Choco Gomez signs with Atlante FC.
Jose “Choco” Gomez, a 2013 Hermann trophy finalist, has signed with storied Mexican club Atlante FC, after being repeatedly snubbed by American pro soccer outlets.
A talent, known throughout his college career as the “midfield maestro” finally has a pro contract, and is now a Potro.
This is a story we’ve seen play out with alarming regularity, the exception here being the possibility of a happy ending. Most talented players that end up being rejected by the views of the American establishment, end up having little choice but to hang up the boots, and you never hear of them.
And since much of the pro soccer media isn’t in tune with what’s going on in the trenches or behind the scenes, they think these talented players “falling through the cracks” is some sort of myth.
A little on Choco’s trajectory
We first saw him play late in his development as a 15 year old when we had a team in his age group. Most evident thing was his natural talent and instinct on the field. Fantastic technique and feel for the game made Choco special.
And we weren’t alone in that assessment.
When a local club director put a talent combine together for some European scouts, dozens of the top 15-18 year old prospects were invited.
Choco was the only one that caught the eye of Club Brugge that was represented at the combine. He travelled to Belgium in the summer of 2008 and stayed there for several months playing for the u21 reserve side of the Belgian powerhouse.
His talents were valued but he could not sign a professional contract until his 18th birthday. He was a year too young and nothing could be done until then.
Choco found his way back to the states just in time for the high school season. When we heard, we made it a point to attend all of his games in order to get in contact with him.
We had a talented club team in his age group and were desperate to sign a player with his qualities – as they fit perfectly for the futbol we play.
After a couple months of courting Choco, he chose to join our small unknown club team over multiple US Development Academy teams that were after him as well.
He immediately became part of the Rage family. The coaches, players, and parents (always an important component in club soccer) were won over by the work rate, humility, and talent of the soft spoken Gomez.
Our mission? Polish up this natural talent and prepare him for the next level. Opening doors was our primary objective.
He was with us for just under a season when he graduated and was eligible for college.
We sent him to Cal State Fullerton where he had a great freshman season in a below average D1 college team with no identity. Choco knew he had much more in him and that fullerton wasn’t a good fit if he was to achieve his goal of being a pro. He had ZERO SUPPORT from the coaches at the school and informed them he would be leaving after 1 season.
Back to club soccer with us at OSC Rage. It would be a brief stint as we opened the next door for him at Mexican club Tigres. Tigres scouted our games at Surf Cup and immediately wanted to sign 2 of our players.
Choco, again ready to sacrifice everything went to Monterrey to pursue his dream. He was registered and played with the u20s in local competition as well as in Dallas Cup Super Group. He stayed at Tigres for 6 months to try the experience and see if it was something he wanted to pursue long term.
It was a tough decision but he decided that the best route would be the normal one in our market. Meaning, the conventional college route – study and play soccer, then get drafted to MLS.
We no longer had a club team his age as that group had aged out and we began a new cycle with the youngers. We placed Choco on a normal club team who would play CSL u19 Premier so he could get some games in while we figured out his next step in terms of an ideal D1 school.
In comes Creighton with the help of PJ Brown (Arsenal), former head coach Bob Warming (Penn St), and assistant coach Jason Mims (UNO). Choco would move to Omaha.
Freezing cold temperatures and snow greeted Gomez who had never experienced such a thing growing up in Orange County. (He travelled with a T-shirt, shorts, and some Vans)
He spent 3 seasons at Creighton, leading the team to back to back final 4 appearances. He won all the typical awards needed to get attention on the national stage. First team All-American, TopDrawersoccer National Player of the Year, Conference MVP, League MVP, and was a Herman Trophy Finalist.
Shoe in for the MLS and top draft pick right? WRONG! Our system was once again exposed for not valuing this gem.
Choco was drafted by Toronto FC in the supplemental draft as the 38th pick. This is when it gets even stickier. Toronto FC drafted him without knowing Choco was foreign born without a US passport. He couldn’t even join the franchise for preseason in Canada!
He was not signed and left to begin his journey from scratch.
