At what point did you aspire to play goalkeeper professionally?
When I was younger I wanted to play professional American football because my grandfather had played professionally. While I was fairly talented, I had a very serious head injury when I was twelve years old. I had to sit out from all sports for over a year and was no longer allowed to play American football. I started playing baseball at two but soccer always captivated my attention.
I didn’t take the idea of being a professional player seriously until I was about sixteen. The quality of soccer offered where I grew up (Eau Claire, Wisconsin) was quite low, as were the opportunities for Division I exposure. So I made the decision to play for a premier-level club team in Minnesota, a two hour commute each way for practices and games. By the grace of God and the receptive heart of my coach Pepe Jon Chavez I found a place to play, and was playing at the Disney showcase weeks later. The time I put in paid off, and despite arriving late to the recruiting process, I landed several D1 offers.
How’d you end up at Cal Poly? Were you looking at any other schools?
I actually had visited Creighton the week before Cal Poly and was 98% sure that’s where I wanted to be. Then I visited Cal Poly, and my mind was changed almost instantaneously. Something about Cal Poly just told me, “this is where you have to go to become a pro”. As someone who loves to train, I recognized the unique opportunity Californians have to train outside all year-round. I was confident that with my work ethic, the opportunity to train outside all year, and with coach Paul Holocher and Brian Reed’s soccer intelligence, I would become a well-developed professional player.
There’s an ongoing debate about the usefulness of college soccer in developing players. However, college has done really well in developing American goalkeepers. So from someone who’s been there, do goalkeepers develop better in college versus field players?
I don’t think goalkeepers get anything different from going through the college process, but I do think they have the tendency to stay more focused on their goals. I think the reason our country produces good goalkeepers in the first place can be easily traced back to the first sports we learn, as Americans, are typically baseball and football; two sports that rely heavily on hand-eye coordination. For this reason, I think the overall transition of most American athletes into a goalkeeper role is a little more seamless.
But really it all depends on the player, and I think MLS franchises are beginning to realize that. We see many more home-grown players signed each year and many skipping the college process. For a player coming out of high school knowing he wants to be a professional player, going to college might not be the best thing. In fact, it might be the wrong thing. The are a number of mandatory and cultural distractions presented from being in a college environment. But the successful players, goalkeeper or not, are often the ones not getting caught-up in the “college life”. The guys that are going to make it coming out of college are the ones who know where their priorities lie.
You went undrafted out of college yet ended up with Chivas in 2012. What was that experience like? How early were you in talks with Chivas? Were you confident you’d end up with an MLS team before the draft? After you went undrafted?
I had been in talks with Chivas as well as other teams prior to the draft. I trained with Chivas for a summer before my junior year of college, and knew a few people at the club. Personally, I was surprised to go undrafted but wasn’t surprised that Chivas drafted Brian Rowe.
At the beginning of the Chivas’ preseason in 2012, the message was that Brian and I would be competing for the third spot. Brian is a very talented goalkeeper, and an exceptional individual off the field, so I was honored to compete against him. After two months of us duking-it-out, fortunately, I was able to win the job, and Brian obviously found a home with the LA Galaxy. But through the entire process I was confident that despite whatever circumstances I encountered God would show me the path and shoulder the pressure. He’s given me talent and I knew it would eventually show through.
Chivas was in and out of the news for various things during your time there. What was the locker room vibe like during this time? Did any of you feel external pressure on the team because of it?
During the 2012 season everything was pretty clear-cut, and despite our results I had a lot of faith in our leaders. Robin Fraser, Greg Vanney, Carlos Llamosa, Daniel Gonzalez and everyone on staff were very respectful people and great coaches. I was more than happy to work for our team and for them. They gave me my first professional contract and I am so thankful for that. However, there were definitely moments during the 2013 season in particular that got a little questionable. The allegations against Chivas USA, and the reason they were in the news, were racism and discrimination related issues, and I wish I could say those things didn’t occur.
During the bulk of that season, after many of the non-Latino players were transferred out, I was one of three or four non-Hispanic players who remained. El Chelis was the first coach of that season and he was very respectful of American culture. I would play for him again in a heartbeat. He made an effort to learn English, and communicate with every player. What Chelis could not communicate in English was always translated for the non-Spanish speaking players, such as myself.
Unfortunately, the next coaching staff to come in midway through the 2013 season was very different. The coaching staff was unable to communicate in English and were not good about translating for those of us who didn’t speak Spanish. I was punished by this coaching staff towards the end of the season for not understanding something that was said to me in Spanish, because it was not translated for me, therefore I did not respond to it. I was called into the coach’s office and helplessly tried to plead my ignorance of my apparent disrespect. There was no interpreter present and my message was not received. As punishment, I was demoted from second on the depth chart to third.
After the incident I was more vocal about the flagrant discrimination taking place and as a result I found myself without a job in MLS at the end of the 2013 season. I decided it was in my best interest to not pursue legal action because I just wanted to find another club in MLS and put this whole experience behind me. Turns out, it’s difficult to find an MLS club who is interested when you are released from the worst team in the league.
