Two of the recently finished World Cup (WC) quarterfinal games reminded us that penalty kicks (PKs) shoot-outs are not the prettiest way to decide the outcome of a football match. PK shoot-outs are normally very dramatic, preceded by at least 120 minutes of intense (in most cases) action and some detractors tout them as the most unfair method to declare a match winner. Their argument is that the shoot-out relies heavily on luck rather than football skill. It has also been said that PKs are a dual effort instead of a collective team effort defeating the purpose of the team sport spirit.
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca
Whatever your perception may be on overall luck and shoot-outs, a PK shoot-out is an approved method by FIFA laws to break a tie. Also, nobody can deny that being directly involved in the taking of even a single PK (more so a shoot-out) requires some level of technical preparation (sometimes years) and individual mental fortitude (aka nerve). Therefore, any edge that can be gained over the opponent to increase the chances of victory in a PK shoot-out is always welcome. Often neglected, that advantage can easily come from one’s bench. A coach’s experience is a very valuable tool if applied correctly and timely.
PK Shoot-out Preparation
I will not dwell too much on the pre-game efforts that the goal keeper (GK) coach, the team video analysis specialist, the team statistician, and the GKs themselves must undergo prior to embarking on a match that could be decided in a PK shoot-out. The preparation is not complex but indeed meticulous. It starts with trying to anticipate which five potential PK kickers will take a turn and study their PK kicking tendencies. On top of that, each GK has his/her own defensive diving tendencies to attempt to block PKs. Simply put, it comes down to video-analyzing the potential PK kickers to slightly increase the GK’s odds of stopping PKs.
Similarly, PK takers need to undergo a lengthier preparation which starts much earlier in their football careers than the upcoming game at hand. For example, in some youth leagues around the world, match ties are not allowed forcing PKs intentionally. Match outcomes are decided via a PK shoot-out with the underlying idea of developing better PK adult kickers who are not only more used to the added pressure but more technically sound in the art of PK taking via lots of repetitions. PK kickers rarely analyze GK tendencies as those diving techniques are reactive and situational.
All that pre-match preparation for PK kickers is indispensable and must be met at a minimum to be even considered as a genuine PK taker candidate especially at a world stage like a WC. However, there are meticulous decisions that must be made in the selection of the PK takers and the sequence in which PKs are taken by a team. Sure, luck (the coin tosses explained below) helps but the coach’s experience has a strong influence in the outcome of the shoot-out.
PK Shoot-out Execution
Some coaches will tell you that only those physically, and mentally fit prior to the taking of PKs should be eligible, listed and submitted to the referee as the initial five PK takers. Others will defer that decision to the players and captain. Ultimately, the coach knows his/her players best and it is best that those five PK takers are pre-determined and only changed in case of an unplanned event (ex. injury, red card, etc.). So, provided a manager has five physically and mentally capable PK kickers, then other decisions should be made by the coach and captain to maximize the chances of victory.
Normally, the referee will use two coin tosses prior to the taking of PKs. The winner of the first coin toss selects the side where PKs will be taken (Introduced in 2016). The winner of the second coin toss determines what team starts the PK shoot-out (Lloris won this one in the WC final). Yes, on this part of the procedure, there’s an element of luck but provided your captain wins both or either one of these coin tosses, instructions must be provided to the captain so that he/she choose the goal where most of your club’s supporters are; Messi probably conquered the Qatar WC the moment he won this first coin toss and selected the side that was plagued by Argentinian fans. On the second coin toss outcome, heed the following advice:
1.For advantages proven by simple statistics/research papers and psychological reasoning (beyond the scope of this simple post), a team captain, if able, should always elect to take the PKs first in a shoot-out. In a gist, it puts additional pressure on the players going second regardless of the outcome of the first kick. Therefore, ALWAYS elect to shoot first if you win the second coin toss. This is the way Morocco eliminated Spain from Qatar.
2. Always (I mean always) have your best PK kickers go first. In Brazil’s loss to Croatia in the WC quarterfinal game, Neymar was supposed to get all the glory by kicking last (5th). Unfortunately, quite the opposite took place. the team had the youngest (Rodrygo) of all PK kickers go first and that proved to be a decision they will regret forever. Neymar never had a chance to take his PK. It was possibly Neymar’s last WC game and to go out like that is unfortunate…Neymar and Tite (no longer the national team coach) will have to live with that decision.
As an additional data point, in the WC final game, both Mbappé and Messi went first. Both are no strangers to PK taking. Despite Mbappé having scored two PKs during the course of the championship game on Martínez, Kylian (and Didier DeChamps) elected Mbappé to go a third time (all kicked to the same side) against one of the best PK GKs in the world. He converted all three attempts and set the tone for the next PK (or at least that was the plan).
3. The first PK taker dictates momentum. Over 60% of the time when the first PK misses his/her shot, the following PK taker from the same team misses too. Therefore, carefully selecting the first PK taker is instrumental to the team’s success. If there are two medium quality PK kickers, do not, by any means, have them take kicks one after another in the round of five. In the WC final game, Coman missed his kick immediately followed by Tchouameni.
