Porto B avoid relegation. FC Porto helped him become a more versatile player; however, we, as a family, ultimately made the difficult decision to leave the Portuguese market for the time-being. It was a tough, very tough decision. FC Porto is a great organization and the Portuguese market, like any other, has its nuances. Some may disagree and think that the Portuguese football market has historically been brutal for American players. Possibly true…we are working on a publication about the Portuguese football market. Porto as a city is such a beautiful, touristic, paradisiac place with a very easy language to learn. We’ll definitely miss it.
Meanwhile, Jogo received his first callup to the Mexican senior national team for training. During camp, he got to know all the players who were preparing for the new Nations League tournament.
At camp, Tecatito, and friend of Johan from Porto, confused Jogo with Johan and told him: “No mames gūey, se parecen un buen” (The resemblance of the two is incredible at times).
On May 30th and 23 years since their last league title, Mexico’s Liga MX Cruz Azul (my club) was crowned Guardianes’s champion reaching its 9th star after defeating Santos Laguna in both legs of the championship games. The victory hit close to home as the family bleeds blue. Without a doubt, its impact was felt internationally due to the many championship games Cruz Azul had previously lost in the most dramatic ways during those 23 years, and thus the inception of the verb: “cruzazulear“. A curse had been indeed broken. The game was extra special for all of me as Johan and I watched it together at home. Honestly, I shed a few tears of joy…
On June 6th, the USMNT defeated Mexico by a score of 3-2 in overtime to claim the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League title. In a back and forth contest that had to go to overtime, the US team overcame a deficit twice. This would be the first of three victories by the USMNT over Mexico in 2021.
2021 marked what some would consider the end of Rafael Nadal era in major tennis tournaments. Nadal entered the French Open as the heavy favorite seeking to become the first man to win 21 majors and his 14th French Open. He reached the semifinals of the clay event where he encountered Novak Djokovic in a rematch of the previous year’s final. There, Nadal was upset by eventual champion Djokovic in four sets, in only his third-ever (two to Djokovic) loss at the French Open. Following his loss, Nadal withdrew from both Wimbledon and the Olympics citing a left foot injury. Prior to the French Open, Nadal had lost in the quarterfinals at another major: the Australian Open.
July was a very busy month in terms of sporting events and more so with championship stories that had not taken place in many decades in the international realm.
After a brief training period which included some scrimmages, Johan signed with FSV Zwickau. Managed by American Coach Joe Enochs who played alongside Gregg Berhalter, Johan opened another door in a different market for himself. He quickly showed his quality scoring a goal in his second friendly. Germany opened up its borders shortly after which allowed the family to go visit him and help him get settled in Zwickau. It was a memorable trip.
The closure of the US-Canada borders due to the pandemic forced the NHL to temporarily realign the teams in three US-based divisions and one Canadian division to limit travel. The top four teams in each division played each other with the winners of those games advancing to the divisional round. The four divisional playoff champions were then re-seeded by regular season points in the Stanley Cup Semifinals. The winners of the Semifinals played each other in the Stanley Cup Finals. On July 7th, the Tampa Bay Lighting defeated the Montreal Canadiens in game 5 to win its 3rd NHL Stanley Cup Final.
On July 10th, Argentina (and Messi) finally won the 47th edition of Copa America by defeating archrival Brazil by a score of 1-0. I still remember watching Argentina’s last international tournament victory 28 years ago in 1993 vs Mexico. This trophy is ultimately what gave Messi the advantage to edge other footballers in the pursuit of yet another Golden Ball or Ballon d’Or.
The next day, on July 11th, Italy won the Euro 2020* by defeating England by a score of 3-2. Their last Euro was celebrated 53 years ago. For our family, it was a great moment having watched the Italy vs Spain semifinal game while in Spain.
COVID continued to impact the world of sports relentlessly. The Tokyo Olympics were supposed to take place in 2020 but a calculated decision was made to move them to 2021. It was an atypical Olympics without fans where, among many abnormalities, Simon Biles reminded us that it’s OK to not be OK. The USWNT wanted to return to their *normal* winning ways; however, in a surprising slow performance in bracket play, the team did not advance to the championship match. Instead, the team ended up earning a bronze medal against a tough Australian side by the score of 4-3 but underperforming in their journey.
