Mason Moyers: “I wanted to go over there and try and get an opportunity to go professional.” (Photo courtesy of the Moyers family)
By Michael Lewis
We’ve heard it before, and we’ll likely hear it forever.
You only get one opportunity to make that first impression and Mason Moyer could not have planned it any better when he stepped onto the field for the Liverpool Football College against the Tranmere Rovers in November 2017.
Not only did the Frisco, Texas native start at right back, he excelled in the game and wound up connecting for the game-winning goal.
Outside of striking for a hat-trick and saving three sure scores off the goal line, it could not have been a better debut for Mason, who was 16-years-old at the time.
After all, Mason was in Liverpool for barely a week and expected to wind up on the bench for the first game of the season. Starting was a bonus. Scoring a winning goal as a defender? That was in a different orbit.
“It was pretty big for me. I was pretty proud of it,” Mason said recently by telephone from Frisco, Texas. “It helped me sort of get introduced to the boys as well, getting involved in the group.”
“That was a big thought in my mind, maybe I wouldn’t get accepted as much. But when I went over there, everyone was pretty welcoming and brought me in.”
When an American male player, especially a young one, ventures to Europe, he necessarily might not get much or any respect.
“Their style of play is more physical and quick play,” Mason said. “So, it didn’t take me long to adapt because I like to play like them. It only took me a couple of games to get acclimatized to the different style of play. Obviously, a bit better than the U.S. I wanted to go over there and try and get an opportunity to go professional.”
Asked how long he wanted to turn pro, Mason replied, “Ever since I started playing. My uncle played for a long time. So I just want to follow his footsteps and continue the name.”
The name of Mason’s uncle should be familiar to American soccer aficionados — Steve Moyers, who confounded goalkeepers for several North American Soccer League teams over eight seasons and a U.S. international who scored both goals in a 2-1 World Cup qualifying triumph over Mexico in 1930 that broke a stunning 46-year winless drought against El Tri (in case you were counting, Moyers tallied 68 goals in 182 appearances with the St. Louis Stars, California Surf and the New York Cosmos, quite an impressive haul for an American in those days).
Mason Moyers has proven to be lethal on headers. (Photo courtesy of the Moyers family)
Not surprisingly, Mason began kicking the ball around competitively when he was three-years-old. He had a short stint with F.C. Dallas before joining the Dallas Texans.
When he was 11, Mason got a taste of European soccer, competing in the Dana and Gothia Cups. On a return visit to the Gothia Cup at the age of 15, he decided that he wanted to pursue a professional career. A year later he joined the Liverpool Football College. His Liverpool coach left to join the Everton Football College Developmental Academy and Mason followed him.
“The coach I had was probably one of the best I ever had, and I like his style of play,” he said. “He was a former pro player. He knows what it takes to get to the next level, and I feel like that’s where i wanted to go to further my training and try to get to the next level.”
Before he went over to join Liverpool, his uncle made sure he gave his nephew some solid advice.
“His uncle Steve had long talks with him before he went over and gave him a heads up on what to expect, that they do look down on American players and you’ve got to really work hard and show them what your worth is,” Mason’s father, Jerry said. “I think that first game that Mason played in, not just scoring a goal, that’s always a bonus. But just going out and playing physical and working and fighting for each other on the pitch was probably the most satisfying or gratifying thing for me and Melissa [Mason’s mother], just seeing working as hard as he does and getting accepted by the boys. Even the coaches here, ‘Hey, it’s going to be tough on you, the kids are thinking you’re going to come over and steal their spot.’ He earned that. He went out there and did what he had to do in that first game. He earned the respect. That made it comfortable.”
Melissa added: “Steve also gave him life advice because he left home when he was young as well. Sometimes it’s nice to have someone who has been there and done that give them advice to them. Sometimes its a little more meaningful. That was big for me, from a mom perspective.”
Mason took Steve’s advice to heart. That would be the working hard aspect. There is little doubt he has talent, but in such a competitive soccer environment in the United Kingdom, every little bit helps.