4. Managers sometimes forget that great players are not necessarily great PK takers. For example, in the Netherlands vs Argentina game, Van Dijk elected to take the team’s PK first; however, he’s not the normal PK taker with his Liverpool club (Mo Salah is). Unfortunately, the lack of practice became evident as his attempt was blocked by Emi Martínez. This proved to be a questionable decision by a very experienced Coach Louis Van Gaal.
The coin tosses are determined by an element of luck; beyond that, preparation pays off. In addition to field player and GK preparation, a manager (and his/her staff) has a lot of weight on the outcome of a PK shoot-out with careful thought-out decisions. Whether the manager and captain assume/want that responsibility is a different story. Either way, preparation is key and an initial 50% chance of victory in a shoot-out can easily become more like a 75% if preparation is taken seriously. As I was finalizing documentation to wrap up my post, I stumbled upon this article posted about 8 years ago titled “How to Win a PK shoot-out in soccer“. Ironically, a lot of the information presented in that article supports my post.
As I finish writing this post, I became aware of the passing of football’s legend: Pelé. Honestly, I can’t say this was unexpected as he had been hospitalized in Brazil for over a month and I tried to keep up with his medical progress which never seemed to improve. But even with that information, I can’t deny it was shocking; it’s hard to accept that in a little over than 2 years, the best two footballers, that in my opinion, have ever played the game now reside with the football gods…where they have cemented a place.
Until next time (tomorrow) when I will be posting our annual 2022 recap of events. Have a happy and safe New Year celebration. Be sure to follow us on Instagram below where we are more active. #theGomezway
Germany has a very well defined tiered system of professional football leagues. Its hierarchy starts with 1.Bundesliga (first division) at the top and goes down to regional leagues (fourth division). The first two leagues (1.Bundesliga and 2.Bundesliga) are governed by the German Football League while the 3.Liga along with the five regional leagues are governed by the German Football Association. All leagues are professional (fourth division is a mixed bag with some amateur players) with strong fanbases, and their own football stadiums/facilities.
Recently, there have been many American footballers who have played in the 3.Liga: Terrence Boyd, Lennard Maloney, Chris Richards, Jalen Hawkins, Taylor Booth, Bryang Kayo, Johan Gómez, and many others. Similarly, there have also been American footballers playing in the different regional leagues (4th division): Joel Bustamante (Hertha II), Nico Carrera (Holstein Kiel II), Quincy Butler (Hoffenheim II), Justin Che (Hoffenheim II), Matthew Hoppe (Schalke II), Michael Edwards (Wolfsburg II), Uly Llanez (Wolfsburg II), Blaine Ferri (Greuther Furth II), Joe Scally (Borussia Mönchengladbach II) and many others in the past.
Some footballers (those on affiliate teams) have used the regional leagues as a stepping stones to the 1.Bundesliga (aka Bundesliga) or other top tier leagues around Europe. Bundesliga clubs like Wolfsburg, Bayern, Hoffenheim, Borussia Mönchengladbach, etc. have their affiliates in the regional leagues therefore making a jump from 4th division to Bundesliga is not only realistic, easier but common (ex. Matthew Hoppe, Chris Richards, Taylor Booth, Alphonso Davies, Uly Llanez, etc.).
As the German market continues to welcome young American footballers, it’s important to highlight a few of its characteristics for families and players seeking opportunities in that market. Since last July, when Johan joined the 3.Liga, we have learned a few things that are worth sharing and comparing with USL/MLS, Bundesliga or even other European leagues.
Before we start, it’s important to note that German football is very sound tactically; on the technical side, it’s different than other leagues around the world (ex. South American, MLS, Liga MX) that may have a Latin flair to them. To be fair, very few leagues compare to the flair South American football offers and the German market has indeed very few South American players in it. The brand of football played in Germany however, strives to perfect team and individual football fundamentals or at a minimum, seeks to minimize football mistakes.
The destination is often more important than the journey. As a result, the 3.Liga is not the most aesthetical appealing league; however, week in and week out, one can see the parity of teams fighting for either promotion or relegation. Chris Richards talks about the 3.Liga level relative to the Bundesliga in this recent Chumchat episode:
Just like the Bundesliga, the 3.Liga has a few clubs with deeper pockets. It differs significantly from MLS where financial parity is a continuous goal (ex. no draft in Bundesliga). However, unlike the Bundesliga, the 3.Liga is not setup to be dominated by the same clubs (ex. Bayern Munich recently winning their 10th consecutive Bundesliga championship) every season. By design, the 3.Liga can’t be dominated by the same clubs every season as there’s the concept of promotion (and relegation). Out of the 20 clubs that compete in the 3.Liga every season, the top clubs get promoted to the 2.bundesliga and the bottom clubs get relegated to the fourth division of their respective regional leagues based on geographic location.
As a recent example of the impact money has on club survival, the owner of 3.Liga, club Türkgücü, disappointed with the season team results, opted to stop the cash influx to the club. As a result, and for the first time since the 3.Liga inception, the team was unable to fulfill their financial obligations and was immediately relegated to a regional league two thirds through the season.
Bundesliga being the top tier league only has relegation with some matches not being very competitive due to the financial disparity between teams. On the other hand, both 2.Bundesliga and 3.Liga are very competitive where the outcome of any match cannot be predicted with ease. The top two tiers of the bundesliga have an automatic promotion/relegation for the top/bottom two clubs. The third/antepenultimate top/bottom clubs play a home and away playoff series to determine who gets promoted/relegated.
