We here at OWTY are constantly scouring the globe in search for young American players.
Late 2013 we were alerted about Donovan Roux, a young striker from North Carolina who caught the eye of U.E. Cornella, one of the best Academy programs in Spain.
We caught up with Donovan and his father, Patrick, to discuss his journey.
OWTY :: What year was Donovan born?
Patrick Roux [PR] :: Donovan was born in October, 2002, in Charlotte, NC.
OWTY :: Where and When did Donovan start playing soccer?
PR :: Donovan began playing organized soccer at U5, at the Strikers Soccer Center in Huntersville, NC. But, he is the youngest of the three brothers. Cheyn, his oldest brother, who now plays at Capital University, is 7.5 years older, and Tevenn, the middle brother, who plays for Carolina Rapids U.S. Soccer Development Academy, is 3.5 years older. So, he began playing in and around his home from the time he could walk… spending weekends watching his older brother play.
OWTY :: How did you and Donovan get connected with U.E. Cornella?
PR :: Donvovan and his friend’s attended a Barcelona identification camp in North Carolina. It was his friend’s family who found out about the camp, and we all thought it would be nice if Donovan went to spend time with friends, while honing his skills. Since I had not previously heard of the camp, I went online and signed him up. Donovan attended the camp and was immediately moved from the U11 boys to the U13 boy’s age group. As the week progressed, the coaches continued to be impressed with Donovan’s play. At the end of the camp, they invited Donovan to play at the club for the 2013 season. With everything happening so rapidly, there was not time to plan for his staying for an extended period last year. But, we used the last 11 months to plan the funding and arrange for Donovan and his mother to move to Barcelona to play for U.E. Cornella this year.
OWTY :: Is any of your family in Spain with Donovan?
PR :: Donovan has moved to Spain with his mother. They will live in Sant Cugat Del Valles, a small town to the northwest of Barcelona.
OWTY :: Why Spain? I mean it seems like so many other top US prospects head to England or Germany?
PR :: Donovan holds a dual nationality, with both U.S. and French passports. Donovan has spent a good deal of time with relatives in France and enjoys the culture. Donovan was selected twice, from the West Ham National Camp in Rome, GA to attend the West Ham Elite Training experience in London, for one week, where he trained with the West Ham coaches and trained at the West Ham training facilities. He has also trained at Finch Farm, the Everton training facility. Last September, he spent two weeks in Barcelona, training with the U.E. Cornella Alevin A team (who are current Spanish national champions), and playing games and scrimmages on the weekend. Having adjusted well to the coaches, players and surrounding environment, Donovan was invited to return to Barcelona to spend 10 months training and playing at U.E. Cornella. Mostly, it was because he was identified by U.E. Cornella who are enthused about his ability.
OWTY :: What separates the training Donovan receives in Spain vs. what Donovan got in the US?
PR :: In general, all of the boys on the Cornella team are passionate about soccer. They play because they love to play. Most eat, drink and sleep soccer. So, the focus on the pitch is greater than on my local club team. Also, the players are more technical and more knowledgeable about the game. They seem to have greater game and situational awareness. The coaching staff is also excellent. And, the Spanish game is typically taught with more, shorter and accurate passes, and relies less on pure athleticism. Also, I heard a saying that I really liked… it goes “In America they play for scholarships, in Spain they play for glory.”
OWTY :: Do you feel other players treat Donovan differently because he’s an American?
Donovan Roux [DR] :: The other players were like on any team. They were welcoming and friendly. Cornella has players from China, Russia, Africa, USA and other cities and countries. So, they don’t see me as an American. Some speak some English, but in general, they are nice. They are also highly competitive and want to play just like I wants to.
OWTY :: Are there any other American’s over in the youth leagues in Spain?
DR :: U.E. Cornella has other Americans at their club. A year ago, there were two Americans on the U14 U.E. Cornella team that won the Spanish national championship. This year, there is another boy, Sebastien, a U10 or U11 player, from South Carolina who has moved with his family to Barcelona to also play at U.E. Cornella this year.
OWTY :: Who are some of the players you try to emulate your game after?
DR :: Lionel Messi is my favorite player. He is so skilled and is an incredible finisher, but I really don’t emulate my game after him or anyone else in particular. There are lots of very skilled players and I would hope to be able to take a little from each of them and incorporate them into my game.
OWTY :: What is your preferred position?
DR :: I prefer playing striker, though I also spent time playing center half and center midfield. My preferred number is 21.
OWTY :: Has US Soccer been in contact with you?
PR :: US Soccer has not been in touch with us, though Donovan has attended a few ODP sessions.
OWTY :: Where do you see yourself a year from now? 5 years from now?
PR :: Donovan has shared with me that he hopes to play and develop this year, and be able to make a decision next May which would allow him to continue to play and live in Spain. U.E. Cornella is a club with an excellent reputation for developing players, who attract interest from clubs around Spain and Europe. They also have a direct relationship with FC Barcelona. We are looking at this period with a three year plan to absorb the Spanish culture, learn to speak Spanish fluently, excel in his remote learning (online) studies, continue to develop his skill set under the tutelage of the Spanish coaches and play with top local talent. The next year will be a wonderful life experience which was initiated because of soccer, but will be conducted with his personal growth top of mind. Five years from now, perhaps I will have gotten good recognition which can support the period of development from U16 and on…