Calvillo Seizes Opportunity in Season Finale

The young Cosmos midfielder scored in first professional start.
Published Nov 2, 2016

Around their 18th birthday, many American kids are just finishing high school and trying to figure out what's next. 

Eric Calvillo isn’t like many American kids. Less than two weeks after his 18th birthday, Calvillo signed his first professional contract with the New York Cosmos. He has been with the team ever since.

“It was a family thing. My dad played and my uncle played,” Calvillo said of his introduction to the beautiful game. “They knew from the beginning that I was going to be a soccer player, and I’m so grateful for that. I love it. It’s a great sport.”

At seven years old, Calvillo proved too good for his age group, so he ended up competing against older players. A few years later, he was representing the United States as part of the Under-14 National Team.

He progressed through different age groups and played for the U.S. at the U-17 World Cup in Chile last October. The experience of representing the Stars and Stripes was an exciting one for Calvillo, and he hopes to keep doing it.

“It’s always an honor representing your country and putting on that jersey,” he said. “It’s a different feeling.”

After that U-17 World Cup in 2015, Calvillo found out the Cosmos were interested in signing him, and went to New York to join the reigning NASL champions. The adjustment to the professional game has been a tough one. The 5-foot-7 California native is determined to become a better player, despite his small stature.

“It’s crazy. It’s a lot quicker and more aggressive," Calvillo said of the NASL. "[The players] have more experience than me, so they know a little bit more. But I just have to focus on playing quicker and trying to battle. I’m not as tall as most of the guys, so I have to use my body well.”

Once the season started, Calvillo often found himself stuck in a crowded Cosmos midfield, leading to limited minutes.

“It’s frustrating when you are training every day, and sometimes you’re on the roster and sometimes you’re not,” he said. “A lot of the guys kept my head up and told me that my time would come. When the time came, I wanted an opportunity and I was going to take it.” 

After a couple appearances off the bench in July, Calvillo got his first chance to start last week in the regular season finale. When the team arrived in Minnesota, Calvillo learned that he would be in the starting lineup.

“From the beginning, especially when I woke up and after breakfast, I was really nervous. I’d never been this nervous before,” he said. “It was a big opportunity for me to show what I had, and to not let my team down and prove that I belong here.”

Following a scoreless first half, Calvillo recalled assistant coach Alecko Eskandarian telling the team to get more runners in the box for shots on goal. Early in the second half, Calvillo got his chance to do just that.

“I curled outside the back post and saw Andrés Flores making the near post run," he said. "I thought my best chance to score would be at the back post. I was left wide open.”

Calvillo received a cross from Ayoze and headed it past Minnesota United goalkeeper Sammy Ndjock to give the Cosmos a 1-0 lead.

“When it went in, it was unbelievable." said Calvillo. "I didn’t even know what happened. I kind of blacked out after I celebrated. I don’t remember who was there or what they said. I just remember the ball going in the net and that’s it.”

His first goal as a professional was the winner in a 1-0 Cosmos triumph that eliminated United from postseason contention.

While the short-term goal for Calvillo and the Cosmos is to win The Championship, which begins this weekend, the 18-year-old has big aspirations for his soccer career.

“I want to be with the full national team," he said. "I want to make a name for myself and be the best player I can.”