In the game of soccer, the transition game has become a major point of focus for both coaches and players. The ability to take advantage of those moments can be decisive. Likewise, managing key milestones in life (such as becoming a professional athlete) represents an important transition in one's career. As one of Penn FC's two rookies, young Miguel Jaime is learning all about the adjustment from college student to professional life.
For a young player making the move to the professional ranks, Jaime is quickly learning about adjusting to the speed of play and the physicality. He understands that any jump in level of play warrants a period of adjustment. The veterans on the team, he says, "...have been great – all of the guys have been helping me. I knew our team captain Ken Tribbett and Jacob Lissek from playing with Rush, as well as Kyle Venter. I’m just taking it all in, watching how they and all the veterans approach training as well as games. How they take care of the little things, and for me, this is about learning what works for me. I am hopeful that I can have a long playing career."
But for now, there are more immediate concerns.
"First and foremost, team success is the most important thing,” Jaime said. ”This year, for me, I personally want to soak it all in and enjoy it. As I continue to adapt and learn I want to show the coaches what I can do, play a smart possession style and hopefully earn more minutes as the season progresses. I've loved the sport since I could walk, and I've always had the dream to become pro."
"Throughout my career, I’ve always seen it as important to move to the next level, the next thing,” he continued. ”But I always knew to be patient at each step. Whenever you move up, the immediate success isn’t there; that's normal. But it’s important to not get discouraged; you get used to it and adapt to the level. There is always a time of transition – getting used to the speed of play, the speed of thought. I’m not big, I’m not fast, so I must be smarter on the field. This is where the little things come in – especially at this level because the game moves faster."
After a strong youth career with Colorado Rush, he decided to play at Florida Gulf Coast University. It turned out to be a great decision, as he not only had the opportunity to compete against outstanding intercollegiate players, but he also had the chance to play against a few of the very best.
"A lot of MLS teams go to Florida for preseason training, so while I was in college I had the opportunity to play about 10 professional teams. But to play against NYCFC featuring Andrea Pirlo, Frank Lampard and David Villa – actual living legends of the game in a sold-out stadium – that was special," Jaime said.
Competing against players of that caliber gave Jaime a taste of the next level, and he knew he had to take the step to get there. "After college I went to a few club trials, and I reached out to Tim Schulz the General Manager at Penn FC. I’d heard great things about what Rush was doing with the club, and as a former Rush player, that didn’t surprise me. Once I heard about it, I wanted to be a part of it. I came to a tryout and thankfully was offered a contract."
Jaime recognized that a youth club – even one the size of Rush Soccer – taking ownership of a professional team is unconventional.
"This is a unique setup – and it’s a very good thing,” Jaime said. “Rush Soccer Club covers so much territory, yet at the same time everything is interconnected. It feels like a family. When we travelled to play Atlanta a few weeks ago, there were several Georgia Rush players that came out to watch the game. It made us feel at home even though we were miles away. Rush is unique; there is only more positive to come."
Advice Jaime received from a youth coach continues to apply for the new professional and his teammates.
"Every day you either get better or you get worse. You never stay the same. If you're not getting better, someone else is." Those words have stayed with him. As he says, "There are so many talented players out there; when I was growing up there were many better than me. I just worked on my own a lot. If you work hard, with a little luck you can get an opportunity."
On Wednesday in Toronto, Jaime netted his first professional goal and it could not have come at a better time for Rush Soccer’s First Team.
In the 87th minute, Jaime lofted a ball in from the left wing and after the Toronto FC II keeper put a finger on it, the ball bounced off the crossbar and across the line to seal a 1-0 road win. With his first goal under his belt and humility and a grateful attitude, Jaime is clearly adapting well to the transition to professional life.
"I just want to stress how grateful I am for the opportunity here,” he said. “I am so thankful for my parents, to Rush soccer, to my university, to friends, everyone."
Miguel Jaime (center front row) as a member of the U18 Colorado Rush team in 2013.