Now that international borders are pretty much open, I decided to pay Jogo a visit in Spain. It was a trip that had been in the works ever since Claudia and Joana returned from dropping Jogo off about seven weeks ago. They spoke highly of the Donostia-San Sebastián (from here on out, referred to DSB -for short) attractions so I had to come and experience it for myself.
For those of you who have inquired about the possibility of visiting Jogo, you may find this post useful or it may totally dissuade you from visiting him due to the logistics involved. Either way, it contains some relevant (somewhat detailed) travel information and some caveats. It’s worth noting that now, more than ever, airline prices are very competitive and you can easily book a $500 round trip to DSB as long as you plan it well. Jogo will gladly welcome you with open arms (especially if you bring him goodies) and likely even give you tickets to one of his games while you are visiting. This is how the trip to DSB and my first week is going…
Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW)
A week ago today, I left home in Keller at 2:20 PM CST for a 4:59 PM CST Delta flight to Atlanta, GA. For a Thursday afternoon, the TSA lines at DFW were busier than normal but I made it through security by 3:05 PM CST which worked well with my football agenda. I then found a quiet place to work for about 90 minutes while watching the Leipzig vs Real Sociedad Europa League game and once it finished (final score: 2-2), waited a few minutes to board the flight to Atlanta. Unfortunately, the bad weather in Atlanta delayed our take off until 6 PM CST. Could that be a sign of what was about to come my way? I mean, everything had been carefully planned out but God’s plans always prevail…
After a 90 minute flight, I landed in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport with plenty of time to spare due to an also delayed flight (things were not looking good already) to Amsterdam (more to come on the reason for the 2nd delay later) and although I had time to sit down to eat a full meal, I opted to just get a snack and work some more instead.
Our plane to Amsterdam finally took off around 11:10 PM CST (originally scheduled for 9:30 PM CST due to impending bad weather in the Netherlands) and off we went for 8 hours under very rainy Atlanta (not cold at all) conditions but at last, we were in the air.
The turbulence was crazy but that’s not the reason I didn’t sleep much during the flight. I even had the two available seats right next to me for extra space. The excitement of seeing Jogo perhaps was too much so I read, ate, and watched the second part of “A Quiet Place” for the second time.
Amsterdam is one of the many choices for a layover in Europe; others options are London, Madrid, Frankfurt, Paris, etc. To be honest, Amsterdam was a bit of a handful this time and I may not stop there in the near future.
We landed in Amsterdam around 1:30 PM local time (6:30 AM CST) and my next flight was on time and scheduled to depart at 2:25 PM local time (7:25 AM CST). As soon as I disembarked, I rushed to the other side of the airport, dashed through customs and made my way to the B terminal in about 30 minutes. All of this took place while the airport’s PA system was continuously announcing that all airport activities would be suspended for the day after 2 PM local time (7 AM CST) due to high wind tropical storm Eunice. Departing at 2:25 PM (7:25 AM CST) was very unlikely due to the announcements but at last, by the grace of God, they let us depart. We were literally the last plane allowed to take off out of Amsterdam and off we went to Bilbao…
It is worth noting that last time I visited DSB back in July with the family, we had a layover in Paris and that worked out well despite the spike in summer travel. Maybe I’ll try it again next time. Similarly, last month, when Claudia came over to accompany Jogo, their layover was in Frankfurt without any delays. Ironically, by making a Frankfurt stop, she was closer to Zwickau (Johan) than she was to DSB. She will be making a Germany trip to see Johan very shortly as well.
We landed at 4:58 PM local time (9:58 AM CST), and everything appeared okay initially until I was informed that the US is considered a high risk country so they had me take a COVID test upon arrival (I showed them all proper documentation of my 3 doses ). Fortunately, the test result was negative but we now had just added an additional 45 minutes to my already long trip. Honestly, I am unsure what the protocol would have been had I tested positive.
Once released from the airport’s COVID testing center, I quickly headed to the luggage carrousel to pick up my checked-in luggage. Unfortunately, I found a static conveyor belt with only one bag similar to mine, it had to be mine, right?…well, it wasn’t and a lot of thoughts crossed my mind. Ultimately, I knew the situation in Amsterdam was very critical and was very certain that my luggage had been left behind there due to the narrow time window and more so, inclement weather.
I then proceeded to the KLM customer service counter at the airport and sure enough, they were waiting for me with very specific instructions to receive my luggage. I then filled out some paperwork, submitted a claim (with Jogo’s DSB new home address) and was informed that I would have my luggage within 24 hours. They weren’t kidding. I got it the next day in DSB.
Luggage-less, I then made my way to the small Bilbao airport’s public transportation area. There’s no Uber in the city so my transportation choices were limited: finding my own private ride, or public transportation (a bus/taxi) to DSB. It’s about a 100 km ride to DSB’s bus station and a pleasant ride. The bus is a greyhound style type of bus whose cost is about €17 with plenty of room even if you are traveling with big suitcases.
It was a no brainer, since I only had my backpack to carry, I opted to take the bus. To purchase a ticket for it, there’s a kiosk outside of the airport but a debit/credit card is needed (caveat: you will need your card PIN to complete the transaction). Since I didn’t know my CC pin, I ended up paying cash to the bus driver. Make sure you don’t have large denomination bills (ex. > 50) to pay for your ticket as change may not be readily available. During the ticket purchasing ordeal, I saw the “bad guys” transportation parked outside the airport which was a little puzzling. Players fly but the bus still makes the trip? Interesting concept.
Donostia-San Sebastián (DSB)
I finally arrived to DSB’s bus station of the paradisiac area on Friday evening 8:30 PM local time (1:30 PM CST). I did not get to see the sunset since it was dark already but here is what I was able to witness the next few mornings. It’s breath-taking. From the DSB’s bus station to Jogo’s apartment, it’s a 30 minute walk which I was glad to embark on since I’d been sitting down for so long. Plus, I needed the Fitbit steps.
Jogo’s first game
The next day, Jogo got me a ticket to watch his game; it was very exciting to watch it live. Entertaining match for sure. It was Jogo’s home debut and I was able to watch him live which was my primary objective. He made the starting 11 so anything else didn’t matter at that point for me.
Much needed result by Sanse but we try not to emphasize results over journeys when our kids are part of the game. We have Twitter fans who provide plenty of expert football analysis. It was a great game for me to watch and the best welcome gift Jonathan could have ever given me. As some of you may know, watching the game live beats any other watching method as one is able to see the off the ball movement that cameras do not normally capture. Also, there are a lot of intangibles (ex. fans, weather, referee, etc.) that are not portrayed accurately on TV that ultimately impact the player and the game. Witnessing those live is priceless. In the end, Jogo had a hockey assist and a near goal-line save. It was the second time in the same week impacting the score line. Hopefully he can continue earning minutes this week.
