College star Soares doesn’t mind coming in cold
FOXBOROUGH — A.J. Soares is all right with the weather. And with being 3,000 miles away from his San Diego home. He really is.
Soares, 22, lived in California until joining the Revolution as the team’s first selection in this year’s MLS draft. But sacrificing and traveling are part of Soares’s DNA.
“My dad was a commercial tuna fisherman forever — he was big-time at that,’’ Soares said. “He always had to work really hard and, fortunately, I learned from him. He started when he was 15. You have to wake up real early, cut your sleep in half because you’ve got to do watch on the boat. And, then, you go out for months at a time.
“So when I go away from home for a season, I’m thinking about my dad — you’ve got to go out at sea for months at a time without having a place to stay. So when people say, ‘Is it going to be hard to move away from home?’ I’m, ‘No, it’s not. I’m not moving away from home, I’m just changing where I’m living.’ ’’
Soares, the 2010 Pacific 10 Player of the Year for California, is slated to be in a backup central defender role during training camp. But he will have a chance to challenge for a starting spot when the Revolution open their preseason schedule at the University of Central Florida March 17.
In 2005, the last time the Revolution made a central defender a high first-round draft choice, Michael Parkhurst earned a first-team position during the preseason. But Revolution coach Steve Nicol is keeping expectations realistic as the team rebuilds the defense.
“He wants to pass the ball and he reads the game real well, so those are two things we can use and we think we need,’’ Nicol said. “He’s only going to get [experience] as he plays, so when we play some games, we’ll see if he has enough experience.’’
Said Soares, “The speed of the game is definitely faster here. It’s an adjustment coming from college. But you’re also playing with better guys, so they give you better passes and whatnot.’’
Soares started as a forward but also learned to anticipate attacks.
“I watched a lot of soccer, on TV, and I used to buy VHS tapes of old Manchester United games when I was, like, 6,’’ Soares recalled. “I used to watch those, and I think just watching so much soccer — you see the big picture.
“And I did a lot of films in college, just to understand the game better. So when you’re out there, every situation that comes up you’ve seen it 100 times on tape.’’
Soares has never experienced long-term snow Boston-style, but he knew what to expect from the area after visiting his brother, Steve, a recent graduate of Northeastern.
“I started playing because he played soccer — I wanted to be like him,’’ Soares said. “We always played at home on the street. He knocked me around and that’s a big part of why I was able to continue and do well.
“I was the youngest of six, so I was always getting beat up at home. And, growing up, I always had to try harder to do anything. But, fortunately, I had the support of my family and all the coaches.
“My dad’s from the Azores and, being Portuguese, has had a huge influence on me as a soccer player. When I’m not rooting for the US, I’m rooting for the Portugal national team.
“I know there are a lot of fishermen here, so I’m hoping I can connect with that, because they can relate to the way I was raised.’’
Position of strength Paris is known for its Left Bank, and now France is becoming known for its left backs. A French left back was the starter for five of the eight quarterfinalist teams in the Champions League last year: Eric Abidal (Barcelona), Aly Cissokho (Lyon), Gael Clichy (Arsenal), Patrice Evra (Manchester United), and Benoit Tremoulinas (Bordeaux).
So the Revolution apparently went to the right country as they recruited Didier Domi. But the left back position has become controversial at the national team level, as Evra, the France captain at the World Cup last year, was left off the team that met Brazil at Stade de France yesterday.
“There’s a lot of competition — when you see Evra not there for Brazil,’’ Domi said. “It’s always been strong, even if you had less, you had quality. I’ve always been a fan of all left backs, so it’s good to see all the young players, honestly.’’
Domi, 32, played for Olympiakos in the 2009 Champions League group stage.
Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.