Tag Archives: soccer

2021 in hindsight for the Gómez’s

Last year, we all begged for 2020 to end as we were ready to move on… now, here we are. Some would say we are better off while others may vehemently disagree. Personally, as the Gómez reflect upon what 2021 brought us, we must inevitably acknowledge some of the challenges at the global, and national levels of the past twelve months. Just like 2020 was a very tumultuous year from various view points: political, economic, socio-cultural, and technological to name a few, there is always the silver lining and we are grateful for the many lessons learned.

Our family was blessed in many ways but not without overcoming challenges. Reminiscing about this year’s events is a reminder to live each day at its fullest with no regrets. Thus, with a few days remaining in 2021, let’s recap some of the most notable events for our family and parallelly (especially sports) events around the nation and the world in chronological order. In the sporting side of things, 2021 could definitely be labeled as the year of the “sports resurgences” or better yet, “title droughts end

January

Personal

After having spent the Christmas and New Year holidays with Johan in Portugal, Jogo finally returned home from successful Portuguese trials. We were very thankful for the invitations to train with different clubs during difficult times. Although opportunities with those clubs ultimately did not materialize, sometimes the journey starts with filtering out potential opportunities.

National/Global

On January 6th, in an unfortunate turn of events, the US Capitol was invaded and attacked by a group of alleged President Trump’s supporters. Their objective was to overturn President Trump’s electoral defeat by disrupting a Congress session.

The Capitol was locked down and lawmakers evacuated while the rioters vandalized it. In the end, five people died with more than 140 people injured during the storming.

February

Personal

On February 1st, Jogo officially started his first LouCity pre-season. Frigid weather was awaiting the start of the first practice but that wasn’t going to be an impediment. In a fun, unplanned team-bonding activity, teammates, and members of the technical staff shoveled snow to make way for the first practice of the season. When one has clear objectives, a little cooler weather won’t stop the will to succeed…and on he went to his first practice of the season driving for the first time in treacherous conditions.

Jogo’s transportation to practice. 02.01.21 (Louisville, KY)

National

Winter storm Uri brought unprecedented weather which impacted the entire state of Texas (and some surrounding states) leaving millions of households without electricity or water. For us, the silver lining was that Joana and I were stranded at home for several days and we made a ton of memories surviving with basic stuff. We will cherish those moments forever. People all over the state came together to help in the most unexpected ways.

Sometimes adversity brings out the best in people

National/Global

On February 7th, then-43 year old Tom Brady led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a franchise second Super Bowl LV (55th) victory. History was written as the Bucs became the first team to win a Super Bowl in their home stadium.

In the process, Brady earned his 7th Super Bowl ring over heavily favorites reigning champs Kansas City Chiefs by a score of 31-9. He is the epitome of consistency.

March

Personal

FC Porto makes the difficult decision to rescind Portuguese legend Rui Barros contract as the Porto B coach. The sacking unfortunately coincided with Johan’s nursing a slight knock. As the team quickly gets into a fierce Segunda Liga relegation fight (Welcome to Europe Johan), Johan sees his playing time gradually reduced. In an attempt to help Porto B survive the relegation battle, the new coach (Antonio Fòlha) started adding first team players to Porto B’s game day rosters which proved inefficient. In the last game of the season, in a lucky yet divine way, Porto B managed to stay in the second division, despite losing the derby against Benfica by a one goal (ultimately a point) difference and using 8 first team players in the game. Johan tells us about it in this article.

National

2021 was a memorable year for boxing legend deaths. On March 13th, “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler passed away at the age of 66. Hagler was an undisputed middleweight champion, with his most-dominant performances coming in the 1980s when he defended his title 12 times. In 67 total fights, he was 62-3-2.

Other boxing legend deaths in 2021 included: Leon Spinks (February 5th) who is part of a very select group who once defeated the great Mohammad Ali.

BTW, this year, we also had the opportunity to visit the Louisville, Kentucky native Mohammad Ali museum. The museum is a must-see attraction if you are boxing fan -like I am- in the heart of downtown Louisville.

Global

On March 27th, days after an Evergreen container ship became lodged in the Suez Canal blocking all commercial traffic, it was reported that it would take days to weeks to dislodge it. The 224,000 ton vessel first became lodged on March 23, with no sign of budging. On March 29, the rear of the ship was dislodged, but rescuers believed it would still take time to refloat the vessel and fully open the canal. On March 31, rescue missions failed yet again as rescuers announced that they may need to remove 706,000 cubic feet of sand in order to move it. Water may also need to be removed from around the area in order to remove the ship.

