The last game of the first season of my professional career is this Sunday. It will be a bittersweet moment, as I have really enjoyed beginning my career as a professional athlete, and I will miss the challenge of training week-in and week-out. However, a month of much needed rest is in store for me, and it will be great to be back in the United States after five-and-a-half months away. I’m not counting or anything, but by the time I get home on Nov. 18, I will have been away from the U.S. for 161 days.
Being away from home for so long and living in two different European countries has been an experience I will not forget. Living in Europe has not always been easy, and there are a lot of outside factors that can take your concentration away from football. Homesickness is a factor that I think any American living abroad has to deal with. The comfort of living in your own country is something most people take for granted, because often times they just don’t know any other way of living. That being said, Europe is an amazing place. The two countries I have lived in, Ireland and Norway are both beautiful places filled with friendly people. I think Scandinavia is a great place for any young American trying to start a career in football. The people are friendly and very rarely do you find someone who doesn’t speak English.
The most rewarding thing about playing in Europe is that football is the national sport of most European countries. I have loved playing here so far. I think MLS is a great league. It’s well supported, has great stadiums, great players, and is growing every year. However, the experience of playing abroad is unique. Relative to most European leagues, MLS is a new league. There’s so much more history surrounding the sport here and its really become embedded in the culture of the people. I believe one day soccer will be embedded in American culture as well as MLS continues to grow. It’s been amazing to see how far the sport has come in the U.S., and it’s only going to keep getting bigger.
I have been very lucky to experience the challenge of playing in Europe this past year, and I hope to continue with that challenge in the years to come. While I often find myself missing friends and family back home, I cannot help but feel blessed that my hard work has landed me in a situation where I can do what I love as my occupation. It’s not so often that people are given the chance to do what they love in order to put food on the table. This being said, I try to never take my situation for granted no matter how challenging it can be.
Now that my first year in Europe is winding down, I can look back at all the ups and downs that have come my way since I moved here. I think I have handled them well and I have always tried to keep a level head through the highest highs and the lowest lows. Like I said, I will miss training week-in and week-out, as I take a month away from the game before the start of next year’s preseason. However, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t look forward to some much-needed relaxation. What’s in store for me here in Europe over the next few years is something only God knows at this point, but I’d rather take this time to concentrate on what I’ve accomplished so far and how that can set me up for the future!