The 3.Liga does not follow the above playoff relegation format verbatim. Instead, the bottom four clubs are relegated automatically to the regional leagues without the need of playoffs. For example, in the 2020-2021 season, while 2003 born Justin Che played for Bayern II, the team was relegated to the fourth division where it’s currently playing this season. Note: Justin has now moved on to the Hoffenheim setup where he was recently playing fourth division football; however, he also recently made his Bundesliga debut (congrats Justin). Similarly, when Chris Richards was playing 3.Liga with Bayern Munich II, the team finished first; however, there’s a rule that prevents affiliate teams to be promoted to the 2.Bundesliga.
Direct game / Speed of play
The 3.Liga speed of play is not as fast as English football League One (3rd division in England) mostly because German players historically have displayed a higher technical skill level which forces them to play the ball on the ground more. However, the 3.Liga is similar to League One in its physicality. German footballers are not extremely athletic (ex. agile, strong, and fast) when compared with other ethnic profiles but their cultural pursuit of perfectionism permeates to their football leagues. That pursuit of perfection is reached via repetition and Germans more than compensate from “their perceived” lack of athleticism with strong football fundamentals and work rate.
As physical as the 3.Liga is, there are not many penalty kicks (PKs) calls which translates into a lack of player confrontations. Most games (and this could be a German culture aspect) are played in their purest form without many (if any) simulations (ex. diving) or time wasting strategies like the South American style. Referees seem competent; however, it’s fair to say that most of our experience assessing referees has taken place while there’s been a limited fan base at the stadiums. In every part of the world, fans play an instrumental role trying to influence referees decisions. Thus, since there’s no simulation, it makes calling penalty kicks that much easier. It could also be that the lack of VAR provides referees the freedom and confidence to make mistakes and live with those decisions.
Referees strive to maintain the flow of the games; the decreased frequency of foul occurrences helps in that regard. They also have more game time responsibilities since there’s no fourth referee/official in the 3.Liga. Therefore, normally a team official is in charge of making/calling the subs from the center referee and indicating the injury time to the audience. Let’s be clear though, no other fourth official duties are delegated to team officials.
Throw ins get their own section as we have seen a complete deterioration in the calling of throw-ins especially in Germany. Anything from not having both feet on the ground to having one foot inside the pitch. Unfortunately, this tendency is not unique to the 3.Liga. In fact, it’s been more pronounced in the Bundesliga. However, there’s plenty of consistency with the calling of ball handling or those commonly referred to in the US as “handballs”. It’s worth noting that some refereeing tendencies are temporary but we figured it’s worth mentioning.
German fans are very passionate about football and they show it every week. The Bundesliga is the number one league in the world in attendance. Their football infrastructure is on par with that statistic. The German Football Association requires 3. Liga teams to play in stadiums of at least 10,000 seats. Their football infrastructure easily surpasses that minimum requirement.
In the 3.Liga, Johan has had the privilege of playing in stadiums that were used for World Cups (ex. 2006 and 1974). In fact, it was in Munich’s Olympic stadium that he scored his first brace in Germany. As a form of comparison, the football infrastructure capacity in the 3.Liga is better than Spain’s second division.
All that being said, the brand of football played in Spain’s second division is better than 3.Liga’s, and 2.Bundesliga. However, In terms of other infrastructure (ex. TV rights), both leagues offer paid subscriptions (domestic and internationally) for football fanatics. Overall the 3. Liga has audience numbers that are comparable to the second football leagues in Italy (Serie B), France (Ligue 2) and Spain (Segunda División). Only the third-rate English football league One has similarly high or higher attendance numbers.
The 3.Liga is a nationally televised league which allows the players to earn a significantly higher average salary than a league like USL-1/MLS Pro (3rd division in the US) or Liga Expansion in Mexico (3rd division in Mexico) but as expected lower than English League one. As stated above, some German clubs have deeper pockets partly due to stronger fan bases and sponsorships.
Most of the Bundesliga teams are scattered in west Germany while 3.Liga teams are scattered all over.
Ironically (from a geographical standpoint), 3.Liga teams often travel by bus while Bundesliga clubs (with larger budgets) fly mostly but ride team buses occasionally due to their proximity to other clubs.
Now that Johan is wrapping up his first season in the 3.Liga, he’s playing the analogous of our US Open Cup (SachsenPokal). One day he’ll play in a huge (used for past world cups or Olympic) stadium and the next week, his team will play in a more discrete stadium. All are great memories whose pictures can be found in the “Stadiums” section of this blog.
Johan’s move to the 3.Liga
In the Chumchat episode below, Johan talks about the reasons for his move to FSV Zwickau. He elaborates on his current situation in a German market where he is consistently playing first team minutes, impacting the game, and playing an instrumental role while continuing to develop his overall game as a versatile young player. In the episode, he reminisces about his time in Porto where he could have stayed an extra year and maybe could have been making first team rosters this year like his former Porto B teammates. In his head, it probably would have been an additional season of limited playing time with the first team. Each player’s ambitions are unique; some players are more willing to wait for a first team debut (plenty of examples in the Bundesliga.1 and Bundesliga.2 with American players) while others (Johan) not so much. It is also about opportunity. This season, has been a very rewarding experience in Germany.