April

Personal

As a family, we made the calculated decision to allow me to spend a good portion of the USL-C season in Louisville to help Jogo out during this important year. After 60+ days of preseason, Jogo started regular season play on April 24th under then-coach John Hackworth. He performed well in a 2-0 victory over Atlanta United II. His first and last hockey assists for the season ironically coincided with his first and last games of the season.

National

On April 5th, the NCAA March Madness championship game was played at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis. The big XII underdog Baylor Bears (which defeated my running horns) were crowned national champions by beating the then undefeated Gonzaga Bulldogs by a score of 86-70. This was the first time the Men’s Baylor Basketball team won the championship game.

May

Personal

Upon FC Porto’s season conclusion, Johan briefly returned home after being away for an entire year and playing without fans. 2020 and 2021 will undoubtedly go down in the world history books as tough years for professionals and footballers were not the exception. Johan, playing exclusively as a midfielder, helped Porto B avoid relegation. FC Porto helped him become a more versatile player; however, we, as a family, ultimately made the difficult decision to leave the Portuguese market for the time-being. It was a tough, very tough decision. FC Porto is a great organization and the Portuguese market, like any other, has its nuances. Some may disagree and think that the Portuguese football market has historically been brutal for American players. Possibly true…we are working on a publication about the Portuguese football market. Porto as a city is such a beautiful, touristic, paradisiac place with a very easy language to learn. We’ll definitely miss it.

Meanwhile, Jogo received his first callup to the Mexican senior national team for training. During camp, he got to know all the players who were preparing for the new Nations League tournament.

At camp, Tecatito, and friend of Johan from Porto, confused Jogo with Johan and told him: “No mames gūey, se parecen un buen” (The resemblance of the two is incredible at times).

National/Global

On May 30th and 23 years since their last league title, Mexico’s Liga MX Cruz Azul (my club) was crowned Guardianes’s champion reaching its 9th star after defeating Santos Laguna in both legs of the championship games. The victory hit close to home as the family bleeds blue. Without a doubt, its impact was felt internationally due to the many championship games Cruz Azul had previously lost in the most dramatic ways during those 23 years, and thus the inception of the verb: “cruzazulear“. A curse had been indeed broken. The game was extra special for all of me as Johan and I watched it together at home. Honestly, I shed a few tears of joy…

Cruz Azul 05.30.21 (CDMX, Mexico)

June

Personal

After returning from the senior Mexican National team camp, the month proved to be a very prolific one for Jogo. He was selected for the preliminary Gold Cup roster and then he recorded his first three assists of the season and scored his first two professional goals.

National

On June 6th, the USMNT defeated Mexico by a score of 3-2 in overtime to claim the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League title. In a back and forth contest that had to go to overtime, the US team overcame a deficit twice. This would be the first of three victories by the USMNT over Mexico in 2021.

Global

2021 marked what some would consider the end of Rafael Nadal era in major tennis tournaments. Nadal entered the French Open as the heavy favorite seeking to become the first man to win 21 majors and his 14th French Open. He reached the semifinals of the clay event where he encountered Novak Djokovic in a rematch of the previous year’s final. There, Nadal was upset by eventual champion Djokovic in four sets, in only his third-ever (two to Djokovic) loss at the French Open. Following his loss, Nadal withdrew from both Wimbledon and the Olympics citing a left foot injury. Prior to the French Open, Nadal had lost in the quarterfinals at another major: the Australian Open.

July

July was a very busy month in terms of sporting events and more so with championship stories that had not taken place in many decades in the international realm.

Personal

After a brief training period which included some scrimmages, Johan signed with FSV Zwickau. Managed by American Coach Joe Enochs who played alongside Gregg Berhalter, Johan opened another door in a different market for himself. He quickly showed his quality scoring a goal in his second friendly. Germany opened up its borders shortly after which allowed the family to go visit him and help him get settled in Zwickau. It was a memorable trip.

