Recent USF graduate and former Dons soccer player Dave Romney of Irvine, California is 22 years old and just a few short weeks ago was called up to Major League Soccer by the Los Angeles Galaxy. Romney was called up for his first MLS contract by the Galaxy from their second team, Los Dos. Not only was this monumental for Romney and his family, but he’s also succeeded in making MLS history by being the first ever Los Dos player to sign an MLS contract with the Galaxy.
The LA Galaxy play in the MLS Western Conference and are one of the most decorated clubs in the league. The Galaxy have won the MLS Cup more times than any other team in the league and boast an impressive roster of players both domestic and international including the likes of former Liverpool F.C. superstar Steven Gerrard, former F.C. Barcelona striker Giovani dos Santos and retired English star David Beckham. Romney graduated early from USF in the fall of 2014 with a degree in finance. I was able to sit down with Dave at this season’s home opener for the Don’s Men’s Soccer 2-0 win against Canisius here at his former home pitch, Negoesco Stadium. Here’s what he had to say…
S.A.: So first off, how did the process go, post-USF Soccer that got you to where you’re at now?
D.R.: Post-USF I wasn’t invited to the MLS Combine, it’s a pretty prestigious combine and only 55 or 60 players in college get invited to the combine. One of my then-teammates was invited [Miguel Aguilar, current midfielder at D.C. United] and he did really well and he got drafted, but I wasn’t invited so I attended a local San Jose Earthquakes combine, and nothing came of it. Then, I kind of saw that as the end of the road until I came back to San Francisco and my former head coach [current USF Men’s Soccer coach Eddie Soto] contacted me and said that he got me a trial with LA Galaxy II, in a week’s time. He said ‘Get yourself ready, get yourself down there’ so I went back down South on trial and everything just took off from there.
S.A.: What did you learn being on the USF soccer team that you still find useful today?
D.R.: The biggest thing I could take away from playing at USF was the amount of games I got. You can’t replicate game experience, you can train as much as you want but, actually getting minutes in a game — you can’t replicate that anywhere, so for me to get 72 games in 4 years at USF was pretty crucial. Just learning trial by fire on field, just learning instinctively figuring out the game by yourself helped me over these last four years to grow as a player-grow as a person. Definitely got more confident as I played at USF and that confidence carrying over to me being on trials in Galaxy II, playing there well and slowly working my way to the first team.
S.A.: Did you feel that there were things you learned in your USF classes that you still find useful today on and off the field?
D.R.:Off the field, very much so. I was actually debating whether to keep playing soccer or accept a job offer that I had from Credit Suisee, and it was a pretty tough decision but at the moment that I got this job offer, things just started to really pick up with Galaxy, I started getting loaned up to the first team and then ultimately I signed with the first team in early August and at that time I just had to tell them ‘No I have things to focus on I can’t give up on soccer’. Using finance off the field…I use it almost every single day. Every morning I wake up, I watch CNBC, I listen to CNBC in the car, I track the markets heavily, I have my 401-K that I manage, I have an account that I manage on my own, and I’m just trying to stay as financially active and responsible as I can so that when I’m done playing, I have a good base and can generate income through other financial ventures whether it’s getting a career in finance or real estate or just simply investing what I have.
S.A.: Do you feel USF prepared you for playing in the MLS?
D.R.: We obviously have a good team and a lot of good players [at USF], but the turf field limits the quality of the sessions. Being spoiled by good fields now, when the grass is wet it has a great feel, the ball can move really fast. The speed of play is higher, the speed of thought has to be that much higher and that’s something the turf at USF kind of limits because a bad bounce here and there can ruin the rhythm and speed of a really good potential play. Going into the Galaxy one just having a really good field, and two having better players around me, I had to adapt to the speed of play really quickly and thankfully I did. The coaching at USF was really good, I learned a lot in past couple years.
S.A.: What are the biggest differences between college and professional soccer?
D.R.: The biggest difference is the mental aspect of the game. There’s a lot of players who are athletic, who in college are technical but the decision making you make on the ball, just stupid mistakes coaches hate, and the speed of thought sometimes a lot of players can’t adapt to the speed of thought-that’s the really big difference with the next level and just being consistent day in and day out, whether it’s in training or in games, just always showing up and being consistent is more so a mental aspect of the game than physical, it’s something you can control for the most part. I think being quick and aware from a mental aspect, and just being consistent is what separated me from other players on the II’s team that made me get signed to the first team.
S.A.: How do you feel about the environment, going from playing college games to games in these major stadiums with thousands of people, how does that translate?
D.R.: Luckily for me, I don’t really think about it. I just kind of zone in, focus on me, the ball, the guy I’m supposed to guard-I just focus on that. I don’t really get to think about it for the most part it’s a blessing and a curse in my eyes because I’m not thinking about 93,000 people at the Rose Bowl but just focusing on the field and it’s kind of a curse because I don’t really get to let the moment sink in, let sink in what’s really going on around me. This is something that I get to look at when I rewatch the games on TV but in the moment I don’t really breathe it in too much.
S.A.: How did you and your family react when you first learned that you would be moving up to the first team?
D.R.: I was in shock. I knew I had been playing well with the second team and I knew I had been playing well when I was getting loaned up to the first team, but I was in shock when they told me. Literally twelve hours prior I made a bet with my dad sitting in a jacuzzi that he thought I would be signed to the first team within the year, and I thought it would maybe happen next year, and the morning after they told me. I was obviously extremely happy and surprised. He was not surprised at all. For some reason he thought there’s no way they wouldn’t sign me after the good things that Bruce [Arena, head coach of Los Dos] said about me on the second team. Still pissed I lost the bet to my Dad though…hahaha.
S.A.: What were the biggest changes in your life after being drafted, as far as moving back down to SoCal where your family is from, your living situation, your day-to-day? How was all that affected by beginning to play for the Galaxy?
D.R.: My day-to-day is pretty similar to what it was in college minus the fact that I don’t have to go to class. I am very fortunate, I still get to live at home, I live at my Dad’s, so I don’t have any expenses. I get to focus on soccer. I head up to training, leave my house at 8am and have a full day of training, lifting, treatment, eating etc. and I usually am home again by 1:30 and I either relax or go hang out with friends, go to the beach, or play golf with my dad or play XBOX, watch CNBC, or go online and look at finance stuff. It’s a pretty casual day-to-day. Every day around 8/9 I sit in the jacuzzi and catch up with my dad then roll out and stretch and get ready for the next day of training.
S.A.: Were the Galaxy your ideal team to play for in the MLS, especially growing up down in SoCal, and following the Galaxy over the years?
D.R.: Yes. Aside from the top teams in England, I wouldn’t want to play for anyone else besides LA Galaxy, they are by far my favorite team in the U.S. and North America, and one of my favorites in the entire world. It’s all pretty surreal since I grew up watching them, going to their games. I was actually a water boy at one of their games when I was 12. Growing up, my best friend’s family were season ticket holders and took me to 10-15 games growing up and so the first game I played with the first team, I brought them out and that was pretty surreal to just return the favor. By far my ideal team to play for.
Now sporting the number #27, Romney is quickly proving himself as a key defender in the Galaxy’s lineup, going toe to toe, and standing his ground, with former Chelsea soccer hero Didier Drogba in this weekends 0-0 game against Montreal Impact. After some helpful advice from some of his teammates who have formerly competed against the Ivorian striker in the EPL, Romney battled it out and received praise from all sides. I think it’s safe to say that this is just the beginning of what is to come from our very own Dave Romney.
Photo courtesy of Douglas Stone