For us older heads, 2018 was not such a long time ago, but for Aaron Cervantes, it’s the difference between signing his first professional deal as a “skinny kid,” in the words of Orange County SC club owner James Keston, at 15 years old and making the move to Europe now in 2020 at 18.
Cervantes was announced as moving on a permanent transfer from Orange County SC to Scottish Premiership club Rangers FC on Wednesday, the Southern California native becoming the latest American to join the club’s