National

The closure of the US-Canada borders due to the pandemic  forced the NHL to temporarily realign the teams in three US-based divisions and one Canadian division to limit travel. The top four teams in each division played each other with the winners of those games advancing to the divisional round. The four divisional playoff champions were then re-seeded by regular season points in the Stanley Cup Semifinals. The winners of the Semifinals played each other in the Stanley Cup Finals. On July 7th, the Tampa Bay Lighting defeated the Montreal Canadiens in game 5 to win its 3rd NHL Stanley Cup Final.

Global

On July 10th, Argentina (and Messi) finally won the 47th edition of Copa America by defeating archrival Brazil by a score of 1-0. I still remember watching Argentina’s last international tournament victory 28 years ago in 1993 vs Mexico. This trophy is ultimately what gave Messi the advantage to edge other footballers in the pursuit of yet another Golden Ball or Ballon d’Or.

The next day, on July 11th, Italy won the Euro 2020* by defeating England by a score of 3-2. Their last Euro was celebrated 53 years ago. For our family, it was a great moment having watched the Italy vs Spain semifinal game while in Spain.

Tokyo Olympics:

COVID continued to impact the world of sports relentlessly. The Tokyo Olympics were supposed to take place in 2020 but a calculated decision was made to move them to 2021. It was an atypical Olympics without fans where, among many abnormalities, Simon Biles reminded us that it’s OK to not be OK. The USWNT wanted to return to their *normal* winning ways; however, in a surprising slow performance in bracket play, the team did not advance to the championship match. Instead, the team ended up earning a bronze medal against a tough Australian side by the score of 4-3 but underperforming in their journey.

NBA Finals

We knew that the NBA was very popular in Mexico but now we have witnessed first hand how many fans follow it in Europe. To cement 2021 as the “come-backs” in sports other than football, after 50 years since their last championship in 1971, the Milwaukee Bucs defeated the Phoenix Suns in 6 games to win their 2nd franchise title.

August

Personal

Jogo suffered a slight knock in the game against Oklahoma City (played on turf) and missed Mexico’s first set of U20 MNT friendlies in Spain. Unfortunately, we are now experts at this type of adversity; in a similar fashion, back in 2020, Johan had missed the January U20 MNT camp and March friendlies due to injury and the pandemic respectively. Unfortunately, injuries are an inevitable part of this sport and yet, we, as a family, still struggle coping with these temporary setbacks. A few months afterwards, Jogo was fortunate enough to be selected again to play against France, and England in another Mexico U20 set of friendlies in Spain.

National

Gold cup

On August 1st, in another back and forth match, the USMNT defeated Mexico in overtime by a score of 1-0 to win the Gold Cup. This title marked the second consecutive victory in the summer over the Mexican rivals.

Global

On August 10th, after 21 years spent at Barcelona, Messi and Barcelona part ways in an emotional yet expected announcement. A few days later, PSG announced the signing of the super star. His adaptation period in France has been nothing but easy so far.

September

September was a great month on the personal footballing side of things…

Personal

On September 1st, Jogo celebrated his 18th birthday and became eligible to sign with a European club. As a family, we had traveled to Spain in preparation for this event. On September 30th, the announcement was finally made public by LouCity and Real Sociedad. Read all about it in the link above.

Johan officially opened his scoring account in Germany and scored his first league goal and bagged his first hockey assist in the same game. He’s continued to have success in the league and we are looking forward to what 2022 has prepared for him.

October

Personal

I moved to Zwickau Germany for about 5 weeks to live with Johan. I loved every minute of it; we had not lived at the same place since he was 15. I’m grateful we got to spend some quality time together and I got to learn about a different culture during COVID times.

National

On October 14th, former Secretary of State Colin Powell dies of COVID-19 complications at age 84. Powell was the first Black U.S. secretary of state serving from 2001-2005, and had shaped foreign policy in leadership roles in a number of Republican administrations. RIP Colin Powell.

November

Personal

LouCity’s season ended prematurely in an abrupt and dramatic way at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rowdies again in the Eastern Conference final game. Our family made the trip to St. Petersburg to support Jogo.

UEFA Champions League

On November 3rd, while I was still in Germany, Johan surprised me with tickets to attend our first Champions League game together in Red Bull Arena in Leipzig. We are making this a tradition, when he was at Porto, we had had the opportunity to watch Porto vs. Young Boys.

Unfortunately, we did not get to see Messi but we got to see Mbappe, Neymar, and the player who stole the show: “el fideo” DiMaria. The final 2-2 score did not disappoint. Spending time with my oldest: priceless. Looking forward to the next one Johan.