BTW, enjoy one of the most recent Chumchat episodes with dual national Julian Araujo. He mostly talks about his decision-making process choosing to represent Mexico. A decision that very few players (let alone fans) will ever understand but that is becoming more frequent…
As always, if you want to read about a particular topic, please reach out via any of a social media accounts. #theGomezWay
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 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 our 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
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
By definition, a passport is a document purchased from the government primarily to allow its holder to travel internationally. In our case, MLS football and futsal provided our boys opportunities to travel abroad several times but none of those trips could have ever been possible without first acquiring an American passport.
As an American citizen and prior to joining a competitive football setup, it is of utmost importance to obtain an American passport especially if your child is under 18 years of age. So parents, do your footballers a favor and start the process for them ASAP.
In reality, access to just one passport could have additional benefits that transcend football. Furthermore, if your player has mixed ancestry and you can process multiple passports, having access to them can magnify those benefits. With the global characteristic of football, the parents of the player, should try to expedite getting a passport from each of the eligible ancestral countries. Before you know it, football or not, opportunities will necessitate access to one, or more, passports. Below are some advantages:
If the country of ancestry recognizes multiple nationalities, the player could potentially be a dual (or multiple) nationality citizen. Also, the player could gain access to additional non-football benefits such as voting, free medical care, social-security-like retirement, etc. as a minor or as a potential adult living in that country in the future.
Furthermore, having access to multiple passports offers an opportunity to: enrich one’s cultural IQ, learn and empathize (with) new (different) customs/habits, master a second/third language, support another country in important world events (ex. the Olympics/World Cup) or simply put, visit that country with fewer restrictions.
Learn new customs:
Locating the player’s ancestral country in a world globe, naming its capital, or even identifying the respective flag are great geography skills to posses but having a secondary passport goes beyond that bragging benefit. The player could learn a thing or two about their ancestors’ customs and traditions by visiting the country. The passport is not, by itself, going to force a behavioral change on the player (or family) but organically grow the player’s cultural IQ, perhaps remove some American biases, and who knows? maybe incentivize the player to start learning another language.
Master/learn another language:
Having access to multiple passports isn’t necessarily the main reason to learn a second (third or fourth) language but it helps. In fact, some multi-cultural families already speak a second language at home; however, the youngest generation may not know how to read or write the second language and thus passing on that skill onto the next generation could be very valuable to parents/grandparents.
The passport could be the vehicle to incentivize the player to polish reading/writing skills of the spoken language at home -especially if that country is one geographically close to the US (ex. México). Ownership of that legal document may also spark interest in learning a new national anthem, watching movies or listen to music in another language, etc. There’s some pride that goes along with being fluent in another language which is definitely magnified by ancestry (ex. pleasing the elders). As an additional benefit of learning a different language, the player/person is better prepared for an ever-increasing need of a global workforce.
Will borders close again with the delta variant or in the future? We don’t know, but as we attempt to reach normalcy, having a passport can even be of greater value just for visiting a country for vacation.
Upon arrival to some countries (ex. US, México, European Union countries), entry to those countries is expedited to citizens (or passport holders) of those countries right at the airport. That in itself is a benefit, albeit an ephemeral one. In some cases, ownership of a single passport can facilitate entry to many other colony-related countries (ex. a passport from Ivory Coast can allow entry into France). Thus, another great benefit of having multiple passports is the ability to visit (and stay) countries at will without a visa or without being questioned as to the duration or the frequency. This can be extended beyond leisure and for professional (football) reasons.
If an individual has access to multiple passports, professional possibilities grow naturally. Similarly, if a young player (prospect) has a EU passport, the parents could leverage that nugget of information to diversify opportunities and then negotiate a better professional domestic football contract. See Twitter thread below.
It’s a good card to have and one that cannot be taken lightly. For example, there are MLS clubs which require disclosure of this information on the player profile upon joining their academy ranks. Future professional path projection within a club could be influenced accordingly.
That card can be leveraged by football agents even at more senior levels. As an example, Tecatito Corona recently acquired his Portuguese passport which will facilitate him the opportunity to play in a top 5 European league without having to take up an international spot (now or in January). As a result, his player market value is more elevated than a player without such document.
The cost associated to reap any (or all) of the benefits named above is relatively low if you do it yourself. As an example, if one has the appropriate heritage and corresponding documentation, for $165, one can process a Mexican passport in a matter of hours at the Mexican Consulate in Texas. A Spanish passport can cost a little more if you hire an attorney and a is a bit more complicated to process but it can be done easily as well.
There aren’t really any disadvantages other than the time consumed gathering the proper documentation, hiring an attorney (if you have to for guidance) and following through with the necessary appointments at consulates, etc. to monitor the progress from inception through conclusion (especially during COVID times). The process is very simple. We have now done it multiple times.
Domestically, some people may perceive the pursuit of multiple nationalities as opportunistic. In Mexico, naturalized citizens who happen to be football players are questioned tremendously when pursuing the multi-passport route. In the US, accepting a second citizenship can be perceived as anti-patriotic, or even as a dent to their true American identity. For a young football prospect, access to multiple passport could sometimes attract an undesired type of attention.
