By GRANT CZUBINSKI – USLSoccer.com Contributor
Sunday, February 7, 2016
Firsts are always special. Whether it is a first game or a first goal, the moment is forever remembered by players and fans alike. For San Antonio FC, Tuesday proved to be a noteworthy day in the club’s nascent history as it welcomed its first player, midfielder Carlos Alvarez; a player ready to help the club become one of the league’s elite in its first season.
Alvarez, the second overall pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft, had multiple clubs vying for his services this offseason, but felt that San Antonio was where he belonged, all the while taking pride in being the club’s first player.
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“Being the first player is a big plus for me,” he said this week. “It’s a plus because, obviously they [San Antonio] were interested and they showed me how interested they were by telling me I was going to be their first player signed. It meant a lot to me because I saw how much they wanted me, and as a player you want to feel welcome. You want to feel like you’re at home. I had options to play in MLS and I had options to even go to Mexico. I chose San Antonio because of what Coach [Darren] Powell told me. I believe in his system.”
After finding himself struggling to find playing time because of an injury during his time with the Colorado Rapids last season, Alvarez spent the remainder of the 2015 season on loan with the Charlotte Independence, getting a taste of what the USL had to offer. In Charlotte Alvarez made 22 appearances, netted two goals and provided four assists. The loan spell offered Alvarez valuable playing time and experience that he intends to rely on during San Antonio’s inaugural season.
“It’s something that going into the season I know what the league is all about and something that I can take advantage of,” he said.
San Antonio will undoubtedly need the experience Alvarez brings as the club – though in existence for less than a month – faces high expectations because of its ownership. Spurs Sports & Entertainment’s track record of success in the NBA, where it fields a perennial title contender in the San Antonio Spurs, has created major expectations.
Alvarez relishes the pressure the high expectations bring.
“Like I told Coach Powell, the expectation is to win each game, if it’s possible,” he said. “Obviously that’s the mentality that you have to go in with every day, no matter what, giving it your all. Obviously, every player wants to be in a national championship or play for a championship. That’s what you work for in your offseason.”
While embracing the pressure thrust upon the club, Alvarez brings his own expectations to the team. His ambition to succeed with San Antonio is apparent when he talks about his desire to win.
“I want to win each game, each game home or away,” he said. “I am a winner, like I told everyone, even if it’s a sprint or something, I like to win. I hate losing. Anything I can win I want to win. This year I want to be top in our conference, and from our conference win a championship.”
Alvarez’s hunger shows why the Texas club made him a building block for the future, with the club looking to implement a high-tempo style of play. Known for his attacking ability and creative play on the ball, Alvarez is ready to accept the leadership role that comes with being the club’s first signing and contribute to the club’s success in any way that he can.
“My position my whole life was attacking center-mid, but I have played in an MLS defense, right midfield, left midfield, so I have played everywhere in the midfield,” he said. “Wherever the team needs me, I will be ready to play and perform and be a leader. At the end of the day, in any team, even in MLS, I was a leader. I always try to lead by example, so I’ve got to push them [teammates] to the best that they can be, and at the same time, I would want people to do the same thing. If I am messing up or something, people get on me, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Alvarez’s signing proved to be a historic one for San Antonio. The signing brought the club one step closer to kicking off the 2016 season and provided fans with an opportunity to laud their first player. Alvarez acknowledges that he received congratulations from former teammates, coaches, friends and family members, but not having social media, he says he doesn’t know much about how fans reacted to his signing. It’s not that he does not care, it’s just that he has a job to do.
“It’s not that I don’t pay attention [to social media], I just try to focus on my game, focus on my craft to make sure I am ready to do the right things when I head down there,” he said.With Alvarez already hard at work, San Antonio is on its way to making its first season in the USL a special one.