Dani Rovira and Anthony Velarde are both in their third seasons at Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, where the duo broke into the professional ranks prior to the 2019 season after their college careers. Rovira and Velarde have both been key elements to the Hounds’ consistent success, with Velarde having recorded 10 goals and seven assists in 65 regular season appearances in midfield, and Rovira having recently passed 2,000 minutes of action in 41 appearances in a defensive role for the squad.
Both have Hispanic heritage, with Rovira having moved from his native Colombia to compete collegiately in the United States and Velarde hailing from California. The two Hounds sat down recently with the USL’s Maury Urcadez to talk about how the Spanish language and their love for the game brought them each a friend for life.
Q: Dani, what does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?
ROVIRA: I was born in Colombia and coming to another country and getting to know other cultures is something very interesting, but meeting people who ask you where you come from? What do you like to do? What are your favorite things? It’s something that is very nice to hear. And then to share this month, to be able to share with people who do not know [what it is] people who have no idea, is something very nice, I think.
Q: Anthony, where does your passion for the sport come from and what influence has your culture had on the person and player you are today?
VELARDE: Simply put, my parents. I think my dad and I started when I was five years old playing with my siblings as well. And from there we played. My dad always put us [on teams] and my mom always supported us. My grandparents too, they love soccer and for me it’s those four people that have given me the license to play soccer and to be here right now.
Q: Dani, you came from Colombia to play collegiate soccer. What motivated you to make such a big decision in your life?
ROVIRA: Family, it was very great [having them as] support and knowing that I was going to leave them behind, but come to conclude something new, to start something totally interesting in another country, it’s something that motivated me a lot and gave me a lot of strength to see how far I can go.
Q: There is also a reason why I am interviewing you both. Somebody told me that you guys have developed a great friendship, can you talk about that? You both are in your third season with the team, what happened there?
VELARDE: No, I think that in the first year we started to talk in the first 5 months and then, little by little we started playing. I always liked the way he played, and we got closer. And from there I just don't know, I think that we both speak Spanish, we get along very well, and I think that I also love playing soccer with him and I think it was all of that for me.
ROVIRA: It started growing from there I would say the love for soccer and everything in the end, when we travel with a team and it’s like what do you want to eat? What do you like to eat? Let's go here and there. Everything complemented itself a little bit and every day together and in the third year it grows a lot, it grows a lot, and it is something very beautiful to get to experiment.
Q: And now I want to ask if during practice you are competitive. One of you plays defense, the other is a midfielder. What is dynamic there?
ROVIRA: I’d say that it is cool, also a totally natural competition and good for the both of us obviously and it’s just as cool when the coach says that we are both on the same team. So, it's something that when you’re up against each other, you always want to win, but obviously you want the best for one another. That is the purpose of training, to see everyone giving it their all. Always competition.
VALVERDE: One hundred percent.