“Getting every opportunity and working at it,” he said. “Just getting in the gym, getting touches on the ball every day and working to get your skills up, your physical side up, your fitness, everything. A big aspect is the fitness part.”
A typical week for Mason? He goes to school three to four hours a day for three days a week as he is a sports business major. Afterwards, he goes to the gym, works out or trains, in the morning or afternoon.
“It’s a lot to handle, but I love it,” he said.
Both of his parents knew he was mature and driven enough to take this responsibility as a teenager. Mason lives with a host family as the father is a former player.
“It’s my faith,” Melissa said. “I am a firm believer than you have to raise your kids, you have to support them, follow their dreams, and if you can, support their goals as best you can. It doesn’t necessarily mean financially all the time either, it means emotionally as well. … You always want them to go and experience and find themselves and that’s important to me. Social media has really helped a lot.”
While across the Atlantic, Mason was in contact with his family via WhatsApp and Skype. “At least we have the technology make it a little easier,” Melissa said. “I wouldn’t say so much easier, but it does make it easier because we can see him and talk to him. Every day and different things like that. We are a pretty close family. We are really tight, and we talk to each other a lot. The technology … gives you a little bit of peace.”
Everton participates in the National Football League Youth Alliance on Wednesday. The competition can be fierce. Mason also has played for teams in non-league action on Saturdays.
“There are a lot of players who have been released recently so they come here to the football college and try to get back and try to get back to academics,” Mason said. “So, the competition level is very high. We play teams from all around the UK.”
Last month Everton defeated Tottenham Hotspur in a semifinal, 3-1. “It was a really good quality game,” Mason said.
The final has been scheduled for May, but that is up in the air due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. “With everything going on, we’ll see what happens,” Mason said.
Mason Moyers: “It’s a lot to handle, but I love it. (Photo courtesy of the Moyers family)
Jerry said he has spoken to Mason’s coaches and he has liked what he has heard.
“They told me they’ve never seen a kid work as hard as he does, that his work ethic is just off the charts,” he said. “He’s probably played over 100 games in three years and he started every game. There’s been a handful of games where he probably came off in the 70th minute, probably under five.”
Just as important, Mason has adjusted to a huge position change. In the states, he was a center midfielder. In England, he has become a right back.
“They saw his size and the way he plays and physicality and they moved him outside to a right back. “The coaches said never seen a kid work as hard as he does in a game, win as many balls as he does in the air. The game over where he plays at its not in the middle of the field, it’s outside. He gets more touches on the ball. That’s why they like his speed and his size.”
While the popularity of soccer has grown in leaps and bounds in the USA over the last generation, it still lags behind the rest of the world in so many ways, including culture. As the No. 1 sport in England, the public is inundated with soccer — err, actually football — whether it is on the radio, TV or in newspapers.
“I loved it,” Mason said. “Personally, I don’t think soccer gets enough respect in the us and to go to a country that focuses on football, it’s been really refreshing. Obviously, there is American football, and basketball and baseball, which are pretty much the main sports in America. So, going to a country that mainly focuses on footy and just watching everybody come to the games and all that is really refreshing. It’s really nice.”
In-between school, training and playing games, Mason has been able to attend some English Premier League and UEFA Champions League matches that has involved Liverpool.
“It’s incredible,” Mason said of the stadium atmosphere. I’m not a Liverpool fan by any means. I really hate them, to be honest with you.”
Yet, “Anfield’s atmosphere is unreal,” Mason added.
“It doesn’t really compare to anything over here.”
Since every important sporting club, team and organization has been shut down due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Mason decided to do the next best thing — return home to his family.
He doesn’t go out much but has tried to keep in shape as much as possible.
“Usually I would go out for a couple mile run once every two or three days and do some sprints on the field and get some touches going as well, whether it’s going to a brick wall and passing it back and forth or going up to the high school and getting on the field, or doing some drills,” Mason said. “Keeping my fitness up and my touches going.”
So Mason Moyers will be ready to impress again in England when things start to get back to normal.