We indeed closed the year in a strong way by attending some other important international games.

WC Qualifying:

Following the UEFA Champions League game, on November 15th, I attended the World Cup Qualifying game between USA vs Mexico game in Cincinnati. TQL stadium. It was a unique experience. The US squad beat Mexico for a third time in 2021. This time the score was another 2-0.

National

On November 2nd, the Atlanta braves won their 4th world series. This time, they convincingly defeated the Houston Astros (7-0) in the 6th game of the series.

Global

On November 8th, after 20 months of having its international borders shut down, the US decides to open them back up. Unfortunately, I traveled back home from Germany on that day and the trip became longer than usual as security lines were super long. Patience is indeed a virtue.

December

December was an extremely busy month from a sporting perspective and it hasn’t yet concluded. History is still being written…

Personal

Jogo is called up to the USMNT.

USMNT Callup

Jogo received his first USMNT callup. One that would have never taken place if the Spanish working visa were not taking an eternity to process. He made his USMNT debut and played a small role in the only goal.

Jogo finally completes his move to Real Sociedad. This is what Xabi Alonso had to say about him back in October hoping that he would be with the team in November…

National

Liga MX

Honoring the slogan of the year of the comebacks, Atlas FC, after 70 years of their last championship title, defeated Leon in penalty kicks to win the Grita México Apertura title on December 12th. This game was even more memorable than my Cruz Azul’s May title due to their longer dry spell. En horabuenta a todos mis amigos rojinegros. I know the feeling of relief. There are many Atlas fans scattered throughout México and the US.

Football

On December 28th, the ex-NFL Hall of Fame coach John Madden passed away at the age 85. Some will remember him from his coaching days with the Oakland Raiders. He won a super bowl there. Yet others will remember him from his NFL broadcasting days (commentating my cowboys games) with his simple analysis. The younger generation will always associate him to the Madden NFL Football video games. In any of those facets, Madden will be remembered as a legend on and off the field and perhaps the person who has impacted the NFL the most with his relentless love of the game. RIP John Madden.

Global

Formula 1

For the first time in nearly 50 years (another resurgence), the title frontrunners: Britan’s Lewis Hamilton and the Dutch Max Verstappen entered the final race level on points. Red Bull team’s Max Verstappen took Abu Dhabi’s pole position with a brilliant display but Mercedes team’s Hamilton shared the front row seeking his eight title.

In an ending fit for this most chaotic and captivating of seasons, that all changed when the Safety Car emerged late on, allowing Verstappen to pit again and attack Hamilton on the final lap of the season, the Dutchman passing at Turn 5 to close out victory and, with it, the 2021 drivers’ title for the first time. México’s Checo Pérez ultimate Red Bull’s team effort positioned Verstappen to win the race. What a race!!!

  • Verstappen 395.5 points
  • Hamilton 387.5 points
Brasiléro

On December 9th, and after 50 years (another resurgence) of their last championship. Brasil’s Atletico Mineiro, featuring players like Hulk (BR), Diego Costa (SP), Eduardo Vargas (CHI). win the 2021 Campeonato Brasiléro Série A.

2022

2021 was definitely the second consecutive COVID impacted year and as the famous Yogi Berra once said: “It’s not over until it’s over”. There are still a few days left this year and we must finish strong even as the daily COVID cases continue to set record highs. All in all, there are still several silver lining items to reflect upon. One being that we are definitely closer to reaching a new normalcy and that can only be encouraging news. People have started realizing what’s truly important in their lives these past couple of years. On the sporting side of things, many sports records/curses were finally broken. Thus, we approach 2022 with a lot of hope and expect that the new year brings us more pleasant surprises and more sporting history will surely be written. Here are some things our family will be looking forward to.

Personal

Togetherness is the fuel that keeps our family functioning. We hope 2022 allows us the ability to gather, reunite, and openly interact with one another. Recently, 19+ months passed since the last time our family was all in the same room. Well, that meeting finally occurred, of all places, at the DFW airport. Below are some pictures of us picking up Johan from his return from Germany trip and us returning from Jogo’s USMNT debut. It’s been very challenging and will continue to be so; however, if we were able to withstand 19+ months apart, 2022 has nothing on us with our recharged batteries and positive energy.