As a dual (or multi) national player, the attention drawn to your player is immediately magnified by different people from the corresponding ancestral countries. In some cases, people (fans maybe) will feel more identified with your player (not a bad thing); yet in others, player agents or coaches will be more direct in the recruitment or communication with your player to grow his spectrum of options.
In extreme cases, national team coaches may suddenly reach out to the parents. It’s situational. We are not advocating a higher attention towards the player being the reason for obtaining a passport. Quite the opposite. Be aware that the battle for dual-national players (in any discipline) has recently intensified and perhaps, to a non so-cool degree and cannot be ignored. The added attention/pressure could be viewed as a disadvantage or unnecessary distraction which ultimately could force a young player to have to justify their final country selection for representation. Something to think about as a parent. It’s not easy.
We hope you have found this information useful; minus the personal experiences, it’s information that is all online. As with other posts, we just centralize it, and tailor it to our own experiences. Recently, we have been approached frequently by different families about this same topic. Hope you enjoyed it. If there’s anything you want us to talk about, please reach out at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
PS. As always, thanks for the support for the children. We continue growing the sport in this country together. #theGomezway
Most of us football fans (aka experts) will pride ourselves in thoroughly knowing the ‘beautiful game’; some will claim empirical knowledge: “I have been playing since I was five years old“, “saw the ‘hand of God’ live in 86“, others may brag: “I played college at the D1 level” (applicable to American “soccer” fans). Our favorite one is when the Geography card is played: “I grew up in <insert traditional football nation>…err England, Argentina> or the social media one: “I have ‘X’ soccer followers on Twitter“. Yet others, in an effort to establish ultimate football credibility, will state that they played pro football with <insert football star’s name> but an injury prevented them from going further. Whichever the case may be, the common denominator is the football “expertise” that the average fan claims to possess.
Ironically, another common trait among some of us football “experts” is often that few actually know the most fundamental piece of information: the rules (aka as the laws) of the game. In fact, even fewer actually know how many laws of the game there are. Why is it important to know the laws of the game you wonder? Well, for starters, you can’t either play or critique a game that is not understood. More importantly, it establishes football credibility and honestly, keeps controversy discussions (ex. VAR, offside, refereeing, etc.) to a minimum. Second, it aids in one’s understanding and analysis of the totality of the game (ex. What quadrants are referees less likely to issue a yellow card?). Using non-existent words/phrases like “offsides”, “hand-ball”, “high kick”, “playing on the ground”, “scoring points”, etc. quickly gives it away. Third, it elevates one’s football IQ and if the knowledge is channeled correctly, one can become a better player, coach, official, fan, etc. If not for self-advancement purposes, learn the laws of the game to further appreciate the beauty of the game including the referees.
While it’s true that there are frequent revisions to the laws of the game, the quantity (and spirit of each) hasn’t really changed in a while (that could change quickly). Thus, next time, there’s a desire to boast how much you know “soccer or football”, please take some time to at least revise the latest revision of the laws of the game. All that being said, for those of you whose knowledge goes beyond the laws of the game, there are unwritten ones (some may call them clichés or rules) that only those who have played the game (at any level) would know by heart. Here are a few:
Former player rule:
When a player faces their former club, it’s an unwritten rule that the player will either score or have an assist. Nobody really understands the underlying reasons: chip on the shoulder, stamina, prove a point, luck, revenge, etc. Any of those factors could be a contributor. A recent example close to home, Michael Barrios, ex-FC Dallas player scored against his former team in Colorado’s 3-0 rout of ‘Los Toros’ earlier this year and then again yesterday. Below are additional examples from around European clubs. BTW, sometimes a lot can be inferred by the way the player celebrates their goal against their former club if you know what I mean.
Some may say it’s a cliché but the reality is that one of the cruelest and most deceiving score lines in football is a 2-0 lead. Teams leading by this score tend to reach a relaxing comfort zone and that normally becomes a recipe for disaster. It’s always best to treat this score as a 1-0 loss; otherwise, complacency could become the precursor for an opponent’s comeback. See Borussia Dortmund vs Bayern Munich game recently.
Goal vulnerability rule:
Teams are the most vulnerable in the ten minutes after scoring a goal; nobody really knows why: zealousness caused by over celebration, high emotion, lack of discipline, etc. There have been studies done on it but some may still say it’s a cliché. Either way, it’s of utmost importance to celebrate the goal but hastily prepare to continue playing and scoring again; otherwise, the opponent could capitalize on the goal celebration distractions/mood and a momentum reversal can occur within minutes. In a low-scoring game such as football, you want to minimize the opponent’s chances of scoring. Be ready from the time your team leaves the dressing room to the final whistle.
Dressing room goal rule:
Similar to the reasons stated above, a team could also be vulnerable shortly after taking the field after from the dressing room (at either half). The USA vs Canada game on Sunday is an example of this. Although Canada dominated the US, the solid US defense kept Canada from scoring and the score was maintained throughout the match.
To be clear, if your team is scored on in the first few minutes of the game (dressing room goal), don’t panic and regroup. If a second goal takes place in the first 20 minutes, the final score line can get out of hand and result in a high scoring rout of your team. See the recent relegation-promotion Bundesliga playoff game between Kiel vs Koln where 3 Koln goals were scored in the first 20 minutes.
