Luis Barraza: “To hear my name called a little bit before than expected, it was great, it was awesome. Absolutely.” (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
By Michael Lewis
CHICAGO — We have all heard the story before about how players become goalkeepers.
The regular goalkeeper is either sick, injured or doesn’t show up for a youth soccer game and a field player is thrown between the posts.
He or she does so well and enjoys the challenge and they become proficient at it and even become professional keepers.
Then there’s New York City FC’s first-round draft choice Luis Barraza.
Starting the beautiful game at eight-years-old, Barraza wanted to be a goalkeeper, only his teams placed him at center back.
“No one wanted to put me as a goalkeeper since before I started playing club soccer, I wanted to be a goalkeeper,” he said after he was selected by City at the MLS SuperDraft Friday. “That’s all what I ever wanted to be. But teams kept on putting me at defender because they felt I was a better defender than goalkeeper. So, at 12-years-old I found a team [in New Mexico]. [The coach] just threw me in there and it just stuck. It stuck because i enjoyed it. It was great after that.”
Great enough to become a talented keeper that performed well known to become Big East goalkeeper of the year last fall at Marquette University. Great enough to be grabbed by NYCFC, which decided to trade up for the 22-year-old.
City acquired the 12th overall pick from LA Galaxy in exchange for the 19th choice and $75,000 of General Allocation Money.
Barraza admitted he felt it was a compliment to have a team trade up for him.
“I didn’t expect it at all,” he said. “To hear my name called a little bit before than expected, it was great, it was awesome. Absolutely.”
The 6-2, 195-lb. Barraza spoke to NYCFC officials during the combine and had an inkling they would select him. He said getting draft “was just unreal.”
“I had confidence that my name was going to be called up,” he added. “I just didn’t know when because I knew City FC was a little bit interested and they had the 19th pick. I said ok, i might have to wait a little bit more to hear my name called a little bit earlier than expected. I think it made my heart stop a little bit, but I’m excited and ready to work. Just excited.”
Yeah, Barraza certainly will have his work cut out for himself to unseat regular keeper Sean Johnson from the top spot. Let’s face it, few, if any rookie goalkeepers wind up starting on a regular basis in Major League Soccer.
So, Barraza’s goals in stopping goals in 2019 are simple.
“I think Sean Johnson is one of the best in the league,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for him. And they also got Jeff Caldwell, who I played against when we played against Virginia. They are all just a great group of goalkeepers. I have a lot of respect for them. So what I want to get out of this is to get there, start training and pick all that I can from those guys. They’ve had a lot of experience. … I just hope to get there and learn everything I can from those guys.”
Barraza’s interview with reporters in the mixed zone at McCormick Place was interrupted by Real Salt Lake head coach Mike Petke, who congratulated the GK.
“Congrats, Dude, I am very happy for you,” Petke said.
“Thank you,” Barraza replied.
Barraza was a three-year starter for the Real Salt Lake-Arizona of the MLS Development Academy, appearing in 74 games and starting 68. He backstopped the Under-15/16 U.S. Soccer Development Academy champions in 2013 and performed for the U-18 squad.
At Marquette, he finished the season ranked in the top 10 among NCAA Division I keepers in save percentage (.839) and saves per game (5.20). Barraza also ranked 21st overall in total saves (78), compiling a 6-6-1 record in 13 starts. The Santa Teresa, New Mexico native was outstanding in the Big East tournament, as he starred in two penalty-kick shootouts en route to the competitions’ final.
NYCFC certainly liked what it saw at the combine in Orlando, Fla.
“Right now we [are] deep in the goal,” head coach Domenec Torrent said. “He is interesting for us because he has a quality for us. I like his qualities. He plays comfortable when he has the ball on the ground. We like our keepers to make a buildup. I think he’s a quality with his hand. It is very important for us because he has a good future in MLS. He can play for our club.”