2022 will definitely start off a bit challenging for the family with Jogo’s unplanned delayed arrival to Spain due to his ongoing work visa dilemma. We are hoping he gets to register on time to be able to play in the spring. Either way, we will have to go drop him off in San Sebastian, Spain in a few days. Some tears will be shed but we know he will be in a good place and closer to Johan.

On Johan’s side, he is in a good, stable environment and we hope he stays healthy above all. If he can do that consistently, he will inevitably continue to play an instrumental piece in FSV Zwickau’s attack and impact game outcomes like he has been. He has settled in well in Germany and could be in auto-pilot mode the second half of the season. The family will go visit both of them in the next few months COVID-permitting.

The pandemic uncertainty has not gone away. At the beginning of 2021, we thought we had a vaccine solution for the Delta variant. Now, Omicron is here. Hope is the last thing to lose and we certainly hope 2022 turns out to be a better year for all of us. For now, we can only plan our pathways with the information available; in the process, there will be definitely be twists and turns that will require adjustments. Seize the day #carpediem

Global

On a very football selfish personal note, 2022 will be a World Cup year and that’s always an event that draws global attention.

Qatar World Cup (WC)

Towards the end of the calendar year, the world will have a chance to witness the next WC. It will be the fist WC in the modern era to be played in the month of December. We are all so looking forward to it but until then, let’s keep in touch.

Social Media

We are always grateful for the support towards our family. If you like to stay up on the latest and don’t follow us yet in other social media platforms, please do so. We have a variety of content. You can find us at the links below. Happy 2022 New Year everyone!!!

Football’s unwritten laws/rules

Most of us football fans (aka experts) will pride ourselves in thoroughly knowing the ‘beautiful game’; some will claim empirical knowledge: “I have been playing since I was five years old“, “saw the ‘hand of God’ live in 86“, others may brag: “I played college at the D1 level” (applicable to American “soccer” fans). Our favorite one is when the Geography card is played: “I grew up in <insert traditional football nation>…err England, Argentina> or the social media one: “I have ‘X’ soccer followers on Twitter“. Yet others, in an effort to establish ultimate football credibility, will state that they played pro football with <insert football star’s name> but an injury prevented them from going further. Whichever the case may be, the common denominator is the football “expertise” that the average fan claims to possess.

Ironically, another common trait among some of us football “experts” is often that few actually know the most fundamental piece of information: the rules (aka as the laws) of the game. In fact, even fewer actually know how many laws of the game there are. Why is it important to know the laws of the game you wonder? Well, for starters, you can’t either play or critique a game that is not understood. More importantly, it establishes football credibility and honestly, keeps controversy discussions (ex. VAR, offside, refereeing, etc.) to a minimum. Second, it aids in one’s understanding and analysis of the totality of the game (ex. What quadrants are referees less likely to issue a yellow card?). Using non-existent words/phrases like “offsides”, “hand-ball”, “high kick”, “playing on the ground”, “scoring points”, etc. quickly gives it away. Third, it elevates one’s football IQ and if the knowledge is channeled correctly, one can become a better player, coach, official, fan, etc. If not for self-advancement purposes, learn the laws of the game to further appreciate the beauty of the game including the referees.

While it’s true that there are frequent revisions to the laws of the game, the quantity (and spirit of each) hasn’t really changed in a while (that could change quickly). Thus, next time, there’s a desire to boast how much you know “soccer or football”, please take some time to at least revise the latest revision of the laws of the game. All that being said, for those of you whose knowledge goes beyond the laws of the game, there are unwritten ones (some may call them clichés or rules) that only those who have played the game (at any level) would know by heart. Here are a few:

Players:

Former player rule:

When a player faces their former club, it’s an unwritten rule that the player will either score or have an assist. Nobody really understands the underlying reasons: chip on the shoulder, stamina, prove a point, luck, revenge, etc. Any of those factors could be a contributor. A recent example close to home, Michael Barrios, ex-FC Dallas player scored against his former team in Colorado’s 3-0 rout of ‘Los Toros’ earlier this year and then again yesterday. Below are additional examples from around European clubs. BTW, sometimes a lot can be inferred by the way the player celebrates their goal against their former club if you know what I mean.

