Abravanel on path to MLS career
If somebody told Leon Abravanel that he couldn’t accomplish his soccer dreams, he didn’t listen.
The 23-year-old Abravanel, who grew up playing the sport in South Lake Tahoe, is participating in a preseason training camp with the Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer. Over the next eight weeks Abravanel hopes to secure a contract that will make him part of the Rapids’ 24-player roster.
“I consider this home for me, not Colorado but the environment,” Abravanel said. “The level of professionalism and the way the club as a whole operates is something I’ve been dreaming about my entire life. To finally be in an environment where I can really be myself is a beautiful thing.
“This is where I want to be, this is what I want to do, so I’m prepared mentally and physically to make it happen.”
The former University of Denver Pioneers soccer player is trying to make the Rapids as an outside back and defensive midfielder.
“He is currently one of a handful of trialists in our preseason camp and was invited here based on him reaching out to our assistant coach Steve Guppy,” said Jason Gilham, director of media relations for the Rapids.
After launching his pro soccer career last year with the Kitsap Pumas Soccer Club of the United Soccer League’s Professional Developmental League, Abravanel’s career really took off in August when he was invited to train with Real Salt Lake of the MLS for two weeks.
“Coaches now knew my name and my name was in the pool of MLS players. That’s a beautiful thing,” Abravanel said. “To get your name out there alone is most difficult. Now I just have to perform.”
Abravanel said that Real Salt Lake, which went on to win the league championship, was unable to sign him because the team was restricted by a player cap.
“That was a great experience for me,” Abravanel said. “It was a chance to get familiar with that level of soccer and be able to see how teams like that really work. That alone was worth it. I wasn’t able to get a contract, but it got me on their radar, and it was something I could put on my resume that other teams will like.”
Abravanel didn’t sit by the phone and wait for the next offer. After a tryout with the USL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies, he spent a month in Bolivian training with La Paz FC, a Bolivian First Division team. He and two other Americans trained twice a day, six days a week at an elevation of 12,000 feet. But Abravanel experienced more than a high level of soccer.
“Gaining a broader perspective of the world is really cool,” he said. “It’s definitely a less-developed country. The luxuries we have in the U.S. like clean water and safe food are nonexistent. They have a very modest lifestyle and live within their means. They are hospitable and very good people.”
His global experiences have helped Abravanel mature. Further developing his skill on the field is only part of the professional equation.
“I used to get angry easily. I’ve toned that down,” he said. “I’m in control of my emotions. When you finally realize that you need to be mature, you start working on parts of your game that aren’t mature.”
Abravanel’s drive to play a higher level of soccer started in high school when he traveled to Sacramento three days a week to play for a club team. He also was a key part of the Vikings’ 2003 state championship team.
“Leon would be a great role model for any student/athlete to let them know really what it takes to succeed outside of South Tahoe,” said South Tahoe High boys’ soccer coach Chris DeLeon, who has trained Abravanel. “This is just another opportunity from lots of hard work and sacrifice he is creating his own future.”
Two days into his first MLS training camp, Abravanel faces an uncertainty that inspires him.
“In the preseason there is a lot of movement throughout the entire U.S. soccer (leagues),” Abravanel said. “I could be here eight weeks and then they could sign me, or I could be here four days and they sign me. And they could release me at any time.
“I want to stay focused and in tune with the task at hand.”