We knew that the NBA was very popular in Mexico but now we have witnessed first hand how many fans follow it in Europe. To cement 2021 as the “come-backs” in sports other than football, after 50 years since their last championship in 1971, the Milwaukee Bucs defeated the Phoenix Suns in 6 games to win their 2nd franchise title.
Jogo suffered a slight knock in the game against Oklahoma City (played on turf) and missed Mexico’s first set of U20 MNT friendlies in Spain. Unfortunately, we are now experts at this type of adversity; in a similar fashion, back in 2020, Johan had missed the January U20 MNT camp and March friendlies due to injury and the pandemic respectively. Unfortunately, injuries are an inevitable part of this sport and yet, we, as a family, still struggle coping with these temporary setbacks. A few months afterwards, Jogo was fortunate enough to be selected again to play against France, and England in another Mexico U20 set of friendlies in Spain.
On August 1st, in another back and forth match, the USMNT defeated Mexico in overtime by a score of 1-0 to win the Gold Cup. This title marked the second consecutive victory in the summer over the Mexican rivals.
On August 10th, after 21 years spent at Barcelona, Messi and Barcelona part ways in an emotional yet expected announcement. A few days later, PSG announced the signing of the super star. His adaptation period in France has been nothing but easy so far.
September was a great month on the personal footballing side of things…
On September 1st, Jogo celebrated his 18th birthday and became eligible to sign with a European club. As a family, we had traveled to Spain in preparation for this event. On September 30th, the announcement was finally made public by LouCity and Real Sociedad. Read all about it in the link above.
I moved to Zwickau Germany for about 5 weeks to live with Johan. I loved every minute of it; we had not lived at the same place since he was 15. I’m grateful we got to spend some quality time together and I got to learn about a different culture during COVID times.
On October 14th, former Secretary of State Colin Powell dies of COVID-19 complications at age 84. Powell was the first Black U.S. secretary of state serving from 2001-2005, and had shaped foreign policy in leadership roles in a number of Republican administrations. RIP Colin Powell.
LouCity’s season ended prematurely in an abrupt and dramatic way at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rowdies again in the Eastern Conference final game. Our family made the trip to St. Petersburg to support Jogo.
UEFA Champions League
On November 3rd, while I was still in Germany, Johan surprised me with tickets to attend our first Champions League game together in Red Bull Arena in Leipzig. We are making this a tradition, when he was at Porto, we had had the opportunity to watch Porto vs. Young Boys.
Unfortunately, we did not get to see Messi but we got to see Mbappe, Neymar, and the player who stole the show: “el fideo” DiMaria. The final 2-2 score did not disappoint. Spending time with my oldest: priceless. Looking forward to the next one Johan.
We indeed closed the year in a strong way by attending some other important international games.
Following the UEFA Champions League game, on November 15th, I attended the World Cup Qualifying game between USA vs Mexico game in Cincinnati. TQL stadium. It was a unique experience. The US squad beat Mexico for a third time in 2021. This time the score was another 2-0.
On November 2nd, the Atlanta braves won their 4th world series. This time, they convincingly defeated the Houston Astros (7-0) in the 6th game of the series.
On November 8th, after 20 months of having its international borders shut down, the US decides to open them back up. Unfortunately, I traveled back home from Germany on that day and the trip became longer than usual as security lines were super long. Patience is indeed a virtue.
December was an extremely busy month from a sporting perspective and it hasn’t yet concluded. History is still being written…
Jogo is called up to the USMNT.
Jogo received his first USMNT callup. One that would have never taken place if the Spanish working visa were not taking an eternity to process. He made his USMNT debut and played a small role in the only goal.
Jogo finally completes his move to Real Sociedad. This is what Xabi Alonso had to say about him back in October hoping that he would be with the team in November…
Honoring the slogan of the year of the comebacks, Atlas FC, after 70 years of their last championship title, defeated Leon in penalty kicks to win the Grita México Apertura title on December 12th. This game was even more memorable than my Cruz Azul’s May title due to their longer dry spell. En horabuenta a todos mis amigos rojinegros. I know the feeling of relief. There are many Atlas fans scattered throughout México and the US.
On December 28th, the ex-NFL Hall of Fame coach John Madden passed away at the age 85. Some will remember him from his coaching days with the Oakland Raiders. He won a super bowl there. Yet others will remember him from his NFL broadcasting days (commentating my cowboys games) with his simple analysis. The younger generation will always associate him to the Madden NFL Football video games. In any of those facets, Madden will be remembered as a legend on and off the field and perhaps the person who has impacted the NFL the most with his relentless love of the game. RIP John Madden.
