FOXBOROUGH, Mass. –Although he may have to wait until next season to make his MLS debut, rookie center back Otto Loewy is already a lucky man.
While many of us may have watched our childhood dreams- whether it was becoming a movie star, race car driver, or superhero – fade as we enter adulthood, Loewy is one of the rare few that has already realized his: becoming a professional soccer player.
“I’m living the dream,” said Loewy after a soggy, rain-soaked practice session this week. “It’s something I’ve been dreaming about since I was about 10 or 11 when I told my mom I was going to play professional soccer.”
For the first-year pro, who moved with his family to the United States to escape the civil unrest in his native Liberia when he was two, the inspiration to play pro soccer wasn’t hard to find.
His uncle, former AC Milan great George Weah, often hosted summer soccer tournaments in Atlanta, only a few miles from Loewy’s home in Lawrenceville, Georgia. Needless to say, Loewy’s famous uncle only fueled his love for the game.
“We still get to play around (today) when he comes down to Atlanta for the Monrovia Classic (tournament),” said Loewy, who spoke of his uncle as one of his key influences as a child.
After starring at Winthrop (S.C.) University from 2005-08, Loewy’s stellar four seasons at Rock Hill earned him an invitation to the 2009 MLS Combine, the league’s annual showcase for the nation’s best college prospects.
But in his final collegiate game, the senior center back, who was also named team MVP for 2008, fractured his right leg in an NCAA tournament tie against William & Mary. Goodbye, Combine.
“It was both humbling and saddening at the same time,” said Loewy. “I was so close, but not (so close) at the same time (because of missing the Combine).”
It would be nearly two years before he’d get back on the field. Although he eventually found a regular job after graduation, Loewy wouldn’t let go of his childhood dream.
Then, an opportunity arose in his own backyard. Before the start of the MLS season, the Revolution was in Kennesaw, Georgia, for preseason training. Sensing that this could be his best shot at getting a contract, Loewy dialed up the technical staff and secured a tryout with the club.
“I just tried to make myself as involved as possible,” said Loewy of his trial. “I was just working hard, doing extra work, and just trying to get involved with the team.”
That hard work and enthusiasm to stick with the squad paid off. Big time. On March 31st, the Revolution inked the Winthrop standout to his first professional contract. But perhaps more importantly, Loewy was back in action.
Naturally, one of the first people he had to tell about the news was the woman he first told about his childhood ambition: his mom.
“I just told her ‘We made it’ and that I hope I made her proud,” said Loewy. “She cried for about a good hour or so.”
With little time to celebrate, Loewy quickly packed his bags and headed north to join the team for training. Since then, the physical center back has featured regularly in Reserve Division and U.S. Open Cup play-in games, and scored a goal in a Reserve game against Toronto on June 21st.
Of course, the highlight of Loewy’s first year in Foxboro was his second half appearance in July’s friendly against European powerhouse Manchester United.
“It was a life-changing experience – really” said Loewy with a laugh that suggested he still can’t believe it. “It was like a dream. It was crazy. I still can’t think about it today. I just look back at it and I’m just like ‘Wow, I just played against the best players in the world.’”
As a childhood Chelsea fan, Loewy admitted that he played with “a little more ‘oomph’” against his beloved club’s Premier League nemesis. Although he and his teammates fell to the English giants 4-1, it was a game that he admitted he will never forget.
Months after that memorable match, Loewy continues to work hard in practice to get that elusive first MLS game under his belt. And even if he doesn’t get onto the pitch for today’s season finale in Toronto, Loewy’s efforts to get there haven’t gone unnoticed.
“From the get go, he’s been a professional, just coming out here and doing his job,” said veteran defender Darrius Barnes. “He’s definitely brought a certain kind of toughness to this team.”
Barnes, who knows a thing or two about what it takes for a center back to succeed in MLS, believes that Loewy’s ability, as well as his drive in training, warrants the rookie defender a shot on the field with the first team.
“I think he deserves it,” said Barnes. “He’s definitely come in day in and day out and just busted his (butt) and worked hard.”
With only one game remaining in the regular season, Loewy knows that what he may have to wait until next season make his MLS debut. He also knows he’ll have to work just as hard in the offseason to prove that he belongs in top-flight football.
Still, he acknowledges that what he’s already accomplished so far is special. Playing professional soccer isn’t just a job for him. It’s a dream come true – even if he is, in fact, still searching for his first MLS minutes.
“I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to do every day,” said Loewy. “The fact that I can help my mom and my family out and actually enjoy something that I love to do makes it all worthwhile.”