Tag Archives: Johan

Is a gap year worth it for a high school football player?

2020 has brought a plethora of unfortunate events around the world; most were caused by the pandemic. Sports have been impacted in a global scale: no Olympics, no Wimbledon, no Tour de France, closed doors sporting events, football leagues getting canceled/shortened, etc. From a football viewpoint specifically, the silver lining is that 2020 became an excellent year for young American football players as they have cemented American football credibility in front of an avid football watching world.

Weston Mckennie, Barcelona (0) Juventus (3), Barcelona, Spain (12.08.20)

Young American players continue to become very attractive investments for European clubs. Back in the US, that enhanced credibility has had a ripple effect on domestic clubs, coaches, scouts, agents, and specifically high-school-age football players. Now more than ever, they all see a new opportunity. Young footballers with European playing aspirations, vehemently believe their dream of becoming a professional player is within realistic reach. Similarly, fringe high-school-age young players whose aspirations may be exclusively domestic (USL, MLS) are hesitant to pursue “soccer” in college following their HS senior year.

Gio Reyna, Stuttgart (5) Dortmund (1), Dortmund, Germany (12.12.20)

For some families, the decision to potentially forego a college “soccer” scholarship (either partial or full) and delay a college education to pursue the professional football dream is too risky, costly and not an option. On the other hand, for other families, it’s the most logical (and only) step forward as time is of the essence for young footballers. There is however, a third group who are indecisive and perhaps this post is geared towards them. Is a gap year following high school (HS) worth pursuing in order to persuade/dissuade them one way or the other? Below are some aspects to consider.


Some HS-age players may neither be physically/mentally ready for the rigors of college soccer or football professionalism. In college, competing against players up to four years older may not be the easiest transition. The physical/mental gap choosing the professional route may be similar in age but wider in experience and maturity.

Thus, having the player take a gap year to continue his development before embarking on the next endeavor could be very advantageous. After all, what’s wrong with bossing the game around for an additional year while building the player’s confidence? Well, it depends. So long as their game continues to be carefully nurtured, and evolving during the gap year. In the process, other opportunities could also become available.

Increased opportunities

Indecisive families who are not yet convinced about the college path and whose MLS or amateur club has not shown them a satisfactory path to football professionalism may opt to take a gap year to explore additional options that could result in new opportunities. Among those options are:

  1. Join the professional domestic market (USL) with an academy contract to maintain NCAA eligibility
  2. Attend domestic/international trials in different markets/clubs to set realistic expectations and for self-evaluation
  3. Practice and play in a semi-pro league to maintain NCAA eligibility, network, and gauge other football options in parallel
  4. Continue playing at the current club to maximize exposure to professional agents and college scouts/coaches
  5. Switch to a different non-MLS club (domestic or international) or vice versa (if not playing for an MLS club) to increase exposure to professional agents and college scouts/coaches
  6. Join a play football abroad (England, Spain, Germany, Italy) gap year program while earning college credits

2020 saw a dramatic increase of local gap year participants. In hindsight, the trend may have stemmed from a shorter 2019-2020 season which caused players to miss out on important youth tournaments such as Dallas Cup, GA Cup, DA/ECNL Showcases/playoffs, National League, etc. It wasn’t just missing out on participation in those tournaments but also the corresponding experience and exposure to professional agents/scouts/college coaches/etc. In most cases, players did not get a fair opportunity to draw enough interest from colleges or the professional ranks which incentivized them to take a gap year. Below you will find examples of recent local U-17 MNT pool players who are pursuing a variation of the five categories above:

  1. Bailey Sparks and Josh Ramsey left their longtime Solar club to give the USL-C (Sporting Kansas II and San Antonio FC) market a try respectively. Similarly, Kevin Bonilla returned from a short stint at the University of Portland to join USL-1 North Texas SC during his gap year
  2. Seth Wilson who once played for the MLS FCD academy went on a series of international trials. However, COVID may have temporarily cut his trials short during his gap year
  3. At present, Kevin, and Seth, have joined a local semi-pro league (La Roja League) for the winter along with many college players currently home for the break to remain active
  4. Cesar García, scheduled to join SMU soccer in the fall of 2020, is now back at the MLS FCD academy to increase his chances to professionalism or academia during his gap year
  5. Players like Johan Guereca and Riley O’Donnell left the longtime Solar academy powerhouse to search new opportunities at FCD academy in their last year eligibility
  6. Other players joined a gap year program in Valencia Spain last year

There is no solution that fits all. Each player is building their own path and we are all learning from each other. For most families, the ideal scenario could be to secure a college “soccer” scholarship during the senior HS year and prior to taking a gap year. This option allows a fallback plan in case one of the alternatives above (or others) does not materialize. If you are fortunate enough to secure a soccer college scholarship, be honest and transparent with the college staff about professional intentions.