Europa League knockout game
As I wrap up this post up, I am heading to watch the Europa League knockout match between RS and Lepzig at Reale Arena with Jogo. It will be the second time in the past three months that I will have watched Tyler Adams (if he plays). The previous time was against Neymar, Mbappe, etc. at Red Bull Arena in Lepizig for a Champions League match back in November.
My first time watching a Europa League game was a match between FC Porto vs Young Boys back in September of 2019 at Estádio do Dragāo. Porto beat Young Boys 2-1. Great football memories watching Tecatito et al with Johan.
Jogo’s next game
Sanse’s next game is in Oviedo. I am looking forward to this one as I will be riding the bus (6 hour drive) to get there. I’ll probably spend a couple of nights sight-seeing the Asturias area as well. For now, I leave you with some images of the DSB area. I highly recommend it. It’s a paradise down here and other countries (ex. France and Portugal) are very close as well to top it all off.
This week’s guest is Jogo’s good friend Kevin Paredes. He talks about his adaptation period, harder training in Germany so far, short and long term goals and somehow, I get mentioned in this episode too. Kevin also talks about things to fix in the US Soccer’s approach to recruiting players and closes out with his own definition of success and emphasizes the role his family has played in his journey. Give the Chums a listen, they are improving their content with each episode and best of all, it’s free. You will also enjoy the next two USMNT guests.
Thanks for the read and as always reach out with any questions, requests, etc. #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
Last year, we all begged for 2020 to end as we were ready to move on… now, here we are. Some would say we are better off while others may vehemently disagree. Personally, as the Gómez reflect upon what 2021 brought us, we must inevitably acknowledge some of the challenges at the global, and national levels of the past twelve months. Just like 2020 was a very tumultuous year from various view points: political, economic, socio-cultural, and technological to name a few, there is always the silver lining and we are grateful for the many lessons learned.
Our family was blessed in many ways but not without overcoming challenges. Reminiscing about this year’s events is a reminder to live each day at its fullest with no regrets. Thus, with a few days remaining in 2021, let’s recap some of the most notable events for our family and parallelly (especially sports) events around the nation and the world in chronological order. In the sporting side of things, 2021 could definitely be labeled as the year of the “sports resurgences” or better yet, “title droughts end“
After having spent the Christmas and New Year holidays with Johan in Portugal, Jogo finally returned home from successful Portuguese trials. We were very thankful for the invitations to train with different clubs during difficult times. Although opportunities with those clubs ultimately did not materialize, sometimes the journey starts with filtering out potential opportunities.
On January 6th, in an unfortunate turn of events, the US Capitol was invaded and attacked by a group of alleged President Trump’s supporters. Their objective was to overturn President Trump’s electoral defeat by disrupting a Congress session.
The Capitol was locked down and lawmakers evacuated while the rioters vandalized it. In the end, five people died with more than 140 people injured during the storming.
On February 1st, Jogo officially started his first LouCity pre-season. Frigid weather was awaiting the start of the first practice but that wasn’t going to be an impediment. In a fun, unplanned team-bonding activity, teammates, and members of the technical staff shoveled snow to make way for the first practice of the season. When one has clear objectives, a little cooler weather won’t stop the will to succeed…and on he went to his first practice of the season driving for the first time in treacherous conditions.
Winter storm Uri brought unprecedented weather which impacted the entire state of Texas (and some surrounding states) leaving millions of households without electricity or water. For us, the silver lining was that Joana and I were stranded at home for several days and we made a ton of memories surviving with basic stuff. We will cherish those moments forever. People all over the state came together to help in the most unexpected ways.
On February 7th, then-43 year old Tom Brady led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a franchise second Super Bowl LV (55th) victory. History was written as the Bucs became the first team to win a Super Bowl in their home stadium.
In the process, Brady earned his 7th Super Bowl ring over heavily favorites reigning champs Kansas City Chiefs by a score of 31-9. He is the epitome of consistency.
FC Porto makes the difficult decision to rescind Portuguese legend Rui Barros‘ contract as the Porto B coach. The sacking unfortunately coincided with Johan’s nursing a slight knock. As the team quickly gets into a fierce Segunda Liga relegation fight (Welcome to Europe Johan), Johan sees his playing time gradually reduced. In an attempt to help Porto B survive the relegation battle, the new coach (Antonio Fòlha) started adding first team players to Porto B’s game day rosters which proved inefficient. In the last game of the season, in a lucky yet divine way, Porto B managed to stay in the second division, despite losing the derby against Benfica by a one goal (ultimately a point) difference and using 8 first team players in the game. Johan tells us about it in this article.
2021 was a memorable year for boxing legend deaths. On March 13th, “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler passed away at the age of 66. Hagler was an undisputed middleweight champion, with his most-dominant performances coming in the 1980s when he defended his title 12 times. In 67 total fights, he was 62-3-2.
Other boxing legend deaths in 2021 included: Leon Spinks (February 5th) who is part of a very select group who once defeated the great Mohammad Ali.
BTW, this year, we also had the opportunity to visit the Louisville, Kentucky native Mohammad Ali museum. The museum is a must-see attraction if you are boxing fan -like I am- in the heart of downtown Louisville.
On March 27th, days after an Evergreen container ship became lodged in the Suez Canal blocking all commercial traffic, it was reported that it would take days to weeks to dislodge it. The 224,000 ton vessel first became lodged on March 23, with no sign of budging. On March 29, the rear of the ship was dislodged, but rescuers believed it would still take time to refloat the vessel and fully open the canal. On March 31, rescue missions failed yet again as rescuers announced that they may need to remove 706,000 cubic feet of sand in order to move it. Water may also need to be removed from around the area in order to remove the ship.
As a family, we made the calculated decision to allow me to spend a good portion of the USL-C season in Louisville to help Jogo out during this important year. After 60+ days of preseason, Jogo started regular season play on April 24th under then-coach John Hackworth. He performed well in a 2-0 victory over Atlanta United II. His first and last hockey assists for the season ironically coincided with his first and last games of the season.
On April 5th, the NCAA March Madness championship game was played at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis. The big XII underdog Baylor Bears (which defeated my running horns) were crowned national champions by beating the then undefeated Gonzaga Bulldogs by a score of 86-70. This was the first time the Men’s Baylor Basketball team won the championship game.
Upon FC Porto’s season conclusion, Johan briefly returned home after being away for an entire year and playing without fans. 2020 and 2021 will undoubtedly go down in the world history books as tough years for professionals and footballers were not the exception. Johan, playing exclusively as a midfielder, helped Porto B avoid relegation. FC Porto helped him become a more versatile player; however, we, as a family, ultimately made the difficult decision to leave the Portuguese market for the time-being. It was a tough, very tough decision. FC Porto is a great organization and the Portuguese market, like any other, has its nuances. Some may disagree and think that the Portuguese football market has historically been brutal for American players. Possibly true…we are working on a publication about the Portuguese football market. Porto as a city is such a beautiful, touristic, paradisiac place with a very easy language to learn. We’ll definitely miss it.