After having his dream shattered by what was clear incompetence, he continued the quest. Trial periods with Chivas USA, Atlanta Silverbacks, San Antonio Scorpions, and Minnesota United all left him with a sour taste in his mouth due to the same reason that impeded these teams from signing him – his foreigner status.
Even the junk that is Orange County Blues, went in “another direction”.
The fire was reignited in Choco recently when the Costa Rica National Team had a week long training stint in Los Angeles.
They needed a few local players to join the training sessions for sparring purposes, and we sent Choco. Head coach Paolo Cesar Wanchope inquired about him and what professional club he was playing for because in his words “his level is on par with the players on his national team”. He was in shock that Choco wasn’t playing professionally.
Recently, an opportunity to travel back to Mexico opened up and Choco had no hesitation in accepting yet another trial. The destination? Atlante FC.
He attended invite only trials with another dozen players. After 3 days, he was selected to join preseason with the 1st team – which began the following week.
He completed preseason, appearing in every match, and scoring 3 goals in 5 games. Choco was offered a contract and the rest is history. His journey to achieving one of his goals is complete.
I sincerely wish him the best and hopefully one day get to see him back in the States
Dino Zoff says
Well done Choco!
Shame on you idiots of MLS! But better for Choco! Soccer in Mexico is superior to the boot it direct play of the MLS!
What country is Choco from? Mexico or Costa Rica?
Go for it Choco! I am rooting for you!
Glad to hear of Choco’s personal success story. I am curious if you can expound on why Cal Fullerton was chosen as his collegiate school. Were you hoping or expecting a better fit for him there that just didn’t pan out or did you know he would only be in college for a year and college was of no real consequence to your decisions. Thanks.
Disregard previous comment. Just needed to read on. Rush Rush. Sorry.
Michael M says
As you stated up front, this is an often-recurring story. The only salvation is dumb luck or, in his case, effectively one or more coaches that act as an ‘angel’ to him to ensure he gets opportunities. Kudos to you for do that.
The real question isn’t why the system is busted. The real question is why a group of coaches, perhaps a dozen or so, can be a defactor ‘angel group’ to perform this role on a recurring basis and establish a pipeline out of the system for players like this who have a high probability of being overlooked. If there is money to be made in club soccer, certainly there is a business asking to be made in this role within the US. To me the surprise is that parties have not figured out how to make a business of this to help a small group of players make it out.
The other approach, changing the entire ecosystem called US youth soccer, is far more daunting and perhaps unfixable.
Terry Ransbury says
Choco sounds like a great kid and we all wish him success. Perseverance is paying off but I would like to point out that I am touched by the effort you all went through to help this talented player out. He wasn’t yours “officially” very long but you treated him as you would your prize player that you hatched at U6. It speaks volumes to your character. This is why “Coach” is a special title. We need to see this kindness replicated.
Leo Burgos says
Good choco you never gave up. Perseverance and dedication a key to success. Good luck in the future and in the Mexican league.
David Williams says
Why did he not go back to Club Brugge at 18? If he was that good surely they would have wanted him back?
This story is common all over the world, David Seaman was rejected at a few clubs then goes on to be one of the best GK in the world. Alan Shearer similar story, Craig Johnston from the great Liverpool team of the 80s was basically told to go back to Australia by Jack Charlton.
FIFA rules prohibit the transfer of players younger that 18, even though some clubs try to wiggle around it, it is illegal in all instances. His options would have been to go to school in Europe ($$ cost) or return to America (which he did).
I should have stated “International transfer of minors under 18 years old”.
I certainly hope that Creighton gives Choco the press and recognition he deserves. Kudos to Creighton for seeing Choco’s magic like you and Brian. Great story of your loyalty to a child you believed in. Agree with the previous post about the true meaning of the title “Coach”. Sadly, so often in club ball the importance of this role is drastically overlooked.
Quality can see when there is quality. Don’t stop being a change agent.