Once/if a scholarship is secured and if professionalism does not become a viable option during the gap year, attend college with the scholarship and earn a life-lasting academic degree while still playing college soccer.

Sometimes a pathway to football professionalism will open up while playing college soccer: Reggie Cannon, Brandon Servania, Brecc Evans, etc. to name a few. After all, there are plenty of colleges or entire conferences (ex. Big10) which “guarantee” the athletic scholarship for life as long as the footballer leave the college for “a bona fide reason”. Do your research, there could be some caveats for this guarantee to apply. However, if you can make it work, the financial impact on your family could be significant.

Current club situation

Amateur clubs (ex. Solar, Texans) offer limited options to football professionalism. Staying a gap year at an amateur club may only increase opportunities to a wider gamut of college choices and not necessarily to football professional pathways. Taking a gap year to switch to play a full year at the U18/U19 level with an MLS club could be very attractive but risky nonetheless. You can read more about this possibility in a previous post. If a switch is made and the MLS path at the U18/U19 level doesn’t work out, keep in mind that the MLS club also limits the player contractually in terms of other domestic opportunities that could be pursued during the gap year. Some MLS clubs are very restrictive not allowing the player to trial with other clubs (domestic or internationally) even though the MLS club does not have any plans for such player. Amateur clubs will be more open to that possibility as they don’t have a path to professionalism.

On the other hand, if the player has been part of an MLS club and said club has not “shown any signs of a professional plan” by the time the player turns 16, the player is serving a unique purpose in the club: filler player. The family may want to explore other possibilities outside the MLS club immediately. Maybe one reason to stay with a prestigious MLS academy is for the college exposure; however, amateur clubs are not only less strict on pursuing parallel professional alternatives but offer more college showcase possibilities since they are family-funded.


if there’s an aspiration to play in Europe at the U19 level as a stepping stone to a first team debut and the player is turning 18 years of age after the start of their HS senior year, it is not worth taking a gap year. The post September 1st (international transfer window deadline) birthday by itself complicates that possibility and staying an additional gap year further delays the move to a European market.

Foreign nationals (especially unproven young Americans) in Europe without a EU passport will find more scrutiny being recruited for a U23 or “B” team than for a U19 side. Goalkeepers (GKs) can find an easier pathway to a U23 or B team than a field player; however, the path to a regular-minutes first team usually takes longer for GKs. Historically, there have been a few exceptions: Casillas.

Football positions

Player positions matter when it comes to taking a gap year. Offensive players tend to have a faster route to professionalism than defensive players. A GK may very well be better served going to college right after HS and complete a degree in 3.5 years. GKs tend to have longer careers and very few become starters for first teams before the age of 22 (a college degree can be pursued during these years). Going to college immediately after HS will hardly impact their professional football aspirations. In fact, playing college, combined with a local league during their school breaks will keep them active year round. A similar reasoning could be drawn about defenders who tend to have longer careers than offensive players.

Football positions by number

In addition to gaining additional football experience and potential opportunities, with some planning and motivation, families/players can benefit from a gap year to save money, travel, volunteer, or do all of the above. Just be sure to have a plan around the objectives to be achieved during the gap year and adhere to them. In the end, whichever road you take, a gap year is the ideal time to think about short-term and long-term goals. Just make an informed decision, have no regrets, and enjoy the ride.

