Collin Jouan is not your typical American player, nor does he or will he have the typical American youth player story.
Collin’s soccer journey began like most at the age of 6 in a rec league. As an avid fan of the world’s game, Collin’s father, Gonzalo, was extremely excited to have his son take up the sport he so loved. His father recounts that Collin was natural and smooth on he ball, playing the game with the joy only a kid possesses.
However, after only a few years of taking up the sport, Collin faced a setback that should have ended this story right here: “At the age of eight, I tore my ACL in my left knee. Every member in my family was born with narrow channels where the ACL runs through. My dad tore both his ACLs and had them reconstructed.” Collin and his family did not want his soccer career to end before it really began. They researched some of the leading physicians in children’s orthopedics and came upon Dr. Lyle Michelli of Boston Children’s Sports Medicine department. “Dr. Michelli told my dad that it would have only been a matter of time until I tore the ACL in my right knee,” Collin said.
Collin and his family elected to forego any surgery on the right knee, instead focusing on the already-torn left knee. After six months of rehab, training and polymetrics, Collin was able to get back on the field. “I was able to get back onto the pitch but I needed to wear a custom made knee brace for a period of two years until my left ACL fully grew.”
After two years, Collin was back. He had grown into his body and began to find his footing on the pitch. His hard work was beginning to pay off. Collin began to experiment playing without a brace. “Just two months after removing my brace, I tore my ACL — this time it was in my right knee.”
Collin was devastated. Just over ten years old, the Maryland youth had suffered two torn ACLs, having already undergone one major reconstruction on his left knee.
Collin remained optimistic, seeing this as just another hurdle to overcome in his journey toward becoming a professional player. “I went to Boston Children’s again to meet with Dr. Michelli to have him now operate on my other knee. After six more months of therapy, countless trips to Boston, and the support of all my family I was able to come back again.” Collin recalled his first match following his second operation: “My first match back was against the same team that I was playing when I tore my right ACL!”
Collin was back, but could tell he was not at the same level those his age. “Coming back from both surgeries I was behind all of the other kids my age,” he said. “I realized just how much harder than everyone I needed to work in order to just catch up, and that’s what I did. I worked and am still working harder to improve myself in all aspects of the game.”
By our research, Collin is the youngest person ever to have had bilateral ACL reconstruction in the United States, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.
Many stories might just end here, coming to their conclusion with a successful high school career. Not Collin’s. He joined the Bethesda Soccer Club and has not looked back.
Bethesda SC has been one of the most successful clubs throughout the United States. They have helped produced a number of professionals including Bruce Murray, Freddy Adu, Bill Hamid, Lester Dewee, Joseph Gyau, Shaquille Phillips, and Samir Badr. D.C. United homegrown players Jalen Robinson and Collin Martin spent time with Bethesda, as did Standard Liege Reserve player ’95 usynt Patrick Tshiani, and Shillo Tshima who just signed a Generation Adidas deal.
One of the main factors for the club’s success has been their tremendous attention to detail in shaping technical, two-way players at an early age. Much of this can be accredited to Bethesda coaches Emile Mbouh and Phillip Gyau. Both Mbouh and Gyau played the professional game at the highest level, and have now dedicated themselves to shaping the game at the youth level in the D.C. metro area. Their results speak for themselves.
“Coaches Emile Mbouh and Phillip Gyau made me the player that I am today. Coach Emile played as a central midfielder in two World Cups for Cameroon and has shown me how a proper midfielder should play. He’s taught me everything I know.” Mbouh has helped Jouan develop into a true #6, someone who can pivot the ball from the defensive end and transition to the offense. “Coach Phillip has developed my technique and fitness. He has me doing training session alongside Joe Gyau and Paul Torres, both professional players. I also cannot forget to mention my first travel team coach, Kenny Ridgely, from the Catonsville Cosmos. He was the one who helped grow my love for the game.”
Because of Bethesda’s vast scouting network, Collin was able to set up a training stint at Boca Juniors and with FC Girondins de Bordeaux, which were chronicled well by TopDrawerSoccer.com’s J.R. Eskilson. Collin could tell he was turning heads in Argentina. “I think coaches overseas are starting to finally realize that American kids are just as good as their own, and in some cases better. During my time with Boca, they told me they were impressed that an American player can be as good on the ball as I was. They expected that I was only going to be a physical midfielder who was just full of running. That is what I have found most scouts and coaches outside of the U.S. think about U.S. players.”
Collin recounted a time when his entire Bethesda Lions squad was disrespected while playing abroad. “We toured the Netherlands after finishing third at Nationals and were scheduled to play Roda JC’s U16 team. When we got the field we noticed that Roda did not send their U16 squad, instead they sent all their U15 players to play against us! They totally under-estimated our abilities and we ended up beating them handily and showing real quality that day.”
While Collin loves his club and coaches he knows that training abroad in a more professional environment is something he needs. “International youth soccer and soccer in general is played with a much higher level of intensity than in the U.S. I strive each day to play like YaYa Toure and Xavi,” and Jouan admitted the only way he can reach that level is in a professional environment.
2014 will mark a big year for the central midfielder. Jouan will go on trial to both West Brom and Aston Villa later this month. “I want to do well at both trials and get a chance to get a call back. I want to learn as much as I can,” during each session. “I see myself as a good fit for an Academy in Europe or Argentina. I feel that I need to be more dynamic on the field and constantly be around the ball which means working on my communication skills,” and Jouan is convinced a top Academy can help him reach these goals.
Jouan has been a part of many ODP rosters, but never been formally called up to represent the US Youth National Team. He’s hoping that a big 2014 can propel him into the US U17 player pool. “After watching first-hand the US U17s play the best players from Portugal, England and Brazil during the Nike Friendlies, I am more convinced than ever that I can play at that level, I just need that chance.”