My name is Zach Johnson and I am the founder of Earn Your Shirt.
First off I would like to give you a little background information on my career and some of my core beliefs in football. I started playing football at the age of 5, just local recreational stuff. I always loved it and looked forward to it as the highlight of my day. When I was 8 years old I started playing more competitive soccer at a local select team (Texans Soccer Club). I soon realized I was one of the better players and kept striving for better and better competition. But, I always played for fun and loved the game.
At the age of 10 I was scouted for the Houston Dynamo Youth Academy U12 team. This is 1 of 2 MLS (Major League Soccer) academies in the whole state of Texas. I was stoked when I was selected and couldn’t wait to keep playing and enjoying my football. Then, in October of 2014 I started feeling some pain in my left knee. I thought nothing of it at first and just played through it. But, it just kept getting worse and worse. I finally went to see a doctor and I started trying to strengthen the muscles and tendons around my knee. We did this in the hope that we could avoid surgery. These process went on for 7 months with me playing on and off and constantly being in pain. This was a very difficult time, especially for a 10 year old who just wanted to play football. Finally in May of 2015 I had surgery on my knee. It turned out I had a bipartite patella symptomatic synchronous fracture. This basically means I was born with a very thin piece of tissue connecting the main part of my knee to a small bone next to it called the patella and that piece of tissue had snapped. After the surgery began 5 months of rehab. During that time I was released from the Dynamo Academy and this was another very difficult time.
Finally, a year after first complaining about my pain... I was back! Well, kind of. I wasn’t myself in the 2015-16 season. I started playing for the 2nd team at Texans SC again. I was worried I would get injured again so I didn’t go into challenges and I was scared whenever I played. Luckily, this was just a phase though and when the 2016-17 season rolled around I was back to myself. I started playing very well again as a CB which was a much different role than I was used to. I really wanted to play in midfield but the coaches son and some of their close friends were taking up those spots. But, midway through the season I received some very surprising news. I was getting moved down to the third team! I still to this day do not know why I was moved down. I think it was a very political decision. I guess I would have to get my revenge. But, nonetheless there was nothing I could do about it. It even turned out to be one of the best things that could have happened to me.
I started 2017 on the third team. But, I was able to play in my preferred Deep Lying Playmaker (#6) role. I started every game for the second half of the season and ending up scoring 4 goals and getting 6 assists. At the end of the season I was called in to have a meeting with the coach who had dropped me. He said I had “blossomed” and he would like to have me play with his team in a post season tournament. This felt so good! I had gotten my revenge.
Earlier in 2017 I attended the South Texas ODP (Olympic Development Program) tryout (usually ODP tryouts are for the whole state but since Texas is so large it has 2 teams). I didn’t think much of it. It was just something extra I did. I ended up attending about 8 different camps between January and May and was selected as one of the final 22 players on the South Texas ODP roster. This was a great experience as I got to play against the best players from Louisiana, Arkansas, Georgia, and the Houston Dynamo Academy.
Fast forward 3 months, it is now August 2017. I decided to attend the Houston Dynamo Summer Residency Camp in the hope to get another look from them and maybe even get back on the Dynamo Team. The camp lasted 5 days and I put up a solid performance all week. On the last day of the camp I was approached by the coach of the team for my age group. He asked to speak with my parents and from that point forward I had myself a one week trial with the Houston Dynamo Youth Academy.
When I started my trial I was a bit nervous but had a solid week of training. The trial ended with a scrimmage game against another Development Academy team. I knew this was my time to impress and needed to have a good game. I had one of the best games of my life getting 2 assists and hitting the woodwork in a 6-2 win. I was buzzing after the game and couldn’t wait to hear what the coach was going to say.
Then, when I woke up the next morning, I started feeling pain in my foot. Sometimes when things are going perfect life knocks you down to give you perspective and this is exactly what happened at this moment. I went to the doctor and was told I had 2 fractured metatarsals. I wouldn’t be able to play until February. Another 7 months out. I don’t want to touch on this time period to much... but, it was hard. It was really, really hard.
Soon, February came around and I was back! Stronger than ever. I had a really good rest of the season racking up 1 goal and 4 assists. At the end of that year we contacted the Houston Dynamo coach again and I was invited back to have another trial. This trial lasted for 3 months. I started trialing with the 2004 age group. I am born in November 2004 so I often play with bigger, stronger players. This trial went on for 45 days before the coach informed me and my parents that I was too small for the 04’s. Not all hope was lost though. The coach said I could continue trialing with the 2005 age group. I had a very good trial and I thought I was a shoe in to make the team. But, some things that were out of my control happened with the academy when I was trialing (I don’t want to go into detail on what exactly happened) and the coach told me that the numbers were not going to work out. This was a very tough pill to swallow. But, I picked my head up and got back to work.
The 2018-19 season started at this point. I was named captain and had a great run of performances from September to early November. But, then I lost my flow. I had some bad games and I had the captaincy taken away from me. I was kept on the bench for most of November and December. Then, the off season came around. Being as I was a late 04 I was in 8th grade while the rest of my team was in high school. This meant that during the off season they were playing high school soccer and I had no where to play. I was allowed to play with the younger age group during this off season and regained my form.
I started the 2019 season much better then the end of the 2018 season. I was playing more consistently and got to feature in games in San Diego, Oklahoma, and play against the 2x national champions.
The 2019 season ended and that is where we are now. Preseason has just started and I could not be more excited to start the 2019-20 season!
Life is hard sometimes. When everything is going right life will knock you down and put everything back in perspective. You can’t control what happens to you. You can only control how you react to it.
I left a lot of things out of here for different reasons but one day when I am playing in the Premier League and I have a chance to write my auto-biography I’ll shed light and many of the other things that happened in my career. I hope you could take inspiration from my story and could learn more about me.