Meanwhile, Jogo received his first callup to the Mexican senior national team for training. During camp, he got to know all the players who were preparing for the new Nations League tournament.
At camp, Tecatito, and friend of Johan from Porto, confused Jogo with Johan and told him: “No mames gūey, se parecen un buen” (The resemblance of the two is incredible at times).
On May 30th and 23 years since their last league title, Mexico’s Liga MX Cruz Azul (my club) was crowned Guardianes’s champion reaching its 9th star after defeating Santos Laguna in both legs of the championship games. The victory hit close to home as the family bleeds blue. Without a doubt, its impact was felt internationally due to the many championship games Cruz Azul had previously lost in the most dramatic ways during those 23 years, and thus the inception of the verb: “cruzazulear“. A curse had been indeed broken. The game was extra special for all of me as Johan and I watched it together at home. Honestly, I shed a few tears of joy…
On June 6th, the USMNT defeated Mexico by a score of 3-2 in overtime to claim the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League title. In a back and forth contest that had to go to overtime, the US team overcame a deficit twice. This would be the first of three victories by the USMNT over Mexico in 2021.
2021 marked what some would consider the end of Rafael Nadal era in major tennis tournaments. Nadal entered the French Open as the heavy favorite seeking to become the first man to win 21 majors and his 14th French Open. He reached the semifinals of the clay event where he encountered Novak Djokovic in a rematch of the previous year’s final. There, Nadal was upset by eventual champion Djokovic in four sets, in only his third-ever (two to Djokovic) loss at the French Open. Following his loss, Nadal withdrew from both Wimbledon and the Olympics citing a left foot injury. Prior to the French Open, Nadal had lost in the quarterfinals at another major: the Australian Open.
July was a very busy month in terms of sporting events and more so with championship stories that had not taken place in many decades in the international realm.
After a brief training period which included some scrimmages, Johan signed with FSV Zwickau. Managed by American Coach Joe Enochs who played alongside Gregg Berhalter, Johan opened another door in a different market for himself. He quickly showed his quality scoring a goal in his second friendly. Germany opened up its borders shortly after which allowed the family to go visit him and help him get settled in Zwickau. It was a memorable trip.
The closure of the US-Canada borders due to the pandemic forced the NHL to temporarily realign the teams in three US-based divisions and one Canadian division to limit travel. The top four teams in each division played each other with the winners of those games advancing to the divisional round. The four divisional playoff champions were then re-seeded by regular season points in the Stanley Cup Semifinals. The winners of the Semifinals played each other in the Stanley Cup Finals. On July 7th, the Tampa Bay Lighting defeated the Montreal Canadiens in game 5 to win its 3rd NHL Stanley Cup Final.
On July 10th, Argentina (and Messi) finally won the 47th edition of Copa America by defeating archrival Brazil by a score of 1-0. I still remember watching Argentina’s last international tournament victory 28 years ago in 1993 vs Mexico. This trophy is ultimately what gave Messi the advantage to edge other footballers in the pursuit of yet another Golden Ball or Ballon d’Or.
The next day, on July 11th, Italy won the Euro 2020* by defeating England by a score of 3-2. Their last Euro was celebrated 53 years ago. For our family, it was a great moment having watched the Italy vs Spain semifinal game while in Spain.
COVID continued to impact the world of sports relentlessly. The Tokyo Olympics were supposed to take place in 2020 but a calculated decision was made to move them to 2021. It was an atypical Olympics without fans where, among many abnormalities, Simon Biles reminded us that it’s OK to not be OK. The USWNT wanted to return to their *normal* winning ways; however, in a surprising slow performance in bracket play, the team did not advance to the championship match. Instead, the team ended up earning a bronze medal against a tough Australian side by the score of 4-3 but underperforming in their journey.
We knew that the NBA was very popular in Mexico but now we have witnessed first hand how many fans follow it in Europe. To cement 2021 as the “come-backs” in sports other than football, after 50 years since their last championship in 1971, the Milwaukee Bucs defeated the Phoenix Suns in 6 games to win their 2nd franchise title.
Jogo suffered a slight knock in the game against Oklahoma City (played on turf) and missed Mexico’s first set of U20 MNT friendlies in Spain. Unfortunately, we are now experts at this type of adversity; in a similar fashion, back in 2020, Johan had missed the January U20 MNT camp and March friendlies due to injury and the pandemic respectively. Unfortunately, injuries are an inevitable part of this sport and yet, we, as a family, still struggle coping with these temporary setbacks. A few months afterwards, Jogo was fortunate enough to be selected again to play against France, and England in another Mexico U20 set of friendlies in Spain.
On August 1st, in another back and forth match, the USMNT defeated Mexico in overtime by a score of 1-0 to win the Gold Cup. This title marked the second consecutive victory in the summer over the Mexican rivals.
On August 10th, after 21 years spent at Barcelona, Messi and Barcelona part ways in an emotional yet expected announcement. A few days later, PSG announced the signing of the super star. His adaptation period in France has been nothing but easy so far.
September was a great month on the personal footballing side of things…
On September 1st, Jogo celebrated his 18th birthday and became eligible to sign with a European club. As a family, we had traveled to Spain in preparation for this event. On September 30th, the announcement was finally made public by LouCity and Real Sociedad. Read all about it in the link above.
I moved to Zwickau Germany for about 5 weeks to live with Johan. I loved every minute of it; we had not lived at the same place since he was 15. I’m grateful we got to spend some quality time together and I got to learn about a different culture during COVID times.
On October 14th, former Secretary of State Colin Powell dies of COVID-19 complications at age 84. Powell was the first Black U.S. secretary of state serving from 2001-2005, and had shaped foreign policy in leadership roles in a number of Republican administrations. RIP Colin Powell.
LouCity’s season ended prematurely in an abrupt and dramatic way at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rowdies again in the Eastern Conference final game. Our family made the trip to St. Petersburg to support Jogo.
UEFA Champions League
On November 3rd, while I was still in Germany, Johan surprised me with tickets to attend our first Champions League game together in Red Bull Arena in Leipzig. We are making this a tradition, when he was at Porto, we had had the opportunity to watch Porto vs. Young Boys.
Unfortunately, we did not get to see Messi but we got to see Mbappe, Neymar, and the player who stole the show: “el fideo” DiMaria. The final 2-2 score did not disappoint. Spending time with my oldest: priceless. Looking forward to the next one Johan.
We indeed closed the year in a strong way by attending some other important international games.
Following the UEFA Champions League game, on November 15th, I attended the World Cup Qualifying game between USA vs Mexico game in Cincinnati. TQL stadium. It was a unique experience. The US squad beat Mexico for a third time in 2021. This time the score was another 2-0.
On November 2nd, the Atlanta braves won their 4th world series. This time, they convincingly defeated the Houston Astros (7-0) in the 6th game of the series.