I’m a very proud American, I have had family in nearly every war this country has fought in. My family has laid down their lives in the protection of our freedoms and what this country stands for. To be walked on, and treated with such disrespect was a very dissolving feeling. I stood up for what I believed, and, knowing the outcome, I would do it again.
Were there any whispers of Chivas folding or taking a hiatus in the next coming years?
There were always whispers at Chivas. Whispers of rebranding, moving the team, selling the team, etc. Since nothing ever came to fruition during the time I was there, I never invested too much in those rumors.
Playing behind Dan Kennedy, what was the aspect of Kennedy’s game that really stood out to you?
Dan is a fantastic professional. The way communicates with players on and off the field shows how much of a competitor he is. He’s a smart pro, helps the other goalkeepers, but knows how to keep himself in the number one spot. Dan is someone I deeply respect because he’s been through it. All of it. He’s had to battle for his opportunity and when it arrived he took it.
On the field specifically, the one thing I hoped to emulate from Dan’s game was his ability to stand players up in the correct position [on a 1v1 situation] rather than try to make anticipations. I believe him and Stefan Frei do this better than anyone else in MLS. Dan and Stefan are always putting themselves in the best position to get hit by the ball. As cliché as that might sound, it’s truly an art when done correctly.
You weren’t re-signed by Chivas after the 2013 season but you signed with the OC Blues, who you had played with on loan that season. What was that transition like? Did you have some sense that you’d end up with OC in the long run?
After my time spent on loan with the Blues I did not foresee a return to that team in any format. When I had been released from Chivas I was being encouraged to go to the LA Blues by certain people but I wanted to look for another opportunity in the MLS. However, when the end of January rolled around the Blues was the only place I had an offer from. Looking back, I should have been more hands-on with my career and not to leave my destiny in the hands of someone else. No one cares about my career as much as I do, so if I want a job, I need to guarantee it myself.
In February of 2014 I ultimately made the decision to go to the OC Blues because the goalkeeper coach they had in place, Mike Oseguera. Mike was supposed to be on for the 2014 season and was a game-changer in my mind. Mike is a very talented young goalkeeper coach. His perspective on the game and ability to psychologically build and maintain confident goalkeepers is very special. In addition to playing every week, and gaining the experience I was lacking, I knew Mike would be a great person to help develop my game, and help me get back into MLS swiftly. Unfortunately, he was fired without explanation two weeks after the start of the season. He deserves a shot as a goalkeeper coach in the professional game, and I know it’s just a matter of time before he gets it again. I don’t believe in being a victim of circumstance, so despite the abrupt release of Mike Oseguera I tried to make the most out of the things outside of my control. I knew I still had to make the most out of my time spent at the Blues, and did everything in my power to make sure the club was successful while I was in net.
You played 15 games with OC but were released midway through the season. OC ended up using five different goalkeepers that season and really struggled to have some consistency back there. What happened there?
Using five separate goalkeepers on any team will result in a problem with consistency. Benching goalkeepers when they have success, and benching them if they make one mistake will also create problems with consistency. Playing a different backline each game will also cause inconsistency.
With that being said, my departure from the Blues was an unfortunate one. My parents raised me to have high self-worth, to show respect in order to be respected. I don’t settle to be treated with anything less than the respect and fairness I show others. Without getting into the details too much, I’ll say that before the beginning of August I felt the time had arrived, after very close and tedious deliberation, that I no longer desired a future with the OC Blues. I thought in the best interest of my career to no longer be a part of the Blues organization. I will add, though, that I would do anything for my teammates there. They are an amazing group of guys and I’m so thankful they have supported me through this decision.
The Blues refused to release my contract for over a month after my first request for them to do so. In doing so many transfer windows abroad closed. Since the Blues had my option for another year, and I did not trust the people in control of the club, I made the decision to offer to buy out my contract with my own money. I did this so I could be free to pursue other avenues freely. It ended up costing me every penny I had saved. I know this was a huge risk and I’ve taken a financial hit but I’m a fierce competitor and I know I have what it takes to be a starter in MLS, if not somewhere else. I believe in my abilities, and know I will find the right place.
What clubs are you in talks with now?
I can’t say specifically what teams I’ve been talking to, but I will tell you there has been a lot of interest from Sweden, as well as the US and a few other countries. I will do whatever it takes to be successful in this business. I plan on making it my career for the next twenty years and will play until my muscles stop working. I love the game. I’m willing to fight for what I love and to compete every day for the right to call this my profession.
I know some of the things I’ve said are controversial but I think it’s important for people to know the truth about me, instead of making assumptions based on rumors of what may or may not have taken place. I’ve been deeply blessed and I’ve learned much from my experiences so far. I know I have the strength to fight for and endure whatever comes next. I try not to cling too much to the past and I’m confident in the path that has been placed in front of me. I’m excited for what the future has in store.