Jake Segoria - U19 Boys Development Academy (GK) traveled to Europe to play and we asked him about his experience.
This past Fall when playing with the U-19 Houston Dynamo Youth Academy at the Showcase in Florida I was scouted and recruited to play soccer this summer in Europe for an independent academy called Elite Union Academy. Needless to say, this was an opportunity of a lifetime and a dream come true! Gareth Williams, the team founder and Director, a former professional for Leicester City saw me play and felt I would be a great fit for their program. After many conversations with all the coaching staff involved (UK / USA) and my parents, I headed to Liverpool, England.
Not really knowing what to expect but understanding this was a great opportunity, I was immediately impressed with the coaches, the very high level of professionalism and the quality of the players. There were players on my team from around the world such as Spain, France, Australia and a few others from the United States.
The ages ranged from 17-22 so it was awesome getting to know guys from all over with different backgrounds and experiences. The one thing that everyone had in common was the same drive and commitment to play at the next level. Everyone was there to play, practice, and push themselves to their personal limit and to get better every single day in the hopes to achieve the ultimate goal of one day playing professionally. Everything we did there was focused around soccer.
July was an exciting time to be in England as the World Cup was taking place. Games were on every TV every day and was the topic of every conversation, unlike in the US where these conversations only really happened with my friends. Every aspect of my life was emerged in soccer. It was incredible. A normal day for us started early and ended at around 9:00pm. We would begin with an early breakfast, then bus to the fields for our morning session. We would then bus back to the hostel where we were staying and grab some lunch with the team. After lunch we would have some time to ourselves. Every day we would do a team dinner and then head to the gym for a group session. Usually we would do cardio, weights, and an exercise class which was comprised of spin, body pump, yoga or core. Finally, we'd head back and get to bed and start the entire process over again the next day.
Our travels took us to numerous countries and many incredible fields. We played in London, Manchester, Liverpool (England), Amsterdam (Holland) and Wolfsburg (Germany). Just about every week we were playing against a new opponent at a new venue. The greatest advantage to this type of play was the sheer visibility I received from coaching staff and scouts that were in attendance.
There were so many great matches and scrimmages every week. The games vs. Arsenal and Wolfsburg were by far the biggest. The first game was against a mixture of Arsenal’s U-18’s and a few trialists at Islington. Just the thought of having the opportunity to go there, let alone play and then knowing I was starting was super exciting. I guess mentally, there isn’t much you can do to get past the fact that you’ll be playing against such a great club. I had to take the excitement, nerves and what you know about the team and their players which was a lot of information to process. Then put it all aside, go out on the field and give it 110%. Once you step on the field your mind has to be set to win and there is no room to process anything else.
When it came time for the game vs. Arsenal, we showed up to the field and the first thing I noticed was the size of the field was very small. This was good for us because it was hard for Arsenal to keep possession and to control the flow of the game on such a small field. As the game started, it was obvious which players were the ones rostered - the front three players and also the #10.
For the first 5-10 minutes we maybe touched the ball twice and were stuck in our own half. Soon enough we won the ball in their half, took a shot and scored with our first attempt on goal. After the goal they continued playing out from the back but with a little more intent to go forward. I was quick off my line and made a few good saves to keep us in the game including a penalty to keep a clean sheet.
The second big game was against Wolfsburg U-17 team. We got to play them at their academy ground in Germany. It was by far the nicest field I’ve been on. During the warm-up, when I saw the kids in their uniforms, they all looked like they could be playing for the senior team. Immediately, as the game progressed I knew they were just at a different level. They played with their backline up at half-field with eight players in our half. Everything about them was so precise and done at such a fast pace it seemed we would never get possession. At some points during the game we did get the ball back, but overall struggled to hold on to possession. Wolfsburg capitalized off our mistakes and we found ourselves down 0-3 at half time. The final score ended with a 0-4 loss. Regardless of the outcome, it was an amazing experience to play against the full U-17 team, the top level of competition representing Wolfsburg.
As I am writing this, I still find the opportunity to be surreal and a blessing. As a graduating senior and someone who will be playing college soccer and hopefully someday professionally, I couldn’t be more thankful and grateful for the great coaches I have had over the years through the Texas Rush and the Houston Dynamo Youth organization. I began playing recreational soccer many years ago and my love for the sport grew in large part due to my coaches.
I would especially like to thank Coach Alex Cardenas for his constant encouragement and sharing his experiences with me. I would also like to thank Justin Fite (Goalkeeper Coach) who has believed, encouraged and pushed me, (even when I was exhausted) to exceed my goals. Since meeting Justin almost five years ago, we have worked together every week, during multiple summers and met regularly for added coaching and feedback sessions. The one thing he has always said is that hard work pays off. I know first-hand he was absolutely right.
Lastly, to all the younger players in the club I would share the same advice with you. Set your goals high, don’t take no for an answer, work hard, believe in yourself and anything is possible. Jake Segoria, U19 Boys Development Academy.
“Not every player gets to have the opportunity that Jake got to have this summer. He earned it with his continuous hard work and attitude both on and off the field. I look forward to working with Jake and supporting him further in his senior year.” Justin Fite, Director of Coaching - Goalkeeping.