For the first time in nearly 50 years (another resurgence), the title frontrunners: Britan’s Lewis Hamilton and the Dutch Max Verstappen entered the final race level on points. Red Bull team’s Max Verstappen took Abu Dhabi’s pole position with a brilliant display but Mercedes team’s Hamilton shared the front row seeking his eight title.
In an ending fit for this most chaotic and captivating of seasons, that all changed when the Safety Car emerged late on, allowing Verstappen to pit again and attack Hamilton on the final lap of the season, the Dutchman passing at Turn 5 to close out victory and, with it, the 2021 drivers’ title for the first time. México’s Checo Pérez ultimate Red Bull’s team effort positioned Verstappen to win the race. What a race!!!
2021 was definitely the second consecutive COVID impacted year and as the famous Yogi Berra once said: “It’s not over until it’s over”. There are still a few days left this year and we must finish strong even as the daily COVID cases continue to set record highs. All in all, there are still several silver lining items to reflect upon. One being that we are definitely closer to reaching a new normalcy and that can only be encouraging news. People have started realizing what’s truly important in their lives these past couple of years. On the sporting side of things, many sports records/curses were finally broken. Thus, we approach 2022 with a lot of hope and expect that the new year brings us more pleasant surprises and more sporting history will surely be written. Here are some things our family will be looking forward to.
Togetherness is the fuel that keeps our family functioning. We hope 2022 allows us the ability to gather, reunite, and openly interact with one another. Recently, 19+ months passed since the last time our family was all in the same room. Well, that meeting finally occurred, of all places, at the DFW airport. Below are some pictures of us picking up Johan from his return from Germany trip and us returning from Jogo’s USMNT debut. It’s been very challenging and will continue to be so; however, if we were able to withstand 19+ months apart, 2022 has nothing on us with our recharged batteries and positive energy.
2022 will definitely start off a bit challenging for the family with Jogo’s unplanned delayed arrival to Spain due to his ongoing work visa dilemma. We are hoping he gets to register on time to be able to play in the spring. Either way, we will have to go drop him off in San Sebastian, Spain in a few days. Some tears will be shed but we know he will be in a good place and closer to Johan.
On Johan’s side, he is in a good, stable environment and we hope he stays healthy above all. If he can do that consistently, he will inevitably continue to play an instrumental piece in FSV Zwickau’s attack and impact game outcomes like he has been. He has settled in well in Germany and could be in auto-pilot mode the second half of the season. The family will go visit both of them in the next few months COVID-permitting.
The pandemic uncertainty has not gone away. At the beginning of 2021, we thought we had a vaccine solution for the Delta variant. Now, Omicron is here. Hope is the last thing to lose and we certainly hope 2022 turns out to be a better year for all of us. 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. Seize the day #carpediem
On a very football selfish personal note, 2022 will be a World Cup year and that’s always an event that draws global attention.
Qatar World Cup (WC)
Towards the end of the calendar year, the world will have a chance to witness the next WC. It will be the fist WC in the modern era to be played in the month of December. We are all so looking forward to it but until then, let’s keep in touch.
We are always grateful for the support towards our family. If you like to stay up on the latest and don’t follow us yet in other social media platforms, please do so. We have a variety of content. You can find us at the links below. Happy 2022 New Year everyone!!!
As I wait for my flight in Gate B30 at the DFW airport, I can’t help but think this may be my last trip to Louisville (at least in a while). I know Jogo will want to return to the beautiful Kentucky Derby city at some point in the near future but for now, this may be it for me. I resist the temptation of any sad thoughts crossing my mind but it’s an inexorable feeling nonetheless.
My late-night regular arrivals at the Muhammad Ali airport will be, in a strange way, sorely missed. The excitement of strolling down concourse B late at night filled up my heart with joy as it was an indication that I was about to see Jogo again.
I must not complain; we played three playoff games after I started this post and I am grateful for that run. Unfortunately, OUR season fell short one game and while the club will have another opportunity for a third star next year, we will be *physically* moving on to a different setup. One that we hope is half as good as the one LouCity and everybody around it provided for us. Thus, in a weird coincidental way with Thanksgiving day (this post was supposed to be published Thanksgiving week), it’s time to publicly give thanks to some folks (in no particular order) who helped us in this process. Disclaimer: The omission of any names is by no means intentional, rest assured that Jogo will reach out (or already has) to you in some way but most importantly, you should know what role you played during his time in Louisville.
