INSIDE TRACK: Soto’s bravery will be key to future success with Norwich City
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With American youth international Sebastian Soto signing for Norwich City from Hannover 96, Connor Southwell caught up with American Soccer Now writer Brian Sciaretta to get the inside track on the striker.
Can you tell us a little bit about Sebastian Soto’s footballing journey?
He comes from California to parents from Mexico and Chile. His big transition came in the Real Salt Lake Academy under coach Martin Vazquez who converted him from winger to forward.
It was huge for Soto who then went on to lead the Development Academy in scoring. Until 2020, the DA was the top youth league in the country. Instead of signing with Real Salt Lake, he signed with Hannover. He made his Bundesliga debut in 2019 when the club’s relegation was already sealed.
He did very well with Hannover in the U19 Bundesliga but never made the transition to the first team for meaningful minutes.
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He moved away from the US at an early age - was that the right decision in your view?
It remains to be seen. He will need success with Norwich and away at Telstar on loan to really make it all worth it. Thus far he has not played much beyond the youth level and has never scored a goal at the adult level - just the U19 Bundesliga, the DA, and youth national teams.
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If he does well at Telstar, then he’s at least starting to make some progress. If not, he’ll be in a challenging spot. The measuring stick is actually pretty high. Real Salt Lake is fairly decent in this league and he would have played here.
He’s been pretty prolific in youth team football, what attributes does he possess that makes him such a talented young footballer?
He’s a smart player and gets into space well. He’s also quite technical. Against other youth players, it has been very effective.
Are there any interesting stories or facts we should be aware of about Soto?
He has football in his blood. His uncle, Ed Soto, is a known coach in California. When Soto did well at the U20 World Cup, Chile fans were trying to reach out to him on social media platforms to get him to switch to their national teams.
He’s been touted with a call-up to the US national team, is he good enough to make such a jump?
Right now? Probably not. He was linked with a call-up for friendlies in March but there were a lot of factors at play. Jozy Altidore was still injured and many other good players were with the US U23 team for Olympic qualifying, and Soto was not selected for that team.
It bodes well for him that the US team lacks depth at the forward position and the door is open for a lot of players. Soto can certainly get there one day. His best bet is to probably trying to break into the U23 team for the Olympics and go from there. But even with the U23 team, he’ll need success on loan.
Do you think he’s good enough to get into Norwich City’s first team? If not now then in the future?
The future is unclear for both Soto and Norwich, and it can go either way for both. I can see Soto doing really well but I can also see him struggling.
This year is so key for him.
Bottom line is that Soto has the talent and skills to succeed at Norwich City. He’s very good. Unfortunately success in football is more than skills and talent. We will know a lot about Soto over the next 12 months.
What sort of character/personality is he?
He’s very confident in his abilities. He certainly believes in himself. To refuse to sign a new deal for Hannover despite never having scored a goal with the first or second team takes guts. He’s not afraid to bet on himself.
Why was he released from Hannover?
Hannover offered him a contract and he didn’t want to sign it. He wanted to leave the club. His playing time was adversely impacted by that decision. He’s not afraid to take risks and will bet on himself. Whether or not it works out remains to be seen.
Do you think a loan move would benefit him at this stage of his career?
A good loan to a club willing to give Soto minutes would be great. It would allow him to get used to adult soccer and give him confidence that he needs during that transition. Telstar is a low level but it could be just what Soto needs.
Soto’s move to Norwich is high risk/high reward. There are so many factors at play that could cause serious problems and those factors are out of Soto’s and Norwich’s control. So it’s risky. But if Soto works hard and has some luck go his way, he could be a very good player for Norwich down the road.