It is only natural that a parallel stays at the forefront when you are related to – and playing the same sport as – a Hall of Fame figure.
U.S. Under-15 Boys’ National Team forward Joshua Perez, who is currently with the squad for the Copa Mexico de Naciones, is the nephew of National Soccer Hall of Famer and U-14 Boys’ National Team head coach Hugo Perez. Certainly there have been moments when Josh has sought Hugo’s extensive soccer expertise, but there is a balance to this relationship as they also don’t spend every waking hour discussing the game with each other.
“Not too often, to tell you the truth,” Perez said. “I’ll talk to him about my signing and stuff like that, and he’ll congratulate me here and there. But I am proud to say that I have someone to turn to that has a lot of experience because that influences me toward becoming what I want to be. When I talk to him, he really motivates me and gives me positive feedback.”
Coming up the Youth National Team ranks, Josh was called into a U-14 BNT camp a little more than a year ago with Hugo at the helm.
“It was a great experience to have my uncle there while I was in the U-14 camp,” Perez said. “Having him as a coach was great because he helped me and helped the other players learn the style of football that we want to play.”
The style that Perez enjoys includes being sound technically on the ball, intelligent decision-making and having a strong vision. Many of those attributes resonated with Perez when he made a move to Europe earlier this year, joining Serie A club Fiorentina in April.
“I got interested in the Italian League because I love that style of play,” Perez said. “It just came naturally to me. I was attracted to that style of football. That’s my kind of style, and I love the pressure that comes with that. You have to think fast.”
Perez had also trained for the likes of AC Milan and PSV Einhoven prior to his eventual move to Fiorentina. All of his trials have been a part of his hope to represent the highest of international and professional ball.
“Long-term, obviously I want to play for the U.S. and play for the senior team,” Perez said. “I’m also hoping that by the age of 17 I’m playing professionally for Fiorentina. I’m proud of myself of the fact that I can play in Europe. But I know I’m not done yet. Even though I got signed by Fiorentina, I still have a long way to go. I am motivating myself and trying to do the best that I can and get to where I want to be.”
Before his move to Fiorentina, Perez was a part of the Development Academy system with Chivas USA, taking on a leadership role that continued his progression on the pitch.
“In trying to become a better player, I wanted to play well technically and be smart about the game,” Perez said of his time with Chivas USA’s Academy squad. “I stayed motivated and was always thinking about ways to help the team play a good style of football.”
Along with the international club move, the experience of representing the USA for the Copa Mexico de Naciones is an important one. Perez says that the heightened competition and grandeur of facing other countries’ top-level players push him into another element.
“I think these trips help me realize the reality of becoming a pro, I guess you could say, because you’re surrounded by people and surrounded by pressure,” Perez said. “It’s a great experience having the chance to play against international teams like Brazil and Uruguay. I think it’s fantastic. I get so excited and thrilled about that sensation.”