Thank you Brad Estes, John Neace and the rest of the ownership group. There is no doubt you are visionaries. Lynn family stadium just doesn’t happen out of thin air, the NWSL team requires meticulous planning and of course, the great youth academy just doesn’t form itself overnight. Yet, you have managed to successfully build all of that in a very short window and during unprecedented times. Now, the idea of developing talent from within is coming to fruition. It is just the beginning…as for us, we always knew we were coming to the right place. At the time, perhaps the idea of letting a 16-year old Texas boy be part of YOUR project, may have seemed as an outlier but you went along with it. Kuddos on trusting the technical staff’s recommendation and deciding to embark on this adventure with us. THANK YOU. We will forever be Louisville City FC ambassadors.
Coach Hack and Danny were the masterminds of this project with Danny the final executor and through thick and thin, we made it work. The detailed and targeted feedback (including frequent video analysis) helped Jogo become a better player. You pioneered a new pathway and now other young footballers see USL (and maybe LouCity) as a very viable option for their next football destination. You may not realize it but you started something special around the league.
We now part ways (for a while at least). Danny (and staff) will continue to amass victories and trophies while mastering new things with his relentless study of the game while Jogo will strive to maximize this new opportunity and represent us well. We have nothing but gratitude to the entire technical staff: Danny, Scott, Simon, George, Mario, Stu, Aurelio, Ben, Austin (all of you). Thank you for your patience while preparing Jogo for his next endeavor.
From the initial idea of serving as Jogo’s host family, to the first Easter, and even opening your home to Johan, you always made our family feel welcome. Through birthday celebrations and family dinners, to the talks we had at the LouCity Academy facility, you were always there for Jogo. Thank you. You are blessed in you lives because of the frequent display of these acts of kindness without expecting anything in return. Sanchez Family, your love and support was instrumental in Jogo’s adaptation period. We love you.
Garrett (aka G). You went beyond any self-imposed team *duties* with Jogo when you didn’t have to. You also didn’t have to drive Jogo to the grocery store every two weeks during COVID when he didn’t have a car or regularly check up on him, or keep our family up to date via texts. You, and your family, are God-sent gifts in so many ways and you have a unique place in our hearts. I hope you know how blessed we feel to have had the pleasure of meeting you and your family. We’ll be in touch.
Wynder Family. We never met your entire family but Jogo always spoke volumes of y’all. You were always very supportive of Jogo and he specifically asked me to include you in this post. Our family only had the chance to meet Josh and Elijah and through them we can see how special your entire family must be. They are two great players with great family values. They developed a brotherly bond with Jogo that will endure the rigors of time and distance. Maybe one day, we will meet all of you. For now, please know that we are thankful for all you did for Jogo (and Carl); one day, you will reap the fruits of your kindness.
Your support was relentless. It’s no coincidence the cathedral is a fortress. It takes A LOT for a team to go there and get a positive result. The impact you have on the players is understated. That 90th minute sprint is much easier with your support. We loved every moment of it and although we may have fallen short this season, more opportunities will continue to come. Jogo thanks you for always being there no matter the circumstances. Please know that every time Jogo went out there, he gave his best. Sometimes that may have not been enough but it was his best that day. Your support was always unconditional and we had never experienced anything like it even as fans ourselves. We will return to LouCity at some point of our lives in some capacity. For now, thank you and continue growing the beautiful sport in this awesome city. Thank you Coopers, Ledgehogs, LouCity Ladies, Scouse’s House, et al. You will all be missed greatly.
You blindly believed in our boy; he quickly became “Jogo”. You loved him and for that, our family loves you back. The continuous support on and off the field was felt every step of the way. You gave him a greater sense of belonging when it was most needed. From the guy at the Honda dealership offering him a free oil change to the little kids chanting his name in St. Petersburg wearing his jersey. Thank you for the unwavering support since day one until their last airport arrival.
No, deed ever went unnoticed. Thank you fans. For us, it now becomes a change where “Jogo” will not be known by many and he will be just another American footballer trying to pave his way into a tough European market. However, your support has given him the confidence to further believe in himself and do his best to go integrate with his new teammates halfway across the world.
