Earlier this month, Baltimore native and Silverbacks Reserves defender Josh Danza ventured to Puerto Rico to prove himself worthy of the Puerto Rican National Team.
The journey began when Danza’s college coach, a good friend of the general manager of the national team, vouched on Josh’s behalf to help earn him a tryout. The Puerto Rican coach, who had only seen video footage of Josh prior to his tryout, invited the Reserves defender to Puerto Rico, and was immediately pleased with his performance. After a grueling week of two-a-days with thirty other players, the coach pulled Danza aside and said, “Congratulations, you’ve made the team.”
While Danza was unfortunately ineligible to compete in the games that weekend, he is now an official member of the 22-man roster and is able to participate in any future match, including the Puerto Rican friendly against Spain in August, which is “just crazy to me,” said Danza. However, Danza still has his college career to worry about. Although he earned his diploma in December of 2011, Danza has one more season at Towson University, a Division I school in Baltimore where he is now a graduate student.
You would expect that a member of the Puerto Rican National Team would have spent years committed to soccer and soccer only. However, it was not until a few years into college that Josh finally dedicated himself solely to the sport. After juggling soccer, baseball, basketball, and track in high school and then at Stevenson University for two years (where his soccer team won the ECAC Championship), he “finally realized that soccer was it” and decided to transfer to Towson. “There are definitely a lot of guys out there with more experience than me,” Josh said modestly, “but I guess I’m just a quick learner.”
What is even more impressive is Danza’s drive to pursue his dream to become a professional soccer player, no matter the costs. Danza describes his family as “hesitant,” hoping that Josh accepts one of the many computer programming job offers he received upon graduation, rather than chase his wild dream to become a pro footballer. “But I just couldn’t do it,” Danza said,” because I knew I’d regret it.”
Luckily, Josh’s tunnel vision is paying off, and his recent successes have helped validate his soccer goals to his parents. “They’re starting to warm up to the idea now that they see it’s a real possibility.” The support of his family clearly means a great deal to Josh, who describes his spot on the Puerto Rican team as “my biggest accomplishment because it’s something my dad will remember forever.” To make the honor even more special, Josh is carrying on a family legacy: not only are Danza’s grandparents Puerto Rican, his father also represented the Puerto Rican National Racquetball Team.
One of the youngest men on the team, Danza, 22, is surrounded by players in their late twenties and early thirties, many of whom play for the Puerto Rican Islanders in the North American Soccer League. “What made my experience there so different from all my past soccer experiences was playing with professional players and just being surrounded by older guys with national team experience,” he said. “It really gave me confidence because you build these players up in your mind, but it was nice to see that they make mistakes too and that I’m not the only one who messes up from time to time.”
Danza also drew from his experience in other athletic events to compensate for the fact that he had less experience than the other players. “I think my experience with other sports – basketball, baseball, and track – made me an athlete, and a lot of those abilities translate across sports and have helped me quite a bit in soccer.”
As for now, Josh is committed to having a successful summer with the Reserves, an experience that has been a nice change of pace from his previous summers spent in Baltimore. “My main motivation for playing with the Silverbacks was to pursue my dream to play professionally after college. I called up Coach Montoya and explained that to him, and he said to come to Atlanta and that we would try to make that happen,” he said. “So I just packed up my stuff and came on down.” Although he inevitably missed some time with the Reserves due to his trial with the Puerto Rican team, Danza has loved being a part of the Silverbacks. “It’s fun to play with guys from all over,” he said. “Coach Ricardo would do anything for any one of his players.”
Looking ahead, Josh will finish out the season with the Reserves before heading back to Baltimore for the summer to prepare for his final season at Towson. Once he finishes the fall season with Towson, Danza will be able to focus on pursuing his career with the Puerto Rican National Team. In the mean time, although there is never a moment of relaxation, Danza is able to appreciate and enjoy all his successes, describing it all as “a dream come true.”
|Upcoming Home Games|
|Atlanta Silverbacks Reserves||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Rocket City United||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|