Double header in the 18th rule:
Everyone knows how efficient set pieces are (over 33% of goals are scored off of set pieces). Therefore, avoid offensive headers in your penalty area (normally from corner kicks). More specifically, avoid two consecutive (double) headers in your own penalty area as most of the time those will result in a goal for the opponent.
Determining the free kick taker:
As stated above, free kicks (set pieces) account for a high percentage of goals. Learning how to defend them starts with knowing who will be the free kick taker. Thus, whenever there are multiple players standing behind the ball trying to deceive the opponent as to who will take the kick, know that whoever placed the ball on the ground and touched it last will be the shooter. Defend accordingly. The other guy is just standing there as a decoy.
New manager rule:
Managers who take over for a team mid-season usually win their first game no matter how bad the team was doing prior. At the very least, the team won’t lose. Nobody knows what it is but the influx of new ideas and the concept that all positions are “up for grabs” seems to bring out the best out of all players.
We recently experienced this close to home in a LouCity loss against new Atlanta United II boss: Jack Collison. He secured his first win in his first match as the new head coach. After that win, Atlanta United has been unable to win in the 6 matches following the coaching change.
Hand to the back pocket is always a red card. In pre-VAR times, there were no “if’s” or “but’s”. Once you saw that hand reaching out the back pocket, the player was gone. VAR has changed that a bit in that in some cases, the card could be rescinded. In general, there’s no point in arguing the red card unless it’s for game management purposes. It’s always best to minimize the walk of shame to the dressing rooms.
50/50 ball out of bounds rule:
After a 50/50 challenge and when the ball ends up out of bounds (especially in the referees quadrant), make it a habit to fetch the ball immediately. Having refereed games for over 20 years, I will tell you that referees, in the absence of a clear angle to grant the next possession will ‘often’ use the honor system and err on the side of whoever fetches the ball first. Weird but true.
Whenever a referee calls a PK in favor of team A in the first half, there a very high probability that he will try to compensate and call another one for team B in the second half provided the game is close. It’s human nature and referees are compassionate at times.
There are plenty more rules so this publication will continue to be amended forever...I should be charging for sharing this information. In summary, while it’s good to educate our kids (and ourselves) first on the 17 laws of the game; it’s just as good for us to know the unwritten ones whether you pass them on or not. No coach will ever teach you these unwritten rules. The game itself will teach them to you (and your kids) and sometimes in the cruelest of ways. One thing for sure, the sooner you learn them, the better prepared you will be and the narrower the football knowledge gap will be between us and the rest of the world. For more useful information, continue following us. #theGomezway
BTW, the next Chumchat season is around the corner, the guests have been busy making some football adjustments. For now, I’ll leave you with one of the latest episodes where one of current USMNT left-back starter talks about a multitude of things. He had a solid game against Canada. Get to know Sam Vines a little more. Hope you enjoy it.
…Ok, not quite yet; however, one of the silver linings of COVID has been our family’s ability to work from practically anywhere in the world. Within the appropriate restrictions and guidelines, we have been very fortunate to be able to safely (and semi-permanently) visit some family members during uncertain times. See, since late January of this year, we have made Louisville our second home.
Bordering the state of Indiana, Louisville is a gorgeous city with a wealth of history to offer to all of its visitors. Strolling through the 85 acres of Waterfront park has become customary and prolonging our daily runs/walks through downtown Louisville is now a routine for the family. We have loved every minute of it. Here are some of the highlights of our time here so far.
We don’t always arrive to Louisville by plane but one thing is for sure; both the skies and the roads always welcome us with open arms. Every time we arrive at the Mohammad Ali airport, there’s a sense of calmness and hospitality. COVID indeed plays a role in that solitude; however, you all should see how crowded the DFW airport was when the below picture was taken (especially during Spring Break).
Louisville Waterfront park
This public park is the closest green area near our new residence. Running parallel to the Ohio River, there’s something in it for all ages. There are spacious lawns, playgrounds for the youngsters, picnic areas for the families, boat docks for water lovers, Lincoln Memorial for history lovers, and possibly the most scenic attraction is the Big Four Bridge.
Our daily runs normally make us navigate through every part of it. When Chuy, our dog, accompanies us, we can’t take him across the Big Four Bridge due to the rules but otherwise, we navigate the entire park every outing. A part of the park runs underneath Interstate-64 which can get a little loud (our pet abhors walking under it) at times. Other than that, we have seen the entire park AND in every season of the year.
Back in January, we saw the park inundated with snow for the first time; it looked majestically white. As the snow melted and more precipitation fell, the vegetation started turning green and the Ohio River overflowed blocking parts of the park. Right at the heart of the park is Lincoln Memorial…
The Lincoln Memorial at Waterfront park is a must-see. A hidden cultural gem that centers around the 16th president’s Kentucky roots. In our walks/runs through the park, the memorial always drew our attention until we finally stopped by to admire it.
The memorial features a 12-foot statue of Lincoln seated on a rock (see below), looking out over the river. Four bas-reliefs (three pictured below) illustrate Lincoln’s ties to Kentucky. The memorial site features an amphitheater facing the river with granite seating that includes engravings of four famous Lincoln quotes. The canopy of trees that lead to the amphitheater includes several species that that were favorites of Lincoln.