You embraced our Texas teenager with open arms. At times, he probably didn’t do (or say) the right things but you were patient with him and helped him regardless. Napo, you were the best roommate he could ever have during very difficult COVID times. Thank you for helping him integrate to the Louisville life and his new teammates. Oscar: you undoubtedly made Jogo a better left back. Never forget that. The rest of the leaders and mentors on the team (Paolo, Pat, Sean, Lexi, Luke, Niall, Cam, George, etc.), you aligned him with the mature, winning culture of the club and helped him grow mentally. Antoine: you talked to him about finances and now the boy is ready to invest. In the process, you always found a way to make him laugh. Ownby: you made sure he was always having fun and bettering himself as a footballer. Oscar and Jorge (Los Gatos), you made sure Jogo didn’t forget his ancestry. Wes: Thanks for looking after him as if he were your little brother. Jogo probably didn’t say it enough: but he loves you back. Tyler and Kyle: You reminded him of God’s importance in our lives. As a father, I cannot be any more grateful to y’all for being his family away from home. It was very comforting witnessing that you had his back on and off the field. I hope our paths cross again in some capacity. Stop by if you ever visit Keller, Texas (Lexi). Our home will always welcome all of you.
Haley, Kyle, Logan and Jonathan. Not in our wildest dreams would we have possibly imagined anyone doing as much for Jogo as you guys did. We are indebted to you for life. A top class club hires top talent. Keep up the good work. Your social media work is unique, funny, and the content is not only very creative but engaging. Thanks for making Jogo part of it. Our family, scattered in different places around the world, enjoyed every second of it.
Personally, the pictures (and caption) below were my favorites of them all.
You also did a great job managing the numerous interview platforms provided for Jogo. Our gratitude permeates to them as well: Courier Journal, Chasing a Cup, ESPN Louisville, VamosMorados, The Coopers (Barrel Proof #274) and other regular LouCity FC coverage outlets like: WBNA 21, WDRB Sports, WHAS11, WBKY, WLKY, and of course ESPN+ just to name a few. To the multiple photographers who facilitated pictures of Jogo and the team: your support was invaluable. At times, you probably thought you were only doing your job but know that in the process you were positively impacting a teenager without even knowing it…thank you as well.
USL has solidified as a pathway to professionalism since 2011. These days however, young prospects are leveraging both USL-1 and USL-C as a platform to continue their development. Thank you for providing that pathway for Jogo for almost three years. We are forever grateful for the years in USL-1 and USL-C that Jogo (and Johan) spent in the league. Thank you for all the support. We will always be USL ambassadors as well.
See you soon
There are many folks I unintentionally left out. You know who you are. Thank you. Unfortunately, all good stories must come to an end and sadly ours ends now. We are happy to have pursued this path especially when it was unchartered territory for a young Mexican-American teenager but we ALL, together, made it work. We leave this temporary journey better than when we joined it.
Rest assured that we will always “vouch” for you, the city, and everything associated with our process. There are already other young Texas prospects interested in pursuing the USL path.
We leave behind strong relationships that will endure the challenges of distance, and time. However, it’s still tough (even at my age) to process this temporary separation. For now, we must say “see you soon” and start our next adventure. ¡¡¡Muchísimas gracias amigos!!! #theGomezway
Football takes you to unimaginable places locally, domestically, or internationally. This past summer, we took our first family trip to Germany. Today, I’m writing about our next football trip which happened to be to Spain (San Sebastián to be exact). We hope you enjoy it.
It was a surgically planned trip. There were many moving parts and if any went wrong, the trip could have been a bust. Thanks to the flexibility that COVID forced us into at our workplaces and being the middle of the summer vacation for Joana, the Gómez’s were able to spend the week prior to the Spain trip in Louisville with Jogo. Fortunately, Johan had already returned to Europe for pre-season with FSV Zwickau avoiding yet another moving part.
We left Louisville on a Thursday afternoon with Kansas City as our initial destination. LouCity was scheduled to play Sporting Kansas City II (SKC II) the next day and the plan was to go watch the game, pick Jogo up after the game and then drive all night back home to Texas.
Not a minor item but we also spent Thursday night in Kansas City fine tuning the last few logistical details of César’s (Jogo’s uncle) trip from Mexico City to Texas. He would be joining us in Dallas to make the trip with us to Spain on Saturday morning.