Lastly, this month we will likely reach the 10,000 visitors mark. We want to take an opportunity to thank you for reading us hoping that you continue to find our posts useful. As a token of appreciation, the first 10 readers to fill out & submit the form below will get a free Nike Men’s dri-fit shirt. Winners will be contacted via email. Thanks for your continued support. #theGomezway

Another emotional weekend

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

Joana enjoyed this gift dearly 10.25.20 (Keller, TX)

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

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

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


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

Chumchat: Jessica McDonald Season 2 Volume 10 10.23.20

Fútbol sala: una herramienta de formación para los chavos

Cuando se habla de la formación de un futbolista, no existe una barita mágica que funcione para todos los jugadores. En términos generales, el desarrollo de cualquier aptitud en la vida require una dósis de talento natural, mucha práctica, pero lo más importante es un continuo deseo de superación personal. En el caso de nuestros chavos, el deseo de jugar fútbol nunca escaceó. En realidad, tan sólo tuvimos que encontrar formas creativas de exponenciar su pasión a través de variaciones del deporte de las masas (fútbol sala, fútbol rápido, fútbol de playa, 3 vs 3, retas callejeras, fútbol tenis, etc.). Hoy, escribiremos algo breve sobre el fútbol sala. El fútbol sala ofrece un sin número de variaciones del fútbol normal (fut regular) que lo convierten en una gran herramienta de desarrollo futbolístico y para ser sincero, también es súper divertido. Por mucho tiempo los chavos lo practicaron de forma simultánea al fut regular. No nada más les ayudó en su formación si no que también les permitió competir a un nivel muy alto desde temprana edad.

Equipo nacional de futsal de Estados Unidos. 07.22.15 (Medellin, Colombia)

Ventajas del fútbol sala


En Estados Unidos, el fútbol sala se juega en duelas bajo techo lo cual representa una gran ventaja sobre el fut regular debido a que las inclemencias del tiempo nunca son una limitante. Por esa razón, el fútbol sala se puede jugar todo el ano generando oportunidades adicionales para refinar el buen trato de balón. Además, nuestro pais es tan grande que hay muchos lugares recónditos donde escacean ligas competitivas de fut regular; en tales lugares, el fútbol sala puede que sea una alternativa ya que tan sólo se require una cancha de basketball y porterías hechas de PVC y muy pocos jugadores. El video de abajo muestra la presentación de un amistoso internacional jugado en Toronto, Canadá en Diciembre del 2015 (la temperatura ambiente al momento de ese partido era de 10 grados Fahrenheit). El partido se llevó a cabo sin inclemencia climatológica alguna.

Jogo representando a los Estdos Unidos en amistosos internacionales 12.26.15 (Toronto, Canadá)

Número limitado de jugadores

En otros países, se pueden encontrar canchas de fútbol sala adentro de escuelas y parques públicos. Estados Unidos todavía no se encuentra a ese nivel aunque nostros si hemos ubicado alguna que otra cancha libre en algunos lugares públicos. El fútbol sala se juega en canchas/duelas (bajo techo la mayoría del tiempo) con un máximo de 5 jugadores por equipo con cambios ilimitados. El número reducido de cambios inevitablemente se traduce en una mayor frequencia de toques de balón. Por eso, el desarrollo futbolístico se acrecenta durante los dos periodos de intensa acción.

Cuadro titular en primer partido internacional 07.23.15 (Medellín, Colombia)

Espacios reducidos se traduce en toma de decisiones mas rápida

El tamaño reducido de las canchas de fútbol sala requiere una toma de decisiones más rápida. Esta habilidad ayuda a los jugadores cuando juegan en las canchas del fútbol regular donde se cuenta con más tiempo. De igual forma, la precisión de los pases incrementa debido a los espacios reducidos y también por eso se usa un balón más pesado.

US Youth Futsal National Team tryouts 07.11.15 (Olathe, Kansas)

Mejor control/distribución debido al balon más pesado:

En el fútbol sala se usa un balón más pesado que inevitablemente requiere que los jugadores tengan un mejor control y distribución del mismo. Aprender a dominar un balón más pesado requiere muchas repeticiones y una aptitud única. Asi mismo, el fútbol sala fomenta toques con más partes del pie que el fútbol regular. La parte inferior y la punta del pie se usan de manera muy frecuente. También, todos los jugadores de “campo” están constantemente moviendose por toda la duela lo cual fomenta el apredizaje ofensivo y defensivo del juego además del toque de balón con las seis partes del pie. A pesar de que si existen posiciones fijas en el fútbol sala, los jugadores cubren toda la duela de manera estrategica ayudándoles a manejar ambos perfiles (izquierdo y derecho). Además, el movimiento sin balón es un gran beneficio del fútbol sala ya que es muy obvio cuando algun jugador se queda parado en una sola posición por más de tres segundos.