On November 8th, after 20 months of having its international borders shut down, the US decides to open them back up. Unfortunately, I traveled back home from Germany on that day and the trip became longer than usual as security lines were super long. Patience is indeed a virtue.
December was an extremely busy month from a sporting perspective and it hasn’t yet concluded. History is still being written…
Jogo is called up to the USMNT.
Jogo received his first USMNT callup. One that would have never taken place if the Spanish working visa were not taking an eternity to process. He made his USMNT debut and played a small role in the only goal.
Jogo finally completes his move to Real Sociedad. This is what Xabi Alonso had to say about him back in October hoping that he would be with the team in November…
Honoring the slogan of the year of the comebacks, Atlas FC, after 70 years of their last championship title, defeated Leon in penalty kicks to win the Grita México Apertura title on December 12th. This game was even more memorable than my Cruz Azul’s May title due to their longer dry spell. En horabuenta a todos mis amigos rojinegros. I know the feeling of relief. There are many Atlas fans scattered throughout México and the US.
On December 28th, the ex-NFL Hall of Fame coach John Madden passed away at the age 85. Some will remember him from his coaching days with the Oakland Raiders. He won a super bowl there. Yet others will remember him from his NFL broadcasting days (commentating my cowboys games) with his simple analysis. The younger generation will always associate him to the Madden NFL Football video games. In any of those facets, Madden will be remembered as a legend on and off the field and perhaps the person who has impacted the NFL the most with his relentless love of the game. RIP John Madden.
For the first time in nearly 50 years (another resurgence), the title frontrunners: Britan’s Lewis Hamilton and the Dutch Max Verstappen entered the final race level on points. Red Bull team’s Max Verstappen took Abu Dhabi’s pole position with a brilliant display but Mercedes team’s Hamilton shared the front row seeking his eight title.
In an ending fit for this most chaotic and captivating of seasons, that all changed when the Safety Car emerged late on, allowing Verstappen to pit again and attack Hamilton on the final lap of the season, the Dutchman passing at Turn 5 to close out victory and, with it, the 2021 drivers’ title for the first time. México’s Checo Pérez ultimate Red Bull’s team effort positioned Verstappen to win the race. What a race!!!
2021 was definitely the second consecutive COVID impacted year and as the famous Yogi Berra once said: “It’s not over until it’s over”. There are still a few days left this year and we must finish strong even as the daily COVID cases continue to set record highs. All in all, there are still several silver lining items to reflect upon. One being that we are definitely closer to reaching a new normalcy and that can only be encouraging news. People have started realizing what’s truly important in their lives these past couple of years. On the sporting side of things, many sports records/curses were finally broken. Thus, we approach 2022 with a lot of hope and expect that the new year brings us more pleasant surprises and more sporting history will surely be written. Here are some things our family will be looking forward to.
Togetherness is the fuel that keeps our family functioning. We hope 2022 allows us the ability to gather, reunite, and openly interact with one another. Recently, 19+ months passed since the last time our family was all in the same room. Well, that meeting finally occurred, of all places, at the DFW airport. Below are some pictures of us picking up Johan from his return from Germany trip and us returning from Jogo’s USMNT debut. It’s been very challenging and will continue to be so; however, if we were able to withstand 19+ months apart, 2022 has nothing on us with our recharged batteries and positive energy.
2022 will definitely start off a bit challenging for the family with Jogo’s unplanned delayed arrival to Spain due to his ongoing work visa dilemma. We are hoping he gets to register on time to be able to play in the spring. Either way, we will have to go drop him off in San Sebastian, Spain in a few days. Some tears will be shed but we know he will be in a good place and closer to Johan.
On Johan’s side, he is in a good, stable environment and we hope he stays healthy above all. If he can do that consistently, he will inevitably continue to play an instrumental piece in FSV Zwickau’s attack and impact game outcomes like he has been. He has settled in well in Germany and could be in auto-pilot mode the second half of the season. The family will go visit both of them in the next few months COVID-permitting.
The pandemic uncertainty has not gone away. At the beginning of 2021, we thought we had a vaccine solution for the Delta variant. Now, Omicron is here. Hope is the last thing to lose and we certainly hope 2022 turns out to be a better year for all of us. For now, we can only plan our pathways with the information available; in the process, there will be definitely be twists and turns that will require adjustments. Seize the day #carpediem
On a very football selfish personal note, 2022 will be a World Cup year and that’s always an event that draws global attention.
Qatar World Cup (WC)
Towards the end of the calendar year, the world will have a chance to witness the next WC. It will be the fist WC in the modern era to be played in the month of December. We are all so looking forward to it but until then, let’s keep in touch.
We are always grateful for the support towards our family. If you like to stay up on the latest and don’t follow us yet in other social media platforms, please do so. We have a variety of content. You can find us at the links below. Happy 2022 New Year everyone!!!
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.
After an almost 18 month hiatus from European trips, we managed to celebrate Johan’s 20th birthday in Germany -a tradition we broke last year due to COVID. From the moment he joined FSV Zwickau for pre-season, the club has showed him plenty of love and we were there to witness it all. Caveat: this post contains many pictures for us “visual learners“.
The experience was superb. The 5260 mile trip (just to Frankfurt) from the Dallas Fort Worth airport was all worth it. It was a 9.25 hour flight plus a 4 hour drive from Frankfurt to Zwickau but anytime you go see your son, distance is never a factor. Upon our arrival, Johan had just returned from practice and welcomed us with open arms (and a spanking spotless clean apartment). Mom was proud.
Renting a car was extremely easy from Enterprise; it’s normally very expensive but we found an excellent rate. We made a reservation for an automatic transmission and were given a VW Passat stick shift (which I loved). Driving in Germany is very fun other than getting used to driving in the autobahns. One needs to stay super alert especially while occupying the fast lane as there’s many no speed limit zones and there’s always a car going faster than you. That’s right, I was able to accelerate to 225 km/hr (150 miles/hour) effortless. Also, there’s no passing on the right lane. Absolutely none.
Station wagons are extremely popular in Germany and that’s what we rented. We first rented a 2021 Volkswagen Passat until it gave up on us. After that, we got a 2021 Škoda Octavia which we loved because it had a lot of bells and whistles that you don’t typically find in American sold cars. Both did a great job taking us all over Germany and the Czech Republic.
One of the first family activities we did was grocery shopping. Johan’s apartment is very close to an Aldi. We didn’t know that Aldi was a German company so these grocery stores are everywhere. Aldis got us out of trouble in a bind as their setup is very similar to what we have back home. Thus, even if you don’t speak German, it’s easier to locate items and navigate the store without needing to be fluent in German.
Having learned Portuguese the past couple of years has helped us learn other languages. Currently, we are learning some German but not at the same rate as Johan. He’s fully immersed in it day in and day out. Our first impression is that it’s not as difficult as people make it sound. Juan Carrera gave us some pretty good advice prior to our trip: the younger generation speaks English fluently due to their frequent social media interactions; however, the older generation doesn’t. It sets expectations when we were out and about. Some phrases that came in very handy:
Sprichst du English – Do you speak English?