Night before Europe
It was our first time visiting Children’s Mercy Park so we took the obligatory pictures prior to the game. Ironically, a few days after our visit to Kansas, the US Men’s National Team played three games there during Gold Cup. Jonathan was supposed to be with the team but this trip prevented him from making the final roster. Tough choices sometimes have to be made…
The game went well and Jogo had another assist and after the game, he briefly caught up with his long-time friend Tyler. Meanwhile, us parents made some new parent friends too; it was there that we learned that Tyler was heading to Germany soon after.
The drive to Dallas
After the SKCII game, we waited for Jogo to shower, finish his normal dressing room ritual and embarked on an all night (8+ hours) drive back to Texas. Upon arrival at home around 5 AM, we met César, rested for a couple of hours and continued on to the next stop of our trip: Dallas Lovefield airport.
We left home riding an Uber Tesla (first time for me in one of those). The automatic pilot was nice and worth the occasion. The complete trip would consist of multiple stops. Dallas to Atlanta, Atlanta to France, France to Bilbao, and finally Bilbao to San Sebastián.
Layover in France
We left Dallas Love Field airport at 12:25 PM to Atlanta. It was a two hour flight. Once we landed in Atlanta, we literally boarded our next flight an hour later (we had to dash to the gate) to France. The duration of the flight from Atlanta to France was approximately 7.5 hours. We arrived in France at 7 AM (midnight Texas time) on Sunday morning. Our layover in France made the trip longer but anytime you are with family; it’s all worth it.
The layover in Charles De Gaulle airport allowed us time to take a quick nap, practice some French and meet up with Mike. These trips are difficult for our aging (and aching) bodies and thankfully, we don’t have to undergo many of them frequently. Note: I have spent the last month in Germany.
From France’s airport, we boarded a 90 minute flight to Bilbao (capital of the community Gipuzkoa) in the plane pictured below. Most of us were really tired by this time and could not sleep well due to the turbulence and the short duration flight.
We arrived in Bilbao and were quickly greeted by our ground transportation. He took us on a beautiful 70 minute ride to San Sebastián. By this time, we were so jaded that we were unable to truly appreciate the natural beauty of the entire ride. We did however, on the way back, have an excellent football specific conversation with the chauffeur. The Euros (UEFA European Championship) were in full swing and Spain was doing well upon our arrival.
What a paradisiac city. We were still very jet-lagged Sunday morning and slept for a couple hours. Later in the day, we found a way to make it out to dinner with team staff. They took us to a beautiful restaurant with the most astonishing views in town overlooking the Bay of Biscay.
In the next few days, we had a chance to sight-see a few things while we were there. The most impressing was the sea. San Sebastián is adjacent to the Bay of Biscay and sunsets are very picturesque.
During our stay, we had an opportunity to tour the training facilities, stadium, and of course talk with Xabi Alonso at length. Of course, at the end of our conversations, the obligatory picture had to be taken. Excellent guy who rides a Harley to Zubieta (the name of Real Sociedad’s beautiful facilities). Everything was explained to us and there was not a question that went unanswered.
After we had accomplished all our objectives in San Sebastián, we went back to the hotel and relaxed a little. Well, the Euros were taking place and what a better place to watch them. Spain was playing in the semifinal against Italy. I remember we had to cut our shopping day short as stores were closing early; the entire country was paralyzed watching the game. Unfortunately, that day, Spain was eliminated in PKs. Here is video of the last PK taken by Italy. We felt bad recording but apparently we weren’t the only ones…better times ahead for Spain.
A few days later, we were back home. Jogo was playing at Tulsa and life went on as normal as it could given the circumstances…well, almost so, except that we now had these exciting news that we couldn’t necessarily share with anyone outside the family. It’s an odd feeling but rules are rules.
Until next time San Sebastián…
In a few weeks, we’ll be back. This time, we will be better prepared than when we landed the first time in Portugal or Germany. We speak the language, not Basque of course. Jogo will be in his new home, with new teammates, living in a different time zone, etc. Some tears will be shed (points at self) but God is good. All will be well.
Our awesome present
For now, the grind continues and Jogo and team just finished their regular season and now onto playoffs tomorrow. Good luck LouCity from Zwickau, Germany. God knows how much we will miss your setup and the people associated with the club. We will always rep the purple #Vamosmorados.
Jonathan talks about his entire journey (including the trip above) from his time at FC Dallas in this interview with the Chums. Give it a listen. We always appreciate the support to our boys and the Chums. There’s a new episode coming out in a few days.
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.
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.