Jogo scoring a goal against an English team at the World Futsal Championships 12.28.14 (Blanes, Spain)

Juego puro que fomenta la creatividad:

El fútbol sala no es un juego dominado por los jugadores más fuertes, altos, ó rápidos. De hecho, la mayoría del tiempo, nuestros chavos jugaban con/contra jugadores mayores lo cual requería una habilidad mayor de toma de decisiones rápidas y técnica individual. Los partidos de fútbol sala son normalmente limpios y fáciles de arbitrear. Los equipos tratan de honrar el espíritu del juego al intentar meter la mayor cantidad de goles. A diferencia del fútbol regular, el fútbol sala fomenta la creatividad y estilo único. Los jugadores se pueden expresar libremente incorporando trucos en sus estilos de juego sin necesidad de violar ninguna regla del juego.

Las reglas del juego son sencillas:

A pesar de que el número de reglas del fútbol sala es menor a las del fútbol regular (ej: no existe el fuera de lugar, saque de banda, etc.), los jugadores de fútbol sala constantemente están pensando en ciertas reglas (ej. balón sobre la linea de banda, retraso de juego, regresársela al portero, etc.). La agilidad mental y la capacidad de reacción son aptitudes desarrolladas por el fútbol sala. En realidad, las pocas reglas, en lugar de complicar el juego, lo convierten en un juego muy entretenido.


Marcar goles es divertido; en el fútbol sala, es muy común anotar más de 5 goles por partido entre ambos contrincantes. De hecho, el tamaño de las canchas contribuye al dramatismo que acompaña los partidos ya que muchos se deciden en los últimos segundos. Los marcadores con muchos goles marcados permiten que los espectadores y jugadores gocen de una experiencia mayor. La confianza de los jugadores se eleva al marcar más que en el fútbol regular donde no se marcan tantos goles y no todos los jugadores tienen oportunidades reales de marcar.

Campeones nacionales de futbol sala U10 02.04.15 (Olathe, Kansas)


El fútbol sala es una deporte que aumenta el autoestima. Al menos aquí en los Estados Unidos, muchos jugadores empiezan sin saber mucho acerca del deporte pero pronto terminan dominándolo. Entre más temprano se empiece a jugar mejor. Desarrollar un jugador con una autoestima alta no tiene precio; la confianza después se permea a otros aspectos de sus vidas incluyendo: el campo, el aula de clases, y otras actividades extra curriculares. De igual forma, es muy común ver a las niñas jugar fútbol sala con niños que también sirve para aumentar la autoestima.

Desventajas del fútbol sala


Algunos clubs/coaches chapeados a la antigüita, no congenian con la idea del fútbol sala. De hecho, algunos profes lo ven como un obstáculo formativo al fútbol regular. En algunos casos, la ignorancia juega un papel ya que es un juego desconocido en algunos países (ej. Estados Unidos). En otros casos, el miedo es infundado ya que representa una alternativa al desarrollo futbolístico de los jugadores. La ahora defunta liga de DA apoyaba al fútbol sala. Entendían muy bien su contribución e incorporaron al menos un torneo de fútbol sala por año. Desafortunadamente, dudamos que la nueva liga de MLS continue con esa tradición.

Jonathan Gomez: USSDA U13 futsal showcase: FC Dallas vs Lonestar 01.18.17 (Houston, TX)

Malos hábitos:

Hay una corriente de pensamiento que cree que entre más tiempo se juega el fútbol de sala, más dificil será la transición al fútbol regular. No existe suficiente información que corrobore esa hipótesis. Sin embargo, es cierto que mientras se juega fútbol sala, hay ciertos aspectos del fútbol regular que no se practican: saque de banda, cabezasos, tiros libres, fueras de lugar, etc. En nuestra opinión, ambos deportes pueden (y deben de) ser combinados el mayor tiempo posible para desarrollar los aspectos de cada uno.