Ich spreche kern Englisch – I don’t speak English
Nimmst du Euro – Do you take Euros?
Ich bin Amerikaner – I’m American
Wo kann ich ein nei taxi nehmen – Where can I take a taxi (they don’t have Uber service in a lot of cities in Germany)
Zwickau is the fourth largest city in the state of Saxony. Located in the mid-Southeast part of the country, it is surrounded by a lot of wind farms. Summers are beautiful, and the 60-70 degree Fahrenheit summer days are ideal for strolling through downtown which we often did.
Zwickau is one of the centers of the German automotive industry. While there, we were able to visit the renowned August Horch Museum.
The automobile museum covers the history of automobile making in the town of Zwickau. It takes us back in time when the company Audi was founded by August Horch. Note: The first part of the museum is described mostly in the German language while the more modern sections are in both German and English languages. There may be English speaking museum tours available but there weren’t any when we went. Allocate at least two hours to see it all.
The museum is a must see for automobile lovers (especially German automobiles). There are cars that date back to both World Wars just as seen in the movies. The museum is housed within the old factory where Engineer August Horch established Audi Automobilwerke GmbH in 1910. Audi was founded in 1909. The four rings of the Audi (now subsidiary of Volkswagen) logo each represent one of four car companies that banded together to create Audi’s predecessor company, Auto Union.
Fortunately, we were there to accompany Johan for the obligatory club welcoming pictures. See Instagram post below. Good quality, wonder who took most of them.
Start of the season
The first game was at home (GGZ Arena) against recently promoted Borussia Dortummund II. From the moment we entered the stadium, that experience requires its own post so we’ll leave it at that for now.
We are glad we got to see your pre-match European ritual and at the stadium were treated as VIPs. Thank you Johan.
Unfortunately, the outcome of the game was a 1-2 defeat but it was a great game to watch (Zwickau should have won it). It was his first official game as a professional in Germany in his new position, with the first team. Johan had a very solid game. Below are a couple of actions where he almost impacted the game directly.
For the second game, we drove to Köln. It was a five hour (481 Km) drive from Zwickau on a Saturday morning but the fan support was never lacking and the game against Viktoria Köln did not disappoint. It was Johan’s first game as a starter and the final result was a 1-1. We took the obligatory pictures at the end of the match and coach allowed him to drive back with us. We made some memories on the way back and even got lost…
Mondays are normally off days for Johan and we always wanted to sight-see Berlin. The cosmopolitan city is not only Germany’s capital; it’s a must-see city with so much history. We decided to embark in the 300 kilometer trek in a one-day trip rolling down autobahn 4 from Zwickau. There’s so much to do and see, we’ll have to visit it again in the future.
Berlin Wall Memorial
We visited the Berlin Wall Memorial. It’s an incredible feeling when one is actually at the place where so much history took place. Quick trip but educational and meaningful for the “kids”. At a personal level, the Berlin Wall brings back so many -not so-pleasant memories.
Erected at 368 meters in the midst of the East Germany superiority, the television tower is the main visible landmark in Berlin and the tallest in Europe. We now have visited towers throughout the world. Dallas, Toronto, Vancouver, New York, Seattle, etc. They all offer a unique perspective and view of their respective city. Unfortunately, an due to COVID protocols, we were unable to have lunch at the top of the tower.
Prague is beautiful. One must reserve several days to see it and truly enjoy it. Driving into it from the north, makes it seem like the old communist Czech Republic with its old coal power plans. However, once one reaches Prague, one finds a very cosmopolitan city with a contrasting of old European architecture everywhere. As any big European city, there are designer stores everywhere. We had an opportunity to visit Saint Charles Bridge, Town Square, etc. It was too short but we know we’ll be back to see Johan very soon.
Return to Germany
If the delta variant continues to spread in the US at the current rapid rate, it’s possible entry to Germany may be limited to non-citizens (us). There were changes made yesterday already (they are revised every two weeks).
Thus, we will return to visit Johan before October to ensure we regain entry into the country and stay with him an adequate amount of time to provide him family support. For now, we left him with his super equipped apartment (nice view), his car setup and more importantly, in great hands with Coach Joe and staff. Enjoy the time in Germany son. #theGomezway
Give Chumchat’s new episode a listen. Johan talks about his move to Germany from Portugal and how that is going. For those of you thinking about playing in Portugal, he compares the Portuguese playing style to the German playing style and sets some expectations based on his experience. Playing for the first team now is a different responsibility (player experience-wise); one that still carries the weight of a promotion/relegation eco-system but one that he has welcomed with open arms. Go show Johan and the Chums some love.
…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.
Last week we were observing Joana’s final football practice of the year. Since most players were already out for the holidays, the session consisted mostly of 3v3 play with players from other teams participating. The girls seemingly had a blast and it brought back so many memories. It then became tempting to write about 3v3 as a football development tool like we did with futsal.
Just like other tools which include indoor soccer, private training (i.e. Coerver), Olympic Development Program (ODP), “the wall”, street football, beach football, football tennis, etc. they all have their unique usefulness. In the future, we may also write about those. Today, we will be writing about 3v3 and its advantages and disadvantages as used extensively by our boys.
For those unfamiliar with 3v3. It’s a small-sided variation of football where 3 players take on the opponent’s 3 with no goalkeeper. For a better definition including its rules, check 3v3 Wikipedia’s page. It’s the fastest growing form of the sport in the United States. Our boys played small-sided A LOT (concurrently with “outdoor” football, futsal, etc.) for several years; it not only aided in their football development in a fun environment, but also provided a platform to compete at a high level at an early age. For parents with young kids interested in football, you may find this post useful. BTW, thank you Quickfoot, Kick it 3v3, Live 3v3, and many other organizations. We had a blast and the memories are countless.
The year was 2010 and we knew that one (sometimes two) practices a week at Solar for Johan were not enough to quench his football thirst. His desire to knock the ball around was just too frequent. We had played, coached and officiated the game all our lives; ironically, we had never coached 3v3 competitively (only rec.). It seemed fun so we said, “what’s the worst that could happen?”. And on we went to participate in Quickfoot’s 3v3 at Keller High School. We coached both Johan’s 4v4 and Jogo’s 3v3 with very little preparation and picking players from their current club teams. The outcome? Johan’s team won while Jogo’s earned second…the seed was planted from then on.
The tournaments in Texas became frequent and the competition was excellent. It gave us an adequate amount of preparation, and confidence to want to take our teams to higher level competitions. We participated at the national level in Orlando three times. Jogo’s team (MOB) went on to win the 3v3 national championship in 2013, our team (La Banda) won third place in 2014 and (MOB) reached the quarter finals in 2015 playing up. Johan’s team only participated once and took 3rd place in 2014. We had the pleasure of meeting many future YNT players at these 3v3 competitions.
