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The hometown kid: Adrien Perez on his road from arena soccer to LAFC

We catch up with the MLS rookie in an exclusive interview.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at New York City FC Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

On March 17, 23-year-old Adrien Perez stepped onto the field at Yankee Stadium for Los Angeles Football Club and fulfilled a dream.

In the 72nd minute, Perez entered the game for Diego Rossi, making his MLS debut, as LAFC came back in a 2-2 road draw.

The forward spoke exclusively to Angels on Parade last week about that milestone moment.

“It was always something I wanted to do as a kid,” Perez said. “It’s someone’s dream, if you’re playing soccer for a very long time, and I was excited to get playing time with the team, get to actually play an actual, real game out there with the whole squad. And I just hope to continue going out so we can continue to get comfortable and succeed.”

Perez’s road to MLS and LAFC was unusual. A local who grew up in Los Angeles, in his words, Perez played collegiate soccer at Loyola Marymount and then went on to play pro in indoor soccer, at local Major Arena Soccer League outfit Ontario Fury, where the forward tore things up, becoming an All-Rookie team selection for the 2017-18 season and starting this season in fine form.

While indoor soccer used to be a significant feeder to MLS when the league was first launching, its impact has waned. But one of the big names involved in both indoor and outdoor soccer helped Perez get his shot at LAFC.

“A good friend of mine had helped me out from indoor, and he had talked to Bob [Bradley] and he’s really good friends with Bob and he actually talked to Bob and told him if he could give me a look, that’s pretty much what I got,” Perez said, explaining how he got a preseason trial with the club. “And then from there I just entered preseason, that’s how it pretty much started.”

The good friend of Perez’s? A legend of American soccer, you may have heard of him: “His name was Preki, by the way,” Perez said.

Perez (right) playing in preseason for LAFC.
Courtesy of LAFC.

For a youngster, with an unusual path to MLS, what was it like going to camp for Perez? The forward explained he both felt like he belonged while also needing to step up among a talented squad.

“The team made me feel really comfortable, they made me feel welcomed and also I had to pick up a bunch of stuff from my teammates and from the coaching staff as well. Bob gave me a bunch of pointers, he’s still giving me pointers, and all around it was a good way for me to start my first pro preseason as a soccer player,” he said.

Given LAFC are in just their second season, Perez was asked if he had watched the launch of the club and thought he could get a chance to play for them at some point.

“When LAFC started I wished I would get one chance to play for them, to play for the club,” he admitted, explaining that he previously followed MLS intermittently, especially in the playoffs. “Because I grew up in Los Angeles, that was always something I wanted to do. But I wasn’t really looking towards that chance, I was trying to better myself as much as I can. I was playing indoor and they’re kind of two different sports, especially arena soccer – it’s two different sports, there’s walls [in arena soccer]. I just wanted to do my best in whatever I was going to do.”

Given the differences between indoor and outdoor soccer, did Perez’s time with the Fury help his outdoor game? He said it did.

“I would say yes. It got me fit, for sure, and arena soccer is nonstop running, full speed. That’s one, I would say, is major and of course I’d say skill-wise it helped me get comfortable on the ball even more than I was.”

Since getting that debut in New York City, Perez came off the bench in the following game as well, a win over Real Salt Lake, before being an unused substitute last weekend in a rout over the San Jose Earthquakes. He may or may not continue to get playing time this season, considering the fearsome firepower of the squad’s forwards, but Perez is embracing his role as a hometown kid on LAFC’s roster.

“Yeah, I do feel like the hometown kid, of course. Because I grew up in Los Angeles and I’ve gotten a lot of support from my friends, family, anybody that has met me, they’ve been really proud of what I’ve accomplished so far, being with a team. So I would say I’m very proud to be a homegrown talent here at LAFC,” he said.

LAFC have a big test this week coming up, with a road game against the team at the top of the standings alongside them, in D.C. United. Perez says, perhaps unsurprisingly, that his goals are both personal and collective in nature.

“My goals? Trying to pick up anything I can to improve my game as we want to win league, we want to win the Open Cup, and I want to be a team player, any way I can. So I would say my goals are to learn from the coaching staff and to learn from my teammates,” he said.

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