Aug. 5, 2010
CalBears.com chatted with Cal senior defender A.J. Soares about playing soccer, his post-Cal plans and managing AJSoares.com. Earlier today, College Soccer News named Soares a second-team preseason All-American.
CalBears.com: How did you start playing soccer?
A.J. Soares: I started playing soccer when I was just a baby, just watching my brother play. He's four years older than me. He played on a team, and I would always go to his practices and games. Then when I was 5, I started playing on my own team. Then I got on to a competitive club team - San Diego Surf - when I was 7 and played there until I came to Cal.
CalBears.com: Were there any other sports that you played when you were younger? How did you decide on soccer?
AJS: I played baseball and I was a catcher because my cousin was the pitcher. It was soccer, really since I was 10. It was just soccer. I just liked it. Baseball was a little slow for me. I liked running around more and, having played since I was so young with my brother, that was what I was better at, so I chose soccer.
CalBears.com: You've had the opportunity to play in a lot of different countries. Can you briefly describe your experience overall and how it impacted your game?
CalBears.com: Which country did you enjoy the most?
AJS: Soccer is such a worldly sport - it's everywhere - so anywhere you go you have the opportunity to play, meet people who have the same interests as you. Seeing these people in other countries with such passion for soccer...every time I did a trip and interacted with people from these countries, it kind of upped my passion for the game and made me love it more and realize how big of a sport it really is. And just the level in other countries is great, so it's nice to play with some foreign players and learn from them and everything. I was lucky to go to Brazil when I was 12 and again when I was 16, and both of those trips were big time because you know the Brazilians are kind of known to be the best soccer players.
It's difficult to say. I've been on a bunch of trips. Some trips were more fun, some trips were better soccer. I'd say probably going to Brazil because I was pretty young. I absorbed everything there. I met some kids my age whose lives were so drastically different from mine. [Brazil] was just more of a life-learning experience. In addition, I was playing really good soccer down there. I would say Brazil was my favorite place.
CalBears.com: Why did you choose Cal?
AJS: I was recruited to a couple of different places, mostly in California. Cal just offered the best soccer and academics, so it made sense to come here. There wasn't a better academic school I could've chosen and there wasn't a better soccer program, so it was an easy choice. I also have a sister who lives in San Francisco, and that was a big motivator for me, too.
CalBears.com: What are your personal goals and what are the team goals for the season?
AJS: We want to win the Pac-10. We want to win the NCAAs. That's the goal every year when we go into preseason. I don't think there really is a difference between my goal and the team's goal. As long as I can help the team win, that's what I want to do. We want to win; we want to be the best team out there.
CalBears.com: When do you graduate and what do you want to accomplish during your last season at Cal?
AJS: I'll be graduating in December when the season's over. The obvious one is probably to win the NCAAs. We won the Pac-10 my freshman year, and we want to do that again obviously. Within the team, I want to put my stamp on the team. I want to show the younger players the way to go through Calm get the most out of it and how to become the best player they can be. I think that's something I can do now as a senior that you can't really do when you're younger. But when you're older and people look up to you and as the captain, you definitely can have an influence on other players. That's what I hope to do.
CalBears.com: How do you manage the challenges of being a student-athlete?
AJS: You definitely have to look ahead at the beginning of the semester. You know right around finals is when you're traveling the most if you're in the playoffs. So, for example, I may have a paper due, but I'm in Maryland or something; that happened my sophomore year. You really have to look ahead for that and talk to your professors. And we have good support from our academic staff that helps us do that. A lot of time that means taking finals early, which is tough always because you have all your work concentrated in one little time. It's really just looking ahead and making sure you have everything organized before the time comes that you have a conflict.
CalBears.com: When your playing days are done, what kind of career do you want to pursue?
AJS: I see Kevin, our coach, and he has a great lifestyle. I think coaching at a university would be definitely something I would do. I don't have any experience in that yet, but just having been in soccer so long I could see that being a career that I'd do.
CalBears.com: What are your professional aspirations? If you could play anywhere, where would that be?
AJS: First, I want to become a professional wherever I get that opportunity, whether it's in the United States or in Europe or somewhere else. I want a long career. That would be ideal. I think I'd be happy wherever I fit in to a team and where I was an important player on that team. I'd rather be on a lesser team and be a starter and play than be on the biggest team in the world and never see the field. So at this point I don't know where I'll end up or where I even want to end up, because I don't have any experience there yet. But I think I'd be happy in the United States, Europe; anywhere really. Whichever team wants me and needs me on the field, I would be happy playing for them.
CalBears.com: What is your favorite pro team?
AJS: I don't know; I like whatever team is the best. I like good soccer. Barcelona - they play the most beautiful soccer. Inter Milan - they play great defense, and I'm a defender, so I like them. And I like the L.A. Galaxy. They play the best soccer in the United States, I think.
CalBears.com: Do you model your game after any player?
AJS: I try to take pieces from several different players. I'm a center defender, so there are a couple of defenders in Europe on a Spanish team I really like. In the United States, probably Oguchi Onyewu. He's a big defender and I like to watch him and kind of imitate him.
CalBears.com: How did you decide to create your own website, AJSoares.com?
AJS: I like to watch sports in general - football, basketball, everything. I always see the top players are marketed; they have websites. People get a little glimpse into their personal life, and I just thought that I would start that. And if someday I was a professional player and people wanted to see my website, I already have it.
CalBears.com: How much time do you devote to updating it per week?
AJS: Not too much time. It's pretty quick. Usually I'll just update whatever the latest thing is going on with the team. I'll probably look at it every day, though.
CalBears.com: I know you're on Twitter. Who do you follow on a regular basis and who's the most interesting person on your following list?
AJS: Jozy Altidore from the U.S. national team - my best friend, Servando, and I hung out with him the other day, so I started following him. Who else...Chad Ochocinco from the Bengals. He's tweeting all the time so I think I need to stop following him because he's filling up my page. And then the most interesting person following me...I don't even know if there's anyone interesting, but maybe Alex Morgan because she's a famous women's player who goes to Cal.
CalBears.com: Do you think social media is a big part of your life or how has it changed your life?
AJS: Yes, I think it's the new way that people are connected. I don't really call people on the phone. We stay in touch through Twitter, Facebook and all that. Also, just like with family members too, like sending out pictures and all that, I kind of do that through Facebook or through my website. I think it's really important because it's, like I said, the new way to stay in touch. So if I'm updating I'm keeping them in the loop, and I know they're doing the same for me. It's definitely important. Especially, if hypothetically, I ended up in Europe, I would need the social websites to help me stay in touch with everyone.