Athletes will do just about anything to play at the professional level.
Desert Vista graduates Reid Schmitt and Brian Holmes know all about it, but it is close to paying off with the arrival of the Phoenix FC, a professional soccer team in the United Soccer League.
“I always knew I could get there,” said Schmitt, who played at Midwestern State. “It was a matter of what you are willing to do to get there. Now that it’s finally here, it is a dream come true.”
Schmitt, 25, is in his second year as a pro after playing for FC Tucson in the Premier Development League last season, but it was rough logistically. He was still living up here so he was driving back and forth three times a week (for a total of 12 hours) while working 40 hours a week.
Now, he is close to home and is being paid well enough to concentrate on soccer only instead of helping out with his parent’s establishments on Mill Avenue in Tempe.
“It was hard on the body and there was so much going on all the time with work and training,” Schmitt said. “It’s a much better fit. You feel like a professional with all the travel and the way you are treated. It’s a huge step up from the practice field to the stadium to everything.”
Holmes, 23, is fresh out of college and that’s where the problem was during his Phoenix FC tryouts. He had to coordinate getting from Northern California, where he was finishing up his last semester at Humboldt State while navigating his class schedule.
“This team was perfect timing for me,” Holmes said. “I had to find a way back and those journeys were tough, but it is well worth it now.”
So they get their chance for the next month to prove they deserve to hold one of the 26 spots on Phoenix FC’s inaugural roster.
Even though there are only 20 players in camp currently, making an impression in the early going is a must. Schmitt has a bit more of a leash with a professional track record when he performed well for Tucson last year, while Holmes is getting his first shot.
“Reid was one of the better players on a successful (Tucson) team and he has the ambition to play at a higher level,” Wolves coach David Robertson said. “He has been fantastic.
“Brian came to the last couple of tryouts and stood out. It is going to be a big test for Brian. It’s a tough league and it is physical. I am not saying it is the same as the MLS, but it is very close. He has a great attitude and gives you effort.”
Schmitt, a 2006 graduate of DV, is a midfielder. Last year, he appeared in all 16 matches for Tucson during the regular season and played a total of 1,175 minutes, the third highest total on the team. Schmitt recorded one goal and two assists for a total of four points.
“It’s unbelievable how different the team feels already,” Schmitt said. “There is a big difference between the Tucson team and what this team can be. The talent is there and it should be a great camp.”
Holmes, a 2008 DV grad, is a midfielder still finding his way after finishing his final season at Humboldt State in 2011, where he was second on the team with 10 points (four goals, two assists).
“It’s definitely the best team I’ve played on by far,” he said. “It’s going well. It’s going to take some time to figure out our roles and our talent level.”
The team plays a national schedule, which gets started March 23 at Los Angeles, and includes several East Coast stops in Ohio, Pittsburgh, Florida, North Carolina and New York.
The Wolves will play their home games at Arizona State’s soccer complex with tickets starting at $9 and season ticket packages available. The team is bringing in bleachers from the 16th hole at the Waste Management Open and hopes the atmosphere will be just as rowdy.
Having local players, like the two Ahwatukee boys, will make it that much easier.
“I think it is good for everyone to have a lot of local players from our soccer community on the team,” Schmitt said. “Arizona soccer has come a long way and it is great that we have a place to showcase what we can do.”
As with all new start-up businesses, especially professional sports teams with an extensive travel schedule, there is some worry about how long it will be viable, but the players are only worried about what they can control.
“You have to focus on the field,” Holmes said. “There are a lot of things you can get (to thinking about) other than the soccer part of it. At the end of the day, I am here to play soccer and that is what is going to help make this team successful.”
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