Scoreline:

2-0 lead rule:

Some may say it’s a cliché but the reality is that one of the cruelest and most deceiving score lines in football is a 2-0 lead. Teams leading by this score tend to reach a relaxing comfort zone and that normally becomes a recipe for disaster. It’s always best to treat this score as a 1-0 loss; otherwise, complacency could become the precursor for an opponent’s comeback. See Borussia Dortmund vs Bayern Munich game recently.

Goals:

Goal vulnerability rule:

Teams are the most vulnerable in the ten minutes after scoring a goal; nobody really knows why: zealousness caused by over celebration, high emotion, lack of discipline, etc. There have been studies done on it but some may still say it’s a cliché. Either way, it’s of utmost importance to celebrate the goal but hastily prepare to continue playing and scoring again; otherwise, the opponent could capitalize on the goal celebration distractions/mood and a momentum reversal can occur within minutes. In a low-scoring game such as football, you want to minimize the opponent’s chances of scoring. Be ready from the time your team leaves the dressing room to the final whistle.

Dressing room goal rule:

Similar to the reasons stated above, a team could also be vulnerable shortly after taking the field after from the dressing room (at either half). The USA vs Canada game on Sunday is an example of this. Although Canada dominated the US, the solid US defense kept Canada from scoring and the score was maintained throughout the match.

To be clear, if your team is scored on in the first few minutes of the game (dressing room goal), don’t panic and regroup. If a second goal takes place in the first 20 minutes, the final score line can get out of hand and result in a high scoring rout of your team. See the recent relegation-promotion Bundesliga playoff game between Kiel vs Koln where 3 Koln goals were scored in the first 20 minutes.

Double header in the 18th rule:

Everyone knows how efficient set pieces are (over 33% of goals are scored off of set pieces). Therefore, avoid offensive headers in your penalty area (normally from corner kicks). More specifically, avoid two consecutive (double) headers in your own penalty area as most of the time those will result in a goal for the opponent.

Free Kicks:

Determining the free kick taker:

As stated above, free kicks (set pieces) account for a high percentage of goals. Learning how to defend them starts with knowing who will be the free kick taker. Thus, whenever there are multiple players standing behind the ball trying to deceive the opponent as to who will take the kick, know that whoever placed the ball on the ground and touched it last will be the shooter. Defend accordingly. The other guy is just standing there as a decoy.

Managers/Coaches:

New manager rule:

Managers who take over for a team mid-season usually win their first game no matter how bad the team was doing prior. At the very least, the team won’t lose. Nobody knows what it is but the influx of new ideas and the concept that all positions are “up for grabs” seems to bring out the best out of all players.

We recently experienced this close to home in a LouCity loss against new Atlanta United II boss: Jack Collison. He secured his first win in his first match as the new head coach. After that win, Atlanta United has been unable to win in the 6 matches following the coaching change.

Referees:

Ejection rule:

Hand to the back pocket is always a red card. In pre-VAR times, there were no “if’s” or “but’s”. Once you saw that hand reaching out the back pocket, the player was gone. VAR has changed that a bit in that in some cases, the card could be rescinded. In general, there’s no point in arguing the red card unless it’s for game management purposes. It’s always best to minimize the walk of shame to the dressing rooms.

50/50 ball out of bounds rule:

After a 50/50 challenge and when the ball ends up out of bounds (especially in the referees quadrant), make it a habit to fetch the ball immediately. Having refereed games for over 20 years, I will tell you that referees, in the absence of a clear angle to grant the next possession will ‘often’ use the honor system and err on the side of whoever fetches the ball first. Weird but true.

Penalty Kicks:

Whenever a referee calls a PK in favor of team A in the first half, there a very high probability that he will try to compensate and call another one for team B in the second half provided the game is close. It’s human nature and referees are compassionate at times.

