All six of the Sueño MLS finalists from the Colorado tryout have interesting individual stories, but my assignment was limited to two. Governed by logistics, I went with the last two guys at the complex after everyone split on Sunday (actually, the Rapids U-18s starting training in the center circle of the same field).

Brian Loaiza Feature

Miguel Jaime Feature

Both these guys have meaningful international experience, one more than the other. Years ago, a player named Marcos Ryan (spelling?) moved from Hawaii to get to the next level with Colorado Rush. Moving domestic or abroad, the common denominator here is a jump to increasingly larger ponds until you can jump over the “Pond” itself.

During my pre-teen years, the first few trips outside of Colorado Springs to play bigger fish from bigger ponds opened our eyes. We quickly learned a lot, humbled but reassured that we can hang if we tried hard enough. I never traveled abroad with a youth team (only to Phoenix for the regional state team tryout tournament), but I’ve heard tons of excellent stories from guys who did. Moving from family to family every day or two, one of my friends told his German hosts one night that his name was “Master,” as in “Voot you like more pancakes, Master?” Other friends actually learned something and seemed more mature when they came home.

So, the lesson I learned is not to be a dude-shhhh. Lesson #7 is to put yourself in a foreign environment where you need to shine both on and off the field and recognize how you’ll straddle the line between the two as a professional player.

Other stories from youth trips abroad feature plenty of alcohol and less debatable indiscretions. A savvy young man with a microphone in his face today might echo old Nancy with a simplistic “Just Say No” reply to vice-related questions. Although no one can argue with the answer, it isn’t really the answer at all.

Lesson #7 elevates a player to see himself as an individual, a player, a teammate, a member of a club or organization, and then the center of a host of expanding circles that claim him as their representative. If the playing quality remains high for years, a player can sustain himself because he learned how to resist the menu of temptations that reporters will show as they check off vices to present a certain kind of character. Perhaps the “journalist” thinks he knows a midfielder who swears off liquor but gambles like a fiend, or his roommate who can’t resist the devious women complicating his life without a care for him at all. An aspiring pro needs to come to peace with celebrating, relaxing, and avoiding the glitzy attention that invariably shortens careers.