Solomon Moss barely had a high school varsity boys soccer career at Liberty.
That’s okay. Most of the varsity Lions players can watch him start his college career this fall and hear about his exploits in England this summer.
Moss will take part in the University Degrees Abroad USA soccer academy at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. Players in this program play year-round, with professional coaching staff at a university developing players from ages 18-21.
“You’re good enough to play in college, but you can’t even play on your high school team?” his father, David Moss, asked.
Soon Moss will be on his first UDA adventure. Solomon leaves July 1 for training in Chesterfield, England, which has a connection with the program.
It has been on his mind since a planned April trip was canceled by COVID-19.
“Going to England and playing against those guys is the best way to get better in the fastest period of time,” Solomon Moss said. “And I’m actually excited to go to New Mexico and live by myself.”
His soccer journey is just beginning, but Solomon’s youth career never took a conventional path either. He said he started playing in fifth grade but was just kind of kicking the ball around.
“When I started playing with kids my age I realized I was pretty good. I was shooting and getting goals from halfway down the field,” Stephen Moss said.
The family lived in Houston at the time, but moved to Peoria shortly therafter.
David is a former basketball player who played catch up to help his son learn soccer.
“I used to go to the YMCA and play with the guys. One of the guys was from Africa and he knew soccer,” David said. “My son came to me asked, ‘Dad, I suck at soccer. Can you help me? I got picked last.’ The guy from the YMCA showed him a couple moves. I played basketball in high school and was trying to teach him that. But he kept begging me to play soccer for the YMCA league.”
Solomon played in a small summer recreation league until joining a club in his eighth grade year. His first club team was in Anthem and he played there for two years, then switched to the Christ’s Church of the Valley league for his junior season of high school.
He now plays for the Benfica Eagles club. The early years were not easy because Solomon had an obvious skill set but lacked the foundation of skills and drills that carried most of his peers.
“He was so much bigger and he would do some of the skills training and they would say, ‘Go up against somebody, and point to someone much shorter.’ Soccer is a physical sport and it was awkward. He didn’t want to run them over,” David said.
David credited his training with coach Freddy Delgado in Anthem and Peoria for allowing his skill set to expand.
Solomon played on the lower level teams at Liberty in his first two years of school. The JV team went 8-3-1 his freshman year.
In club play Solomon picked up a bone bruise in his ankle three weeks before varsity tryouts his junior year, then twisted the same ankle. Solomon did not tell his coach about his injuries and was cut.
“I cried for two minutes, Then I said, I’m going to come back and destroy these kids next year. It’s not even going to be a competition as to who the best kid is,” Solomon said.
That moment has been his motivation ever since.
His smart phone background remains a text conversation with his dad after he did not make the team.
“I don’t think the coach realized, Solomon was like the glue. When he wasn’t there, they all thought he should have been there. They didn’t even make the playoffs," David said.
The Lions went 4-6-2 in 2019-2020 and missed the 6A playoffs.
He and his family wanted to stay at Liberty. Solomon made the varsity as a senior in the season that just finished, but barely played other than on senior night.
Liberty finished 5-6-1.
“I always felt like I could play at the next level. It was how I was being used in the system. I was never part of the plan in high school, yet I was better than the other seniors on the pitch,” Solomon said.
His best position is fullback, but he can play midfield too.
He visited Occidental University in California and also had interest from Louisiana-Lafayette and Houston Baptist.
But the unique opportunity at New Mexico State was too good to pass up. He will attend the university and can stay in a dorm.
“The UDA program at New Mexico State was able to come to Arizona because we were still open. We got to meet the coaches in person, and they really liked his size and skill level. We got the opportunity to see the campus, just driving though,” David said. “Because the program is not NCAA-affiliated, you get to train year round. They’re guaranteeing him to get 25 minutes a game because their job is to develop. After a year, he can transfer, or if he wants to stay he can develop more.”
In contrast college soccer has a short season with limited practice time.
Plus the international connections of UDA mean if Solomon plays well in the states, he gets the opportunity to play in trials in Europe, David said.
Solomon played across the pond before, on a Christ’s Church of the Valley mission to Madrid, Spain.
“It was nice, actually. Where we were staying was right next to a foosball court. So every night we played foosball. It was like pickup basketball,” Solomon said.
David said his son is a very intuitive soccer player and should learn more tactical aspects of the game at New Mexico State.
Finally, he will get his shot to see how good he is at the sport.
“No matter how this turns out, he knows what hard work looks like,” David said.