Oftentimes, positive results build confidence and perpetuate a love for the game and that’s what we achieved with that group of boys. As of now, every single one of them will be playing college soccer or playing football professionally. We will always be very proud of this group of players and grateful to their parents for allowing us to coach them. We built something special together which has transcended the football field. That said, here are few things we learned along the way…
More touches on the ball
Smaller rosters naturally translate into more touches on the ball. We typically carried 5 or the maximum-allowed of 6 players to maximize time on the ball. All players had about the same technical and tactical level and played an equal amount of time.
Technical aptitude and tactical awareness
Technical aptitude is enhanced by the amount of repetitions generated by smaller rosters. Specifically, muscle memory in a competitive environment is gradually developed to the point of normalcy; it ultimately leads to higher confidence and creativity on the ball. For example, if you have a player who likes to dribble, 3v3 has a ton of space for them to hone that technical skill, become proficient at it, and try out new skills.
Even though it’s a small sided competition, players are tasked to cover a lot of ground which teaches them accountability: play offense and defense simultaneously. The game requires constant decision making by the use of imaginary geometric triangles on the field to figure out ways to outnumber the opponent in order to create scoring opportunities. Players not only learn tactical (positional) awareness but also movement off the ball which can be extrapolated naturally to a normal size football field.
Of all the football development tools, 3v3 is probably the least expensive and the one that requires the least time commitment. It’s typically half of a day worth of short-duration games (normally in the offseason and a Saturday) which is also very fun-packed for players and parents. Sometimes the out of town tournaments could last two to three days but those would normally take place over a holiday weekend and the cost is not significantly higher.
In Texas, there is plenty of strong competition; thus traveling is not necessary and costs can be kept to a minimum. However, if there is a strong desire to compete elsewhere or the “harshness” of the winter prevents outdoor play, there’s always 3v3 indoors.
The game is versatile and can be played indoors too. Most of our competitions were outdoors but we certainly enjoyed playing indoors as well. The indoor 3v3 tournaments were sometimes played in basketball gyms, indoor soccer fields, or futsal courts (3v3s led us to discover futsal at City Futsal). The tournament experience with family and friends was unparalleled; those football bonds are still strong to this day.
We loved having the opportunity to play with players from other clubs. We now reminisce about those times via pictures and clips.
Not only were the tournaments good opportunities to socialize with other families but great bonding times where we created a lot of our own family memories.
More than the football aspect of the entire experience, the boys will always cherish memories with friends, family, teammates, opponents and most of all, the fact that we got to coach them. Those 3v3 memories will live in our hearts forever.
Style and drip
Just like the players wanted to express themselves on the field via their football, they loved selecting their “drip” (and team name) regularly. We mostly stuck to two uniforms per tournament. All were replicas of the original jerseys and purchased via a Chinese supplier for less than 25 dollars for the entire kit. They were very affordable and allowed us to wear different kits like the professionals. That was another cool reason for playing 3v3. The kids could emulate their idols and personalize their jerseys. Jogo became well known as Jogo via his jerseys but let’s not forget that the original Jogo was Johan.
Johan’s first coach at Solar was completely against 3v3s. We always assumed he felt threatened by the possibility of losing players at these events as 3v3 teammates normally belonged to different clubs and inevitably parents socialize. It became difficult to request permission to participate in 3v3s even during off weekends as Johan’s Solar coach frowned upon it. He was an older coach too but we felt this truncated his 3v3 development to a degree.
Similarly, there are parents who think that football development tools such as 3v3s and futsal are NOT adequate for goalkeepers. That couldn’t be any farther from the truth. Jogo played futsal with what would have been one of the U17 MNT goalkeepers (U17 MNT WC was recently cancelled): Jeff Dewnsup whose footwork was phenomenal for his age. This was probably one of the characteristics that gave him national team visibility. Both Johan and Jogo played 3v3 with numerous goalkeepers whose footwork improved as a result of the competitions. Truth be told 3v3 can become addictive.
3v3s are very addictive. They are high scoring ordeals which could be decided in the last second of the game. They cannot get any more American than that.
There are parents who want to compete in them all the time and there’s nothing wrong with that level of involvement. However, at some point it could create a conflict with club football and other life activities. As long as your family knows how to manage the experience and you have a club coach who supports it, go for it. The 3v3 coach may want to define a style of play and shuffling players due to their unavailability makes it challenging to gel as a team. We were fortunate to have 6 very committed families for several years who were as crazy as we were about it.
There are many tools to build and improve a player’s football development. Each one serves a unique purpose. There’s no silver bullet to develop a footballer; there are however, many ways to nurture the love of the game by “making it fun”. As you reflect on your achievements for 2020 and plan for your kids activities for next year, consider incorporating 3v3s into their pool of available activities. You won’t regret it.
On a personal note, we will conclude this post wishing everyone a better year than 2020. For the Gómez’s, it’s was a challenging year in many regards but a blessing in others. We’ll be re-capping the year in a future post. For now, let’s be hopeful, patient, positive and most of all, safe. As always, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for comments, questions, etc. Thanks for reading us and happy 2021. #theGomezway.
I will preface our family status by addressing the elephant in the room. It’s been a shocking past couple of days for the football world since Maradona’s passing. There’s nothing we can say that hasn’t been said already. He was a polarizing figure off the field but he earned the respect of most of us on the pitch.
From a football perspective, his legacy will live with us forever and we are grateful our eyes witnessed his God-given talent. Living in Mexico City in 1986, his impact on me was exponentially magnified; however, I first laid eyes on him in 1982 with Brazil robbing my attention most of that WC.
His life becomes more remarkable when you read his autobiography. I first read it 20 years ago when it came out. I’m giving it a second read now and truly recommend it if you have some spare time over the holidays. You will understand a lot of his decisions and learn some about his preferences:
Maradona started off as a defender. He appreciated the ability to see the whole field and the additional time to make decisions. (soccer IQ)
He had 7 siblings living in Fiorito. He had a very humble upbringing but always surrounded by a close-knit circle of friends and family (failure was not an option)
He acknowledges his comfort with the ball stems from spending 4-5 hours daily from a very, very young age (unstructured repetitions and muscle memory)
The worst day of his life…the day he learned he was not part of Argentina’s 1978 WC squad to be played at home. This was the reason he “only” played 4 WCs (setbacks fueled him)
The “Hand of God” goal was not the first one of its kind he ever scored (gamesmanship)
Why did he often wear two watches when he traveled? (loyalty)
I could go on and on about him but onto family matters…as the show must go on…
Solid crescendo performance helping your team win another tournament. You improved on technical and tactical aspects of the game that you had been honing.
To us, the progress was the real win as we know game results are circumstantial. We loved the total control you displayed of effort and attitude. So proud of you mamita!!!
Due to the international break, Johan had the past two weekends off but participated in training with the first team. Good stuff on both of the scrimmages. Continue seizing the opportunities and getting all the available playing time. Baby steps. We now move on to actual games.