Understanding GRIT in an athlete’s life

I was recently invited to take part in one of our youth national team coaches’ new project. As I was exploring their material, I stumbled upon this post. The blog publication attempts to explain grit/mental toughness and how to develop it. In essence, if you want to increase your chances of success in life -including sports- one has to develop a growth mindset. The earlier one adopts that type mentality (ex. mamba), the less reliance is placed on factors that are outside of our control (ex. innate talent).

Wikipedia defines grit as “a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual’s perseverance of effort combined with the passion for a particular long-term goal or end state (a powerful motivation to achieve an objective)“. Please spend a few minutes listening to psychologist Angela Duckworth define grit in the Ted talk below. Then, try to relate it to your own situation (or your young player’s)

Grit: The power of passion and perseverance

If you don’t have an additional ten minutes to read the blog above, here is a quick summary:

Define what grit/mental toughness means to you

We all have different goals and objectives in life. Make sure yours are SMART. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time bound. First, capture your SMART goals by writing them down. Next, start working on them; sometimes sharing them with others will elevate your own accountability level and will help you measure progress. It’s normal for young athletes to require assistance articulating their own goals. Once they reach certain age (or maturity) complete autonomy is expected.

As an example, during these times of no team practices. Our children have found creative ways to train most days. In addition to their physical training, one of the boys supplements his training by running about 5 kilometers/day at least 5 days per week. Each run should be done in the same course as the previous run as the completion time must be better than all the previous occurrences. This is part of a bigger goal he has.

Build grit in discrete portions

Grit does not have to be necessarily developed against extreme adversity. In fact, it’s best if it isn’t. Start by growing grit on your terms. Aim small miss small. In your daily lives, push yourself out of your comfort zone doing something simple or small that directly impacts your SMART goals/objectives. Faster growth occurs when we are outside of our comfort zones.

Develop a growth mindset by getting used to challenging yourself. Something as easy as going to sleep 15 minutes earlier because your goal is to sleep 42 hours/week. Understand that grit and mental toughness are traits that need to be carefully nourished and developed. In the end, it’s all about developing and then maintaining the habits. The habit of continuous improvement equates to a growth mindset.

On a personal note, 7 years ago, when the idea about this family website was presented to us by my younger sister, I found many reasons to postpone its inception (mostly lack of time or so I thought). She insisted that we had so much to share with others and that it’s the least that we could do. Long story short, she’s no longer with us but we ended up following her advice. Thankfully, last year, we finally decided to push ourselves outside of our comfort zones and started this site in a non-native language. Now, we can’t stop writing and helping others. It’s become a self-rewarding family project that has impacted other families. We are constantly inundated with communication (texts, emails, and calls) from parents asking us for footballing advice. Also, we now see other families starting similar online (Twitter, YouTube) family projects as a result of our initiative: #theGomezway. The seed has been planted, now, it’s time to “pay it forward”.

Build strong habits and don’t depend on motivation

Grit and mental toughness are more about cultivating the needed habits to reach your goals. Developing consistency eliminates the need for sporadic motivation or courage (ex. going to the gym). If you create the correct habits to go to the gym, you will never need additional motivation (ex. a partner to work out with). Strong habits (especially an open growth mindset) are the basis for future success especially in athletes.

During these down times, the boys have been working everyday on some of their improvement areas. They work out and push each other hard, but fortunately, they do not depend on each other’s company for continuous improvement. They know they will be together for a short period of time and after they return to their respective new homes, their objectives will remain the same.

Recently, one of Johan’s Chumchat’s guests Will Swinney (Dabo Swinney’s son) summarized it best when he said:

Your thoughts become your words; your words become your actions; your actions become your habits; your habits become your character and your character becomes your destiny

Will Swinney

In closing, learn how to have a growth mindset. This is ONE way to develop grit or mental toughness. It all starts with the way we perceive the world. Have you ever wonder how a single song has the power to change our mood? Our minds are very poweful. Make “continuous change” the norm in your daily lives and take control (or at least influence) of your success now.

BTW, this week’s chumchat video didn’t have any guests but the boys had a good time “reviewing” previous guests Instagrams accounts. It’s a funny episode. Give it a listen.

Chumchat: Season 1 Episode 16. Roasting Instagram accounts