There are plenty more rules so this publication will continue to be amended forever...I should be charging for sharing this information. In summary, while it’s good to educate our kids (and ourselves) first on the 17 laws of the game; it’s just as good for us to know the unwritten ones whether you pass them on or not. No coach will ever teach you these unwritten rules. The game itself will teach them to you (and your kids) and sometimes in the cruelest of ways. One thing for sure, the sooner you learn them, the better prepared you will be and the narrower the football knowledge gap will be between us and the rest of the world. For more useful information, continue following us. #theGomezway

BTW, the next Chumchat season is around the corner, the guests have been busy making some football adjustments. For now, I’ll leave you with one of the latest episodes where one of current USMNT left-back starter talks about a multitude of things. He had a solid game against Canada. Get to know Sam Vines a little more. Hope you enjoy it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Physical/Mental

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

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

Increased opportunities

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

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

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

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

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

Financial

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

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

Current club situation

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

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

Age

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

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

Football positions

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

Football positions by number

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

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


Portuguese Quarantine

It’s nothing short of weird being quarantined in a foreign country. Foreign-ish. I don’t really like to use that excuse anymore because I feel like I’m really well adapted, plus Portugal reminds me a lot of Mexico. It gives me comfort sometimes when I’m out and about and certain parts of the city are identical to Mexico. The first couple of days went by so slowly, it seemed like it was a week’s worth of time packed within one day. Our apartment is a good size but I share a room with someone and even just a few days in, I already felt like I was losing my sanity. Thankfully, there was a first team player who happened to get loaned out about a month ago. He happens to be an Argentinian who gets along very well with my also Argentinian roommate. Long story short, he left us his car and his house. We packed up our stuff to stay for a couple weeks minimum and headed over to the crib. It’s looking like it’ll be about a month until we go back to training and that’s if everything goes well. The countdown’s on.

2020-04-21T17:12:00

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Back to Training (Supposedly)

As I’m writing this, we’re about 23 hours in and this is about as good as quarantine gets. Space away from roommate, space to do my own thing, FaceTime friends and family without overlapping conversations as my roommate screams while playing Fortnite. It’s been really nice. I had forgotten what it’s like to have a little space to breathe. Yesterday we headed to the supermarket, masked up, to stock up on groceries since the only downfall of this is that we’ll have to cook. Thank God that people in Portugal haven’t resulted to panic buying like some people in the states have. I would honestly have no food to live off of if that was the case. The cafeteria where we usually get our food from at Casa Dragao, is closed right now. All my teammates have gone home, and my national team teammates (most) that play in Germany or England got to head back… without having to quarantine upon arrival, so I’m a little jealous. Shout-out Leo (Sepulveda) if you’re reading this, because it’s way worse in Spain and he hasn’t been able to go home so I can’t even complain. He’s been helping me by telling me what to stock up on and what to cook and stuff. That’s the bro. We stocked up on groceries and I cooked my first meal in a while. Easy to make spaghetti. Simple, healthy and always filling. Haven’t cooked in a while and honestly, forgot how much I hate cleaning up after and washing the dishes. That night, I went to sleep kind of late but woke up early the next morning to do the workout Porto sent us, plus, I want to keep my body on the same training schedule time-wise as we’re usually on. I was only going to spend about an hour out there but ended up staying for two because I got a hold of the ball. I could have stayed outside forever with the ball honestly, especially now that there’s nothing to do.

Johan fiddling with the ball 031820 (Porto, Portugal)

After, I finished with some stretches to make sure the legs don’t tighten up too much. I’ve struggled with my hamstring lately so I’m using this time to really take care of it, especially when we’re just sitting around, your muscles tend to tighten and tense up so it’s always good to do light stretches to increase flexibility. Highly recommended for any athlete, and you can do them while watching TV or doing nothing now that you’re in quarantine.

I’ve really been enjoying the space I have compared to normal, but it’s no secret I’d rather be home right now. I talked to the people in charge here but they don’t want to let me go until a date is given for return to play so we’re waiting on the federation to say something. I doubt they’ll let me go back, so kind of just have to deal with it. It sucks because, although I wouldn’t necessarily be able to go out with my friends, at least I would be in my city and with my family. Also, I don’t want to be stuck here if things get worse and it’s summer. Then, there would really be no point in me being here. I have a good relationship with the doctors here due to my past injury and they’re constantly checking up on my mental state, and I’ve never struggled with that (thank God, but if you do struggle with that reach out to someone) but it is weird being here and not playing with the team.

The World’s Most Unforgettable Smile

By the way, at time of writing it’s Ronaldinho’s 40th birthday, he’s one of the greatest of all time and helped a lot of us fall in love with the game with that contagious smile. Let’s honor him by watching some of his greatest moments. Oh and go subscribe to my podcast on YT, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts. Also, follow us on insta @chum.chat . We’re honestly pretty good for a trio of 18 year old. Give it a listen… you probably have nothing better to do.

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