Successfully and safely left Denmark and has finished a new quarantine. He continues to train with/against top competition and most importantly, staying healthy, and in shape during the long off-season. The objectives of the trip are being met.
Yesterday was the first of its kind where we didn’t have the boys with us. Considering we spent the last one in Portugal, it was somewhat expected. We are grateful for what God has given us. Can it be better? Sure. It can also be worse so we are extremely lucky to have health especially in uncertain times.
We don’t listen to Adam (and Greg) weekly but we listen regularly. They have excellent football material for US football fans; however, it’s not always geared towards player parents. This episode has a good bit of educational material as it relates specifically to Caden Clark’s journey. Jogo is great friends with Caden and it’s good to go full-circle on a lot of stuff. Furthermore, it’s validation that we are doing some things well, and perhaps others, not so much. Give it a listen if you want to learn more about:
Additional training: mental speed, hip mobility, ball control, center of gravity
Playing for a non-MLS club
Developing the love for the game
Encouraging decision making, mistakes, and losing the ball
Opinion on strength coaches
Note that all journeys are different but it’s always good to know what other families are doing in the pursuit of the dream and HOW they are doing it. After all, this is what this blog is about.
International trials require far better preparation than domestic ones. It’s important to not just know and comply with the checklist for thedomestic trials but also be intimately familiar with some of the specifics described below for traveling abroad. Some (if any) football agencies may provide some sort of checklist to trialists/families before departure, if so, great. Otherwise, we hope you find the information below useful.
Passport: Without this document, traveling is not possible which negates everything else. If you don’t have a passport, obtain one before you actually need it. Better yet, if your ancestry allows access to multiple passports, acquire them ASAP. You will not be able to travel out or into your own country without one. Once you have it and prior to traveling, take a picture of the important parts of the passport(s) and store them in your phone as back up. This will also prevent the need to carry it around everywhere and thus minimize the risk of misplacing/losing it. If you can, make a hard copy of it and carry that for ID purposes unofficially.
US consulate/embassy: In case of an emergency in the visiting country (ex. misplacing the passport, medical); it’s good to know how to get a hold of the US consulate/embassy. Have this information (phone number, address, etc.) both printed and stored in your phone.
Scrimmage documentation: Some German clubs may require a signed “waiver” from the current club to allow participation in scrimmages. Ask if this is the case, you don’t want to travel 5000 miles, spend thousands of dollars to not be allowed to participate in a scrimmage which is the entire purpose of your trip.
Club invitation letter: If such letter exists, it’s a good idea to have it readily available (printed is better). In COVID times, the letter may serve as an entry artifact to a foreign country. Have a folder or two with most of the documentation needed.
Demographics and related items
City: Become familiar with the country, city and more specifically the area where you will be staying. This is more important when doing multiple trials/training opportunities in one trip (highly recommended)
Language: If the club where you are traveling is a non-English speaking country, make an effort to learn a few general words: “thank you”, “please” and some phrases: “My name is <fill in the blank>”, “good morning”, “good night”, “where is the airport”, “how do I get from ‘point A’ to ‘point B’, “I don’t speak <fill in the blank>”? and of course some football phrases: “pass”, “I’m open”, “left”, “right”, “shoot”, “quick”, “man on”, etc. There are translation apps but it’s not always convenient to use them (ex. on the pitch)
Accommodations/Room: Will the host club provide housing (this is customary); otherwise, arrange for accommodations as close to the training facility as possible. Learn the physical address of the place where you will be staying in case a package needs to be sent out to you.
Meals/board: If the host club will be providing any food, how many meals will they provide? Can you buy additional meals if necessary? Either way, take some healthy snacks for the duration of your trip as well as some money to buy meals which may not be provided. Are there convenience stores/pharmacies nearby?
Transportation: How will you get from the airport to the training facility upon arrival? How about the opposite upon departure? Is Uber an option? Set up an account if you don’t have one. Note: Exchange rates can be significant.
Currency: Once at the host club, exchanging currency can be difficult. Ensure you have enough cash (in the correct currency) for emergencies. Go to the local bank and exchange money prior to departure, if this is not possible, do it at the airport.
Family: If the player is 16 years of age or older, it’s probably best for the player to travel alone (if possible). This allows the player to better integrate with players from the host club.
Means of communication: Will WiFi be available? Will your cellular provider work?
SIM Card: If your own SIM card cannot be used in the visiting country, can one be acquired and swapped out? Do you need to purchase an additional/temporary plan for data? Talk to your cellular provider before departing. Sometimes, SIM Card vending machines are located at airports.
Travel adapter/power converter: Is a different voltage used in the visiting country? If so, get a plug needed to charge your electronics. Are your electronics dual voltage? Most are but be sure. This is important!!! You don’t want to fry your electronics while traveling.
Power bank: You will run out of juice at some point. Have a power supply back up and make it a habit to charge it every night. Leave it charging during practices.
USB cables: Have multiple cables to either charge multiple devices at night and/or in case you misplace one. In some foreign countries, it’s not as easy to acquire/buy USB cables like it is in the US.
Book/Magazine: If technology (WiFi, charger, phone dies/lost) is not available, a good book journal is a great way to pass time. If you enjoy writing, bring a journal and make it a habit to write about your experiences every day. Another idea is to download Netflix movies/shows prior to your departure, you can watch them even when WiFi is unavailable.
If you read this far, you are better prepared than most. Good luck in your trials/international training opportunity. If you have questions, comments or suggestions, please reach out to email@example.com
Gone are the days when all that was needed for a tryout/trial/training opportunity with another club was a ball, shin guards, cleats, water bottle, and a great attitude. The overall objective remains the same: to impress the host club enough to pique current/future interest in you or better yet immediately open up a door.
The key to increasing the chances of success is good planning and nowadays that’s more probable with the proliferation of online information -like this blog. Keep in mind that as the player age increases, the importance of a successful tryout/trial/training opportunity magnifies and the room for error decreases. When it comes to tryouts/trials/training opportunities, second chances are rare (Chris Richards was very fortunate in the FC Dallas setup).
Note: For the sake of this post the terms trial and tryout will be used interchangeably.
Note II: This publication does not detail the technical, tactical criteria a hosting club will be looking for. There are websites who can help with that information.
Note III: The underlying assumption of this post is that the current club is aware (permission needed or not) of your intentions to pursue the trial/training opportunity with a new club. Thus, we are not addressing that process in this post. We could write several pages about our (and others’) experience but we will spare you the details for now.
Before we start presenting additional information, let’s define some terms:
Trial/tryout: An opportunity to train and showcase your talent with another (other than the current club). Let’s call the other club, the host club. Positive outcome from a trial/tryout could result in an immediate invitation to join the host club. Trials/tryouts have no cost to the player or the family (other than transportation to/from host club). A trial/tryout can be either openly promoted by the host club or solicited by the player/family/agent.
