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From The Pitch - Can't Stay Away

By Michael Orozco, Orange County SC, 11/24/21, 8:30AM EST


Can't Stay Away

Author - Michael Orozco
Michael Orozco
Orange County SC
November 24, 2021

Soccer is all I do. It’s my life, my job, my past, my future.

I smile as I write that, because I’m always saying that to people. But it’s the truth. There’s nothing else I want to do.

It means so much to be back in my hometown, playing the game I love for Orange County SC in front of my family and friends, and competing for a championship.

I had to make some tough decisions and sacrifices at the beginning of my career. I left home to pursue my dreams of becoming a professional player in Mexico at San Luis, and I gave up 17 years of being close to my family, of being home in Orange County. When I was at other clubs earlier in my career – like the Philadelphia Union in Major League Soccer, or Puebla in LigaMX - I wouldn’t do a European vacation or some other typical destination. I would just go to my mom’s house in Orange County.

I'd go home.

Photo courtesy Liza Rosales / Orange County SC

So, when I got the opportunity to come back, and we asked ourselves where we were going to live, it was kind of a no-brainer. We went home. Now we’re living a block away from my mom with my mother-in-law on the other block - just a short walk or bike ride away. After being apart for so long, you can’t beat being this close to family.

It helps on the field too. Fighting for the USL Championship title for my hometown and with my friends and family watching is so special. I always give my clubs 100 percent on the pitch, but it’s different fighting for the community I consider home.

My two daughters and son are getting to grow up on the same street I did. I get to coach them on the same fields I trained on as a kid. It’s special. It’s a chance to give back to the soccer community here.That’s how I feel about the opportunities that Orange County SC and the USL have created for youth players. I see it as a chance to help mentor the next generation of soccer within my community, those who might represent Orange County one day. I want them to know to keep pushing, because it’s possible. And, unlike me, they can do it in their backyard; they don’t have to leave home.

Photo courtesy Liza Rosales / Orange County SC

Soccer in this country has come a long way thanks to the teams and youth development available to our players. I just hope it continues growing, because we’re a big country with a lot of talent to nurture. If I could wish anything for the next generation, it would be to have the opportunity to have the career I did, without having to go so far from home to do it. That’s exactly what’s being built here.

As someone who’s had the honor to play for the U.S. Men’s National Team, it’s just so exciting to see my young teammates like Kobi Henry getting to put on the U.S. jersey. I believe in being humble and working hard, and that’s exactly what Kobi embodies. I’m proud to play alongside him and help guide him when I can.

Because of the path to pro that we've laid out, we have a lot of young guys on the squad and in the club. But we also have a lot of veterans, guys who can look at the younger players and say “Hey, this can be you, and you don’t have to go far to do it.” It brings a nice balance to the squad that speaks to the exciting future ahead for soccer in Orange County.

Photo courtesy Liza Rosales / Orange County SC

While I’m fully focused on fighting alongside my teammates for this trophy, you might be wondering what’s next for me. I’ll be clear: I want to keep playing. But I know that eventually I’ll have to hang up the boots. Like I always say: Soccer is all I do.

So, I’ll eventually make that switch to coaching. I’ll likely pull from the many coaching styles I’ve worked with throughout my career, including those at Orange County SC. For now, I’m enjoying being home, coaching my kids and playing alongside some of the future stars of our country as we go for the USL Championship title.

Whatever happens when we take the field on Sunday, rest assured: you’ll be hearing from me – I can’t stay far away from the pitch.

Photo courtesy Liza Rosales / Orange County SC

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