TELSTAR TALES: Soto’s journey to chase the dream has seen him land in Holland
- Credit: Archant
Sebastian Soto has made some significant steps in his career - despite only being 20-years-old.
As a 15-year-old, he departed his family home in California to travel over 700 miles to chase his dream of becoming a professional footballer.
Every Saturday morning - the striker would eagerly set his alarm to catch live Premier League football - he recalls Norwich City standing out because of the vibrance of their colours.
Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie are examples of American footballers having great success after moving to Europe - and even though they acted as trailblazers for Soto - he admits he was apprehensive about taking such a big step at a young age.
“At that moment in time, the two names you mention (Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie) were the only names who had done it at that time. Since I was young, the dream was to play in Europe, in the Champions League and in the Premier League.
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“At the end of the day, it was never in doubt that if I had the opportunity to go, that I would take it. I knew I had to take it. The opportunity arose and I didn’t even think twice. It was a little bit scary because there were only two names that I had to look up to so it was like jumping into the deep end.”
Soto’s move to Hannover allowed him to experience a different culture away from the US - but his move to join MLS side Real Salt Lake as a youngster helped him gain the tools needed once he went abroad.
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That move acted as a precursor to the more significant step that would follow - but helped him learn the importance of independence.
“Something that also helped was I left to join Real Salt Lake academy at 15 and I sacrificed a lot of things to make this jump. A lot of kids in America would have had trouble making that jump to Europe but since I’d already moved away from home for a couple of years – it was like I was just playing for another team.
“I didn’t think ‘I’ll just move across the other side of the world to this new culture’, it was Hannover. A European team, of course I was going to take that opportunity. I didn’t even think twice.
“Even before that step to Hannover I think I’d matured a good amount but every step is a huge learning step.
“My grandparents are immigrants so it was hard for them to understand that I could make a life through football because they moved to America for educational purposes for my parents and their grandkids, me, but as soon as I said ‘I’m not going to college. I want to play football’, they always supported me but it’s good that I’m doing well because it makes them happy.”
The decision to leave Hannover was another sign of Soto’s pursuit of the dream.
Despite being 20-years-old, the striker is in a hurry to reach the top.
“I’ve never been comfortable. Not like I think too far ahead because I do like living in the present and taking it day by day but I never think in my mind ‘let me sit back and be comfortable’.
“I’ve always wanted to do more and achieve more.”
Then came the move to Norwich - something that the Premier League watching, aspirational American kid couldn’t turn down.
City were straight with Soto from the off - the fact he doesn’t possess a senior international cap creates difficulty surrounding a work permit.
The Canaries turned to SC Telstar - a side they are forging a fruitful relationship with in terms of loans.
“Honestly, it’s been good. I’ve been adapting pretty fast. I’ve always been thrown into different environments and I’ve gotten used to it. Adaption has been good, easy actually.
“That’s a real big positive of it (the technical side). My football team in America, Real Salt Lake, our academy team was really football orientated. We had a lot of really good footballers and so it kind of reminds me (of that) the way Dutch people play.
“The ball stays on the floor and it’s tiki-taka and then when I was in Germany, I picked up that you have to be physical and there’s moments where you have to be dirty. Then you come back to Holland and I’m back to how I’m used to playing but I have that physicality I gained and the experience overall as a player to help.
“You can tell when you’re placed into an environment where it’s purely physical and as a striker you have to adapt into that physical role. There’s a lot of scenarios where you need that technical side and to be able to play a different style. It has helped me become more rounded.”
At Telstar - Soto is being nurtured by Arsene Wenger’s former head of youth development at Arsenal in Andries Jonker.
“He’s been huge. I think the best part of it is that everything he says, I have to be a sponge. When you’re young you have to be a sponge and take in all his advice because he knows what he’s talking about.
“He’s also learning about myself as I’m learning about him too so it’s a day-by-day thing. He’s seen what I can do. Sometimes I surprise him in certain things I’m capable of and sometimes he surprises me in the way he wants me to play.
“Overall, I’m here to help the team and he wants me to do the things that I do and I learn things through that. I’m here to score goals and win games, so he’s doing everything to make that possible.
“The other day he told me that he saw me in a training session want to take the ball and get a lot of touches. He said to me ‘at the end of the season, I want a paper that says Sebastian Soto has these amounts of goals, not this amount of touches. Stay up there.’
“He wants me to score. He’s teaching me how to work with the other guys too and work with their capabilities and use them to my advantage.”
City’s flourishing relationship with the Dutch second division side is extracting the best out of the young striker.
A goal against FC Oss on Saturday is further proof of the Soto’s potential. The 20-year-old knows better than anyone that scoring at Telstar consistently is the key to getting himself noticed by City.