Training opportunity: An opportunity to train and showcase your talent with a host club. Positive outcome from a training opportunity does NOT usually result in an immediate invitation to join the host club. Some think of training opportunities as resume builders. Although most training opportunities have no cost (other than transportation to/from hosting club), some could have a high price tag. Training opportunities are great ways to experience the host club culture and learn their methodologies. A training opportunity is normally solicited by the player/agent and can result in a future trial/tryout. Training opportunities are in general more relaxed than trials/tryouts.
There’s so much to share and thus this post will be broken into two parts. The first part will be geared exclusively to domestic trials/training opportunities. Similarly, the second post (coming out early next week) will be exclusively about international trials. The assumption will be that most (if not ALL) the information that is included in the domestic trials post will be applicable for international trials as well. Our boys have participated in both a few times so we have gained some valuable experience and we are hoping you can leverage it.
Domestic trials/training opportunities could take place literally across town or across states in the US. Either way, preparation is important. Find out specifics about the event, club, gear and any football unique information that could either give you an advantage or make up for a handicap you inherently have.
Purpose of the event: Is the trial/training opportunity solicited (initiated by you/agent) or unsolicited (invitation by the club)? As obvious as this may seem, oftentimes, these are setup by 3rd parties (ex. agents, scouts, clubs, etc.) and it’s important to understand the purpose. If unsolicited, is it a training stint only or a trial? The answer to this question is extremely important in your aspirations and expectations as positive outcome may also require a quick response from the family if a permanent invitation is extended. If it’s a trial, expect a a club decision to be made at the end of the duration of the trial.
Duration of trial/training: How long will the event last? If a decision by the club is needed, how soon is one expected and how will that be communicated to you? Best case duration (if the host club likes you) or worst case scenario (if the host club doesn’t). It’s important to understand the duration as it may have an impact on other trials/training opportunities you have already lined up. At the very least, you should know the duration of the event to start planning an itinerary around it.
Itinerary: Depending on the formality of the trial/training opportunity, you should expect some sort of itinerary from the host club. If none is provided, request one (from the club/agent) to have a minimum set of expectations. You will need some form of itinerary to at least plan for transportation to/from the event.
Location: Once you receive an itinerary, create your own itinerary that is tailored around theirs. Allow some buffer as those itineraries are very flexible. Become familiar with the city, transportation, etc. especially if it requires an overnight stay in an area new to you. Also, prepare the necessary gear for the weather of the city where the trial/training opportunity will take place.
Gear/personal equipment information:
Find out what clothing/uniform/footwear you need to wear for the trial/training opportunity. The last thing you want is to stand out for the wrong reasons. Sometimes, the host club will facilitate some gear needed for training/scrimmages/etc. However, don’t assume this will be the case. Also, check the weather ahead of time for the entire duration of the event.
Clothing: Depending on the weather, you may need extra layers. It is important for you to be comfortable. Also, find out the clothing brand the club uses, you don’t want to show up using a non-sponsored brand or the wrong colors (ex. you can’t show up wearing any FC Dallas gear at a Solar tryout -unforgivable-).
Footwear: The host club will not supply cleats, runners or slides; bring two pairs of cleats: one for soft and another one for firm ground. Similarly, bring a pair of runners and a pair of slides to relax your feet.
Other equipment: The host club will not provide shinguards, gloves, etc. In a bind, they may do so but you don’t want to look unprepared at any point.
Recovery equipment: If you use a foam roller, pack a small one. Similarly, pack some strength bands.
Water container: Bring a water container that you can fill up anywhere. Hydration is key but more so during these short, intense time windows. A water container also prevents the need to be buying disposable water bottles.
First aid essentials: Band-aids, Neosporin, Bengay, etc. if allowed on the plane and of course any medication.
Sunblock: Don’t assume anything will be provided or that you can just borrow it or go purchase it last minute.
Hygiene: Bring wipes and/or hand sanitizer especially in these uncertain times
Laundry services: Ask about laundry services or locate a laundry service near the place where you will be staying. Worst case, bring small detergent pockets and wash gear in hotel/dorm.
Notebook: Take a little notebook to write a mini-diary. It will help you remember names, activities and at the very least, years from now, it will bring back memories. Don’t forget to bring a writing utensil too.
As stated earlier, we are not going to suggest the technical or tactical concepts that are good to possess. Clubs look at different things based on age, position they are looking for, etc. However, assume that if the host club is willing to give you an opportunity, they have at least watched a clip of you and you have what it takes. The items below are less about the practical football side of the trial/training opportunity and more about the theoretical side of it.
Club info: Do your research on the club: history, if in season, current table standing of the first team, training and playing facilities, coaching staff, youth development, etc. Knowing some club facts always makes for good conversation/ice breaker with other players, coaching staff and establishes your credibility/readiness.
Facilities: If the host club has a stadium, find out its name. If they don’t have a stadium, find out as much as you can about their training facilities.
Coaching staff: It’s recommended to do some research on the coaching staff as well. This will help you assimilate their learning methodology and their expectations of you. If you can reach out to a player who is already part of that host club, prior to your arrival, you will be better prepared.
Players: It’s best to arrive knowing some professional and youth players names. It will expedite the integration and assimilation of the club culture and values. At the very least, it makes for a more comfortable conversation.
Video clips: Watch game film of the host club teams which is readily available online. If you have an agent, request clips or just search YouTube.
Youth development: Are there academy players promoted to the first team? In your age group? Are they playing regularly? Are they playing your natural position?
Positions in need: Are there positions the club/team needs? What is the current depth chart including total roster size and expected signings for the same position? If you don’t get a spot in the position you want, is there a chance you can make it in another position?
Formation: What formation does the current coach play? Is there a style of play/formation the club likes to play? How do you fit in that formation?
Confidence: Introduce yourself to the coaching staff and players as soon as you arrive. Be confident with a firm handshake, make eye contact, but be humble too.
Humbleness: The goal is to impress in many areas but be humble if you have managed to impress. If you perform well, be a good winner but if you don’t, avoid sourness. Enjoy this unique time, smile at all times.
Enjoyment: Be grateful for the opportunity but also display resilience at all times. Everyone appreciates the extra effort. Be a good listener above all.
Active listener: Keep an open mind, it’s likely the host club will do some things differently than your current club. You will learn new ways to do things you thought you already knew how to do. Always be a great listener, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and more importantly keep an open mind.
Punctuality: Be early to ALL team activities. Being early provides an invaluable chance to chat with staff or help out with setup. Volunteer as much as you can. Make sure they really get to know you and not just your jersey number.
We’ll be adding more items to this list. The window for domestic club transfers is mostly open during the summer but in practice trials/training opportunities can happen year round. On the other hand, the window for international transfers is still wide open and because of the pandemic, varies by country. I’ll be posting specific items for international trials/training opportunities later in the week. Stay tuned.