Michael Abalos Interview

What was your high school experience like?

I played high school soccer at Santa Margarita Catholic High School under coach Curt Bauer. There have been a good amount of goalkeepers that have gone on to play professionally that came through Santa Margarita and it has always been a dream of mine to play professionally. I was fortunate to have a great coach there who created a positive environment and happened to win back-to-back CIF Championships (2006-07). The players there wanted to compete for each other and it felt more like a brotherhood, which is what coaches should aspire to teach their players.

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You were a four year starter at California State Northridge. Looking back, what stands out?

I played there from 2009-13 under coach Terry Davilla and Yossi Raz. We had a lot of big games since we were a team that was on the cusp of becoming a legitimate program. I'm glad to be apart of the first CSUN team to get a victory at UCLA as well as starting a trend of NCAA appearances. I had great teammates at CSUN, the likes of Chad Borak, Dylan Riley, and Rafa Garcia. Playing in the Big West you were bound to come across some quality players like Luis Silva (UCSB), Junior Burgos (Cal Poly), and Miguel Ibarra (UCI). I can proudly say all those standouts have scored on me during my career.

What are your thoughts on NCAA as a tool for developing goalkeepers players?

The thought is there, nothing bad can come from being in a positive environment where players want to compete at. It is a matter of players and coaches coming into accordance to pursue a common goal. I think the result of this latest MLS Draft shows that the talent is being produced. And [Syracuse Junior goalkeeper] Alex Bono was recently called into the USMNT camp. It is all about the athlete and how much they want to invest in themselves as an athlete. For me, I learned how much of a commitment it is to play in D1. On and off the field you are thrown all types of responsibilities. Most importantly you are forced to police and discipline yourself.

 Photo belongs to Ian Billings

Photo belongs to Ian Billings

Where did you play after graduating?

I was invited twice to Seattle Sounders Combine, one in Las Vegas and another in Seattle. I also was invited to join The Nike Chance Global Tour and then to The Nike Academy in the UK under coach Jimmy Gilligan and John Goodman. The tour was making a stop in Los Angeles, they had a game against Chivas USA Academy and the US U18s, I believe it was. They were traveling without a goalkeeper and I was fortunate enough to have a connection that put me in contact with the coach. I was invited to train with them and play the two games. I made my case for the position in the game against US U-18’s where I saved a PK and played well.

The coach initially said they were unable to bring me along with them to their next stop in Torino Italy to train at the Juventus facilities. A week went by and then coach Jimmy Gilligan invited me to join them in England. This is still one of the best experiences of my life. I was the only American on the team besides Brian Iloski, who is at UCLA currently. There were so many highlights. We competed against Manchester United reserves and I swapped jerseys with Ben Amos. I was in training sessions ran by English National Team Coach Roy Hodgson and England Assistant Stuart Pearce. We were staying at St. Georges Park, England’s national team training ground. I walked out for practice and there was Roy Hodgson. Nike had set up a surprise training session with Roy. The hour and a half I spent with him was 100% soccer. His attention to detail probably stood out the most. (Watch Nike Football's training video with Hodgson here.)

But all that to say, graduation for me is still on hiatus. When I was invited to the Nike World Tour, I was already a couple weeks into the semester and was passed up in the draft so I was looking for any opportunity to pursue soccer as a profession. I got the call from Coach Gilligan late in the night before the last day it was possible to drop classes with receiving a fail. I jumped at the opportunity and was on a plane a day later to Heathrow. [CSUN] Coach Davilla and my parents was fully supportive of my decision so that was all the approval I needed.

Abalos, who kept a shutout in the game, is the goalkeeper in green in the video.

You landed at Chivas after the tour. Talk about your time there. Could you tell Chivas was close to folding then? And, of course, where are you now?

I was in the Chivas system for about a year from 2013-14, which included being with the U23s, reserves and first team. I never got that sense that the club was about to fold, especially considering the history the Chivas Guadalajara has. I was happy to be a part of the club and was willing to fulfill my role for the club.

Traveling with the first team to Seattle and being able to be on the field for warm ups and on the bench in that environment was an amazing experience. [Starting Chivas goalkeeper] Dan Kennedy is a class act, all around professional. He never hesitated to offer advice. Getting to meet, travel and train with [Mexican striker] Francisco Palencia was an honor and to this day I still use technique tips that he had to offer.

After Chivas, I went up north to a couple Sacramento Republic trials and down south to trail with Orange County Blues FC. Nothing came of those. However I did play with Cal FC against Los Angeles Galaxy II in the Open Cup this past year. Unfortunately we got smashed 6-1. While I’m still trying to play professionally, I currently coach for Launch Soccer in Pasadena, something I enjoy doing more and more each time