Josh Ricas says
goes to tell you MLS it’s trash
Different leagues and clubs select players that they think will help them compete in their respective leagues. Sometimes even great players don’t perform in different environments due to the matching of their individual qualities with those of a league. Additionally, players mature certain parts of their games at different stages. If clubs, especially American ones, aren’t yet built to or interested in developing immature players, then they’ll surely pass or misidentify their potential. The “indictment argument” against American soccer is an overwrought one and probably isn’t accurate considering that the same thing happens in Western European leagues that have plenty of lower division teams for players to develop in. Choco did well to persevere and find a better environment for who he is on the field. We have to now wait and see if this will be a bridge to first team game time. The MX’s is probably a better league for him to show his qualities and grow. Even world class players like Andres Iniesta would not have had the quslities necessary to develop into the players they were if they’d not been carefully protected in their respective teams and leagues. A player like that at ages 18-23 would have not shown we in the FA leagues. European clubs and leagues—who have far better scouting and development infrastructure—pass on domestic players all of the time. The fact that this happens in a fragmented American system shouldn’t be an indictment against our leagues as failing to recognize any talented individuals. There is plenty of talent development and plenty of missed opportunity. Players who are committed have to be strategic in finding the best club and coach to fit with before taking a contract.
The rebuttal to your argument, from my POV, is how many players do you watch in MLS that really are not that good- who lack game, tactical and technical initiative and as I watch do not have a commensurate futbol somatic/body intelligence. As a league I see that more often than I hope. I do watch MLS games, though not too many- as it is like eating Chef Boyardee when there is authentic italian around the corner- and yes the difference is that noteworthy. While many many players get over looked or misidentified or misused or mis out in europe which is to your point, the worst players on the first team of the highest leagues are all near world class players. That is an unbelievably challenging ceiling and far far far from the case stateside.
Robert Kleemaier says
(LOL!) Luv the Chef-Boyardee metaphor, Joel. 🙂
Robert Kleemaier says
Wow. A classic example of the legacy of inept management at TFC. How long will this continue? If things doesn’t improve soon there, TFC will be closed down by MLS just like Chivas USA.
Not if they keep throwing money at the problem, i.e. Jozy Altidore.
Robert Kleemaier says
More like throwing money down the drain? Defoe is a thoroughbred by comparison with Altidore (albeit one with an attitude problem). I suspect though that Altidore *might* do okay in MLS because it’s jungle ball for the most part.
Hell of a story.
More American pro teams should be out in the streets, recruiting kids for their academies. There is an entire GROUP of kids who ONLY care about playing soccer that are being ignored because of dollar signs. I don’t know if MLS academies will find them, even…but whomever is looking out for kids with skill and not just brute strength should go out to the places where soccer already matters.
I have seen this many times in my time in the game. It has been used as an excuse for many players, but it really comes down to being seen by the right coach. Outside of strikers who score goals ugly or not, the game of soccer is highly subjective. Which, makes it all that much more beautiful. Congrats to him for getting what he deserves.
I wish Choco all the best . . . but it’s only going to get harder. Even the most promising have failed. All sports are riddled with phenoms. Some well known; others nameless in the vast trash bin of lost dreams. And the conveyor belt never ends. If Choco doen’t make it in a few years, the conveyor belt will push him off or onto a path that never turns into success.
Again, all the best Choco! I’m rooting you and all the thousands of other hopefuls across the USA and many thousands more around the world. Wish they all could make it, but sadly they don’t.
likely, this is the part where a little bit of luck comes in.
Jennifer Gomez says
I love you brother and I am so happy that your dream came true I was crying when you told us that you sighned I love you ❤️❤️
Here’s an example of how well USSoccer scouts:
Debra Guerrero says
Choco is a great person with great spirit. He was my son’s soccer coach for a couple of months and now Choco is my son’s inspiration not to ever give up and keep fighting for his dreams. Thank you Choco for giving Beto that touch up hope that with perseverance we can achieve our goals….. 🙂
James Froehlich says
Instead of just cursing the darkness, there is something that every reader of this blog can do: whenever and wherever you read a comment or article that displays a blind devotion to size and athleticism, call the writer out!! For example, when a college player’s credentials are being touted as being 6’4″ and fast, don’t let that comment stand without demanding more soccer specific criteria from the writer. The number of soccer sites has exploded but many of them are staffed by people with the barest of credentials but their ability to distort the perspectives of new fans is enormous. If people like yourselves don’t speak up the conversation will be dominated by people whose interest and expertise begins and ends at the 18 yard line!