Every so often, we ask a U.S. Youth National Team player who has established themselves in the pro ranks to look back on their first year and tell us about their experiences, good and bad. This time, the 750-word essay assignment was given to U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team forward David Testo. The Arden, N.C., looks back on his first year as a pro, in which he went undrafted out of UNC but landed with the A-League’s Richmond Kickers.
Testo made the best of his less-than-ideal situation, producing six goals and two assists in 28 matches to earn 2003 Rookie of the Year honors of the Division II league. Testo’s tireless performance while toughing it out in the minors endeared him to the U-23 coaching staff, resulting in several call-ups over the last two years. Once again, he made the best of his opportunity, leading the team in scoring with four goals and two assists in just 390 minutes (read: just over four full games) of action. With an exhausting CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament that could mean five games in 10 days, Testo might be counted on to produce those kinds of numbers off the bench on a more intense stage in order for the USA to advance to Athens 2004."It was my senior year at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill), and we had lost in the second round on of the NCAA playoffs to Penn. It was this point in my life when I became most aware of the ‘real world.’
In January, I was chosen to play in the MLS Combine, but there was a conflict with the U-23 National Team where they wanted me with them in Portugal. The next thing I know it was Draft day, a.k.a "D-Day" to all of us. Basically the entire team in Portugal was entered in the draft, so we all decided to follow it together on the internet while Mooch wrote the names of all the players up on a board so nobody would get confused and people could marvel at each other for being picked so high.
First round, second round, and then the third, and my name was the only one not up on the board. At this time I took off for my room with a gut feeling that something was up. Still to this day I don’t know what happened at the draft, but it happened for a reason. I was in shock, embarrassed, and thought that my aspirations of becoming a professional soccer player were over!
Finally back in the States about a week or so after the draft, I was called up by the Kansas City Wizards and asked to join them in South Africa for a two-week tour. The trip went very well; I actually ended up starting a game, and Coach Bob Gansler gave me pretty good feedback. Unfortunately, because of the lack of roster availability, I wasn’t able to stay with K.C.
I packed my bags and was out the next day. Once I got back home to North Carolina, I decided I was going to travel and see some friends that I had not seen in years. It was when I arrived in Charlotte N.C., that I received the call from the Richmond Kickers. To be quite honest, I really hadn’t even considered playing in the A-League, and I really knew nothing about it. However, after the phone call was over, little did I know, I was signed and sealed and on my way there.
Once in Richmond, like most rookies, not only do you have to find your way on the team, but everywhere else in life. I spent most of the first month on the road lost in the ‘fan,’ but soon found my place on the team. I have to give a lot of respect to the guys on this team, because they welcomed me into this organization better than anywhere else I had previously been. Being comfortable with your teammates and your staff allows you to perform at a higher level on the pitch, and that’s what we’re getting paid to do, right?The first year still remains kind of a blur. It’s a strenuous amount of games within a six-month period where maintaining good health is a key component to your team surviving. We were lucky enough to have a sleeper bus for road trips that holds about 18 beds, a living room/kitchen etc., so after games we could just hit the road and still get a good night’s rest and be ready for the next game. But the bus also provided for extensive card games and long talks into the night about life.
I was the youngest guy on the team, with everyone ranging from 25 years old to around 30. Trust me; I took advantage of all their knowledge of life and soccer. I was starting to realize that this was the best situation for me.
I ended up playing in every game, scoring some goals here and there, and to my surprise, picking up a couple of awards. I improved as a player, learned valuable lessons as an individual, and left with an unforgettable experience.
As of right now, I am packing for a trip to Mexico with the U-23 national team in hopes to qualify for the Olympics. I still have one more semester until I can graduate from UNC-Chapel Hill, but that looks like it’s going to be put on the back burner for a while.
My next challenge is still in the works. I’m hopefully going to be in MLS this year, but I can’t say that’s 100 percent true for a couple more weeks. Although, I do know that the Kickers have a very positive approach in the respect of players’ development, and they’d love to see me take the next step into the top pro league in the U.S. Whether I stay in MLS or not, my year in Richmond was about the best experience I could have as a first-year pro."
[Editor’s Note: Earlier this week, the Columbus Crew exercised a Discovery Player option on Testo, but no contract has been signed and no official loan has been arranged with Richmond as of press time.]
Table of Contents
1) Armchair Midfielder [The U-23 Class of 2000: Then and Now]
2) In Threes [w/ MNT midfielder Chris Klein]
3) Making it in the Show [w/ U-23 MNT midfielder David Testo]
4) Queries & Anecdotes [w/ U-23 MNT forward Conor Casey]
5) Mark that Calendar [U-23 MNT vs. Group A – 2004 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying / Live on MatchTracker]
6) Superstar!!! [w/ WNT defender Heather Mitts]
7) Point/Counterpoint [Who will be the Breakout Players for U.S. Soccer in 2004?]
8) You Don't Know Jack (Marshall) [General U-23/Men’s Olympic Trivia]
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