“I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better”
– Abraham Lincoln
Adjacent to the memorial is one of the main attractions in Louisville: the Big Four Bridge.
Big Four Bridge:
Every time we go back “home” to Texas, we miss going on our interstate (Kentucky to Indiana) runs/walks across the Big Four Bridge. It is a metallic structure with so much history. Navigating through it, one can see a spectrum of folks exercising (walkers, runners, cyclists, etc.) or photographing. It’s so motivational and inspirational. Sunsets here are also very eye-opening. See below.
On the Indiana side (Jeffersonville), one can stop for a delicious meal at Parlour Pizzawhere the live music, the multiple tv screens with different sporting events make the atmosphere unique. We highly recommend it in between walks or after a run. The ample outdoor space is very welcoming.
LouCity Football Academy
Strolling farther down River Road, one will come across the new LouCity football training facility. It’s 6 fields with state of the art lighting, and configuration (love the L shape concept). During our first couple of month in town, we witnessed a couple of U18s/U19s scrimmages against MLS Next academies: Columbus Crew and FC Cincinnati academies. Without revealing the final score, it suffices to say that the LouCity Academy is well positioned to compete against any MLS Next academy. Mario Sanchez and coaching staff are working hard to build a reputation and indeed made a statement in those two games. Outliers? Time will tell.
If one stops by the training facility any weekday, one can witness practices for any of the two Louisville professional teams. In fact, if you wait long enough, one may get to take a picture with a Champions League and world cup winner…a legend in women’s soccer.
Thurman Hutchins Park
Further down from the new LouCity football training facility, one finds Thurman Hutchins Park. Go there on Wednesdays and you will find a group of cosmopolitan football players of decent quality. Good pickup football being played from 4-6 PM. Music is good, level is better and weather is even more so. Players are friendly and skilled. We will miss them once we move back to Texas. The main reason we discovered them was because we went to watch a LouCity scrimmage against Central College. Jogo looked good.
KFC Yum Center
This place gets packed during college basketball season; unfortunately, we have not been able to be present for any of the Cardinal games or social events. Our time will come but it would have been great to see the #2 Louisville Lady Cards play against the #1 NC State. For now, it suffices to jog around it on the beautiful 65 degree afternoons.
Louisville extreme park
Growing up, what I would have done to have access to an extreme park like this. Extreme sports have been evolving at a rapid rate for many years and we are glad that the city of Louisville recognizes that growth and offers a venue for the practice of such modality. I am envious but happy that so many extreme sports enthusiasts get to use this park on a daily basis. Lighting is great and it’s open 24 hours a day. A must-experience for extreme sports enthusiasts. Growing up, my extreme sport was bicycle freestyling.
Lynn Family Stadium
And how can we forget the “cathedral”? For football fans, it’s a must-see. The behind the scenes tour is spectacular. We can’t wait for the day when the cathedral is able to entertain at full capacity. The Coopers in one end of the field and the Morados in the other.
Starting today, we will be attending several games watching both Racing Louiville FC and in a couple of weeks LouCity kick off their respective 2021 seasons. We are so looking forward to those events and of course continue exploring this beautiful city. Until next time…#theGomezway
BTW, listen to the latest episode of Chumchat when you get a chance. USMNT U20 MNT player Cameron Harper explains his return to MLS. He talks about his time in Scotland, the playing style in that league, his upcoming competition at NYRB and of course his own definition of success. As always, thank your for your support to the Chums and the USMNT program through exploring the different player pool personalities.
Most professionals normally start their careers after the pursuit of a college degree; aspiring professional athletes however, must adhere to a different timeline due to their heavy reliance on their physical attributes. Thus, age (and time) is of the essence for them. Ideally, if the situation is adequate and athletes have an option to turn pro as early as mid-teenagers, many choose to do so. Unfortunately, in some of those cases, their academic development assumes a secondary role. Some athletes only get to finish high school, others only get to start college, but most professional footballers don’t even get to set foot on a college campus to play “college soccer” or pursue an academic degree.
One of our founding fathers Ben Franklin once said, there are two things in life that are certain: death and taxes. Although he continues to be mostly correct, there are other absolute truths in life that are equally certain for professionals. For example, any professional will eventually cease practicing their trade and the corresponding remuneration. More specifically, all professional athletes will be forced into retirement much sooner than other college degreed professions and then, what comes next?
Domestically, one of the most financially life-impacting sacrifices a young footballer (and their family) makes could be forfeiting their NCAA eligibility in order to pursue a professional football career. However, contrary to popular belief, that sacrifice doesn’t necessarily mean the footballer needs to give up the pursuit of a college degree altogether. In fact, as footballers, they probably have the most free time to continue their education (be it high school or college) during their playing careers.
High school (HS) is the most basic level of education an athlete should strive to complete. This education level should be non-negotiable especially with the various flexible online options available. It should not only be completed for the opportunity to one day pursue a college education but ultimately, for personal satisfaction -pride if you will-. If an aspiring professional footballer does not possess the discipline to finish a HS curriculum, what should we expect for the rest of their professional footballer career in terms of objectives and discipline to achieve them? Talent alone won’t be enough.
