There has been much made of the US players traveling south across the border to continue there development. Seemingly lost among the shuffle in the media has been No Cal starlet Antonio Nava. The former US U14 defender swapped USSDA club De Anza Force for an opportunity with American friendly Tijuana Xolos.
Nava has enjoyed loads of success in his first season with Xolos. He’s been a staple with the Tijuana U17 squad, and has featured with the U15 side that recently competed in the highly competitive Fuerzas Basicas Sub 15 Tournament in Mexico City.
We caught up with Nava to discuss Tijuana Xolos, USA v Mexico and the difference between USSDA and Mexican youth leagues.
OWTY :: When and where did you start your career?
Antonio Nava [AN] :: I started playing at age 5 when I lived in California with my family.
OWTY :: When did you know you could make a career out of the soccer?
AN :: I first found out that I could make a career out of soccer was when I first got called up to the US National Team. That’s when I knew I was doing something right with De Anza Force.
OWTY :: Why did you leave De Anza for Tijuana Xolos?
AN :: I left De Anza force because I thought over there in Xolos there are more opportunities to get into their first team squad. I am also working hard to get called up to the Mexico youth national teams.
OWTY :: You’ve been included in US U14 & U15 squads, has Mexico ever contacted you about playing for them?
AN :: Mexico has never really contacted me, but there are scouts scouting me for the Mexico national team that’s all I know up to this point about the national team.
OWTY :: Have you given up hope for playing with the US youth National Teams?
AN :: I haven’t lost the hope of playing for the U.S national team. I’m really grateful, and I appreciate everything that the players, coaches, the team and the federation as done for me. My family does live in the U.S and it will be a honor to play for them one day, but the time will tell us. Right now it’s hard to choose at these moments I’m more focused about getting to the first team for Xolos and if God gives me the opportunity to choose one of the national teams that will show that I was doing something good, but I Love both teams and it will be a honor to play for either one of them.
OWTY :: What is the difference between the youth system in the US vs. Mexico?
AN :: The difference between the youth systems her in Mexico and over there in my opinion is that in Mexico they train you to get you to their first teams, but over there in the U.S you have to go through college and get drafted to a MLS team, which is okay, but when the goal is to play in college for four years and train only sparingly it can stunt your growth.
OWTY :: You seem to primarily play right wing back?
AN :: Yes. What I like about the position is that I can attack a lot, I love to attack and create chances for my team but I love to defend as we’ll, so it fits perfectly.
OWTY :: Who are some of the players you like modeling your game after?
AN :: The players I model my game after are Dani Alves, Roberto Carlos, Cafu, Diego Armando Maradona, and of course my Dad.
OWTY :: You seem to be included in almost ever Xolos match U15-16 we can find a match report for, how many squads/matches do you play on?
AN ::: Right now I’m playing Sub 17 and I’ve played every time but I did miss two games because of the Sub 15 tournament and I was a starter for every game in that tournament as well.
OWTY :: Describe for our readers the what the Sub 15 tournament is like?
AN :: The Sub 15 tournament is the best tournament here in Mexico, there’s no easy teams, the competition is extremely hard, the players are amazing and every team wants to win that cup. It’s every kids dream, and their are so many scouts looking at you at all times from the Mexico National Team and from other clubs. It’s a great time to make a name for yourself.
OWTY :: It seems like every day another American makes the switch to Xolos, how many Americans are there on the U14-U17 squads?
AN :: Yes that’s true! There are many American kids here at the club in every category, I’m not sure of how many but I know there A LOT!
OWTY :: Where do you hope your career takes you over the next year? How about in 5 years?
AN :: In one year I hope to see myself in the Mexico National Team and debuting for the first team of Xolos De Tijuana. In 5 years I hope to see myself in the first team of the Mexico National Team and playing for Real Madrid in Europe.