One signed with a club an ocean away, one signed in his hometown. but both are living their dreams.
Laredo Heat SC alums Christian Roman (C.F. Vasco De Gama Vidigueira in Portugal’s Campenato division), and fellow Laredo alum Memo Diaz (El Paso Locomotive FC in the USL) both recently began their professional careers.
Roman signed with CF Vasco De Gama Vidigueira following a short time in Spain, and he’s still taking in the fact that he’s a professional.
“You work for something your whole life, placing all of your efforts just for the chance to play professionally,” Roman said. “So it hits you, you almost don’t believe it at first, you just say ‘wow everything I have worked for has come to this point’ but for me it’s just the starting point, it all blossoms from here.”
Playing as a professional comes with a lot of pressure for Roman, but his time in college helped prepare him for the lifestyle, and he’s loving having time to do some of his favorite things off the field.
“When you’re a professional, you’re just focused on soccer, you can implement more things that you enjoy,” Roman said, noting that he has more time to read and catch up with friends and family. “But of course, everything on the field is faster…you have to really focus on enjoying it while learning as much as you can, knowing how to bounce back.”
The move to Portugal, away from his familiar surroundings and his friends and family, is one that was admittedly difficult for Roman, but he believes the challenge will only make him a better soccer player.
“It’s been difficult in the sense of adapting to a new lifestyle, but I think you have the best growth when you’re outside your comfort zone,” Roman said. “The language barrier was another thing, but fortunately I spent time in Brazil and can speak some Portugese so I’m improving on that everyday.”
Roman credits his time in Laredo for not only helping him improve as a soccer player and to stay sharp, but also credits them with helping him get acclimated to new surroundings.
“For me it was a new monster, it was Texas, middle of the summer so it was really hot, it was different to adapt to it,” Roman said. “But overall it was a great experience, around new friends, new teammates and new coaches, and we had a great team atmosphere, everyone got along great.”
Now that he’s gaining comfort with the professional ranks, Roman is focusing on gaining playing time, but most importantly focusing on helping his club stay in their division.
“Our mission is to maintain the team in the division and not go down,” Roman said. “It’s so competitive that one game could cause us to go down, so we have to work hard every game.”
Memo Diaz has signed his first professional deal much closer to home: his hometown of El Paso in fact. For Diaz, being able to begin his career with the support of friends and family has been an important element in his early days as a professional.
“It was so special,” Diaz said. “Made even more special by signing with my hometown…being around family and friends my first year has been really important.”
Diaz began his time with El Paso Locomotive FC on trial, and distinctly remembers the moment when the trial period turned into him signing his first professional contract.
“The coach came up to me in the locker room, I went into his office and he just said ‘we want to sign you,’” Diaz said. “My heart just dropped, I sat there and just said “sorry coach” but he just laughed and told me I’m in here now so I signed away.”
The professional life takes some getting used to for Diaz, but he feels comfortable and prepared for the challenge.
“The speed of play is a little faster,” Diaz said, “But I just have to adjust to that.”
His time with Laredo Heat SC helped prepare Diaz for that speed of play and life as a professional in general.
“Laredo is a great organization, they know exactly what they want to do with the youth program and the NPSL level,” Diaz said. “They basically treated you like a professional.”
Now that he’s begun his career as a professional, Diaz is setting his sights on the next step in his career: earning playing time.
“The goal is to get a starting spot, make an impact for the team to help them,” Diaz said. “And as a team, even though we’re a first team the expectation is to win the whole thing, just like any USL team.”
While the two Laredo Heat SC alums have started their professional careers thousands of miles away from each other, both will bring the lessons they learned in Laredo with them throughout their careers.
Photo Credit: Laredo Heat SC