Most professional clubs’ main focus is to develop professional footballers and (knowingly or not) end up neglecting the players’ academic development. It’s a numbers game; most clubs are not staffed to dedicate time or resources to monitor (and much less assist with) players’ HS academics. Their efforts are almost exclusively focused around finding the next academy player who could either be sold for a hefty fee to finance the academy costs for the next couple of years or who could contribute to the first team. Makes sense. Football is a business and it’s all about winning and money (not in that order for some).
Not only are professional clubs mostly interested in the football development aspect of the player; most players agents are too. Rarely would either talk academics (especially agents) beyond the forced “how’s school going?”. Thus, the academic responsibility falls on the young footballer and their family. As parents, we must not let our footballer neglect their HS education on account of the pursuit of a professional playing career. They are never mutually exclusive and allowing diverging paths, can have long-lasting financial effects for the footballer. Here are some cold facts that could be used to further incentivize young footballers to continue their HS education:
Footballers are on short-term contracts. No money is ever guaranteed beyond a few years. As brutally lengthy as some find MLS contracts to be (3+2), 3 years of guaranteed money is good (especially for a teenager); however, that amount of time doesn’t get footballers to full-age retirement even after playing for an average of 7-10 years.
Very few footballers can make a living in the same industry (coaching, commentating, etc.) after their playing careers are over.
It’s of utmost importance to finish a HS education in order to aspire to higher academic choices and be better prepared for the future. Generally speaking, more education translates into good and more stable employment in a given field later in life.
Some families believe that turning into a professional footballer means giving up a college degree. That is not necessarily true. While professional footballers cannot return to play “collegiate soccer” at an amateur level by earning an athletic scholarship playing, they are welcome at any college/university provided they foot their own bill or rely on non-football financial aid (academics or financial need). So it’s a money situation. A college education is expensive and a community college may be the most financially viable way to start that pursuit.
Certainly, as a late teenager, a college education can be delayed a few years and yet a football career can’t. Postponing a college education a few years until a footballer has gone through the rigors of the profession may result in better preparation to meet life’s demands. The development of skills such as discipline, time management, analytical skills, team work, accountability, networking, and additional knowledge only gained through the sum of playing years (maturity) can be very valuable. But why wait until the football career is over? In fact, very few footballers finish their playing careers and then pursue a degree from scratch.
Take some college courses while playing and get the core courses out of the way. While that HS knowledge is fresh, leverage it. An additional benefit is that when the footballer finally concludes their playing career, they will have fewer credits to complete a degree and will be that much closer to having post-playing academic-based professional career choices. Alternatively, they will have completed enough credits for either an Associates or technical degree, or to transfer to a full four-year university.
Sometimes, a four-year college degree can be pursued during the footballer’s playing days. In the past, players such as Orlando’s Tesho Akindele, Chicago’s Fabian Herbers, and others have either completed what they had started at a brick and mortar university or concluded one from scratch. Currently, players like Mark Mckenzie, Paxton, Johan, etc. are pursuing their college degree during their playing days. It’s very possible but it requires some desire, a lot of motivation and further sacrifices (yes, some PlayStation time).
In the past MLS/USL teams have made it easier for players and staff to pursue a college education by partnering with some higher level institutions. This is a great first step; however, the initiative has to be taken by the player (with a little nudge by the family).
MLS offers (or used to) a partnership with Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) through which they could pursue a college degree. It was a convenient, and cheaper alternative but ultimately players in MLS should be responsible for seeking their academic alternatives that best suit their needs.
European based players do not have the benefit of an NHSU partnership at a reduced cost; in fact, they usually have a higher wall to climb as they are required to learn a new language: Chris Richards (German), Reggie (Portuguese), Bryan Reynolds (Italian), etc. In Johan’s specific case, the obligatory Portuguese classes have served him as a continuity learning bridge between the end of his HS curriculum and the beginning of his college degree. No learning gap in between.
The longer a footballer (or anybody) goes without the academic rigors of a classroom (virtual or not), the more difficult it will be to return to a learning environment in life ultimately reducing the opportunities post a playing-career. Nurturing a growth mindset from early on on children, can be the difference. Parents…lead by example. It’s never too late.
Some may argue that a piece of paper is just as good as the connections in life. While we tend to agree with the general concept, it’s important to keep a growth mindset at all times. Networking indeed opens doors; however, talent, and a growth mindset will keep those doors open and in turn open even more. Always be curious, hungry for more and never stop learning. Whether that’s via a formal education or not. Don’t become stale, learn a new skill, a different language (points at self), a new hobby, etc. It may not necessarily be for a lucrative reason but challenge yourself often.
All young footballers dream of becoming professional players at some point in their lives. After all, who wouldn’t want to reap the benefits of years of intense training, full of sacrifices. Realistically, very few will be financially set for life just from their playing career earnings.
As parents, we must help them transition into that phase of their lives by being educated in certain aspects of the profession. Football professionalism is achievable but nevertheless short. Will the young players be prepared for the career after their playing days are over? Teach them to have a growth mindset and adapt. They will forever be grateful once their playing careers are over. Please continue interacting with us. We love it. #theGomezway