Joe Scally playing youth soccer in 2013. (Photo courtesy of NYCFC)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

Even several days after she heard the good news, Margaret Scally admitted she still couldn’t believe that her son, Joe Scally, was named to the U.S. men’s national team roster for the World Cup.

“I still don’t believe it’s true,” Margaret said. “It’s like it hasn’t sunk in totally.”

But then again, how many times does your son, a 19-year-old at that, get selected to play at soccer’s biggest stage?

“Absolutely,” she said. “That’s what makes his story even better.”

Scally, who is the youngest player on the USA roster (he won’t turn 20 until Dec. 31), was one of 26 players selected to represent the team as a right back in Qatar later this month.

Needless to say, Margaret Scally said she and her husband John, who live in Lake Grove, N.Y. on Long Island, were “extremely proud” of their son’s achievement.

“His determination and dedication, you just can’t be more proud of everything that he’s accomplished at 19 years old,” she said on Thursday.

The Scally family visited Joe last weekend.

“It was crazy because we were in Germany,” she said. “We’re hoping to hear the news.

“I guess Gregg [Berhalter, head coach] had called him Sunday right when we left. We wish we were there.”

UP, UP AND AWAY: Scally’s former trainer surprised by his rapid ascension

Joe Scally has enjoyed a rapid rise in soccer, for club and country. (Photo courtesy of NYCFC)

They discovered the good news after their plane landed in New York via a text message from their son. The Scallys immediately contacted Joe on FaceTime.

Margaret said her family “cried just tears of happiness. We thought he should make it based on how he’s been performing. That I think, speaks volumes of how he’s been playing. When he got the call it was a sigh of relief for him.”

The Scallys found a unique way to celebrate. They invited about 40 friends, family and some of Joe’s former coaches to watch the USMNT World Cup roster Watch Party at the Village Idiot Pub in Lake Grove. The announcement was televised on ESPN on Wednesday night. John co-owns the pub.

“I thought it would be a nice way to have everyone together and just watch it,” Margaret said. “We had the capacity to turn off the regular volume put the volume on all the TVs and had it going through all the all the televisions. It was a great way to have Joe on FaceTime, when he was announced. It was just a very good feeling.

“I just let him talk to all the people that had been a part of his life and supported him. Most of them were able to show up and come, which was really, really nice.”

Joe Scally’s climb up the American soccer ladder has been nothing short of meteoric.

In 2018, he made his debut with New York City FC in a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match against the Red Bulls. By the end of 2020, Scally was transferred to Borussia Moenchengladbach for a reported $2 million. He earned a starting position, while impressing coaches on both sides of the Atlantic. He made his USMNT debut in a 3-0 win over Morocco in an international friendly on June 1. And now the World Cup call-up.

Margaret Scally took her son to countless practices and games, from youth games in Suffolk County on Long Island to NYCFC matches at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. She said that she never had any illusions that her son would become an find his way to Europe and the national so quickly.

“I didn’t know where his journey was going to take him,” she said. “I knew he has a different mindset.”

It wasn’t all gravy and glory. On a team with European and South American standouts, it was difficult to break into the Cityzens’ lineup, even as a backline player. He attended games at Yankee Stadium, but rarely got a chance to play. In his three seasons with City, Joe had made six appearances across all competitions, playing 71 minutes.

“It was a lot of pressure,” Margaret said. “I feel like for a 15-year-old he just handled it so differently than anyone would have expected. He never got in the car after traveling three hours and depressed that his name wasn’t on the roster. Of course, upset but not like it didn’t bring him down. I think it made him into the person he is today.”

Margaret remembered Joe would get into the car.

“You know you’re still only 15. You’re still young,” she told her son.

“And he’s like, ‘No Mom, I’m still going to graduate high school. I’m still going to do my schoolwork. I’m still going to do everything.’

“He just had a different mind frame to the whole thing. Then he went to Germany, and we were like sometimes, ‘Alright, maybe this wasn’t the right path for him.’ ”

Joe has shown much grit, thriving on overcoming adversity.

“As soon as he got to Germany it was him alone,” Margaret said. “He just focused on himself and did whatever he had to do. It was COVID. We couldn’t come visit him. I mean, he just proved himself.

“He just has a gift to deal with things that adults can’t deal with. He just knows how to deal with things. It’s really a great. It adds to the person he has just like Frank [Schmidt, Joe’s youth trainer] always says. He just has that way of turning anything negative right into something positive or taking something positive from the negative.”

That is a rare quality for anyone to have, let alone a teenager.

In many respects, Joe has two personalities. There’s his personable, human side. As Schmidt said, Joe is always smiling.

And then there’s a complete 180-degree turn on the field, where he enters another zone, becoming serious and super competitive. He might be 19, but Scally competes like a grizzled veteran.

“He steps on the field, and it would be like, Is that the same person that was just sitting next to me talking to me?” Margaret said. “Like his brother [Drew] always says. ‘Mom, don’t stress when they play a hard team.’ Obviously, you get so nervous of any game. He just says that Joe was built for these games like he just rises to the occasion when it’s put in front of him. He doesn’t give you the doubt.”

It should be noted that the Scally family is an athletic one. Older brother Drew played soccer and basketball at Sachem North High School. Sister Anna, who scored seven goals for the girls’ soccer team at the school this fall, also participates at varsity hoops.

The Scally family hopes to watch Joe in Qatar. The USA meets Wales on Nov. 21, England on Nov. 25 and finishes Group B with Iran on Nov. 29. The top two teams in each group will qualify for the knockout round, which would be icing on the cake for the Scallys.

“We’re going in there with kind of no expectations, to be honest,” Margaret said, “but to just enjoy the moment right now that he’s on the roster. He’s given this opportunity take it all in and as a great experience. I mean, I’m hoping that the team performs well. That’s probably the biggest thing and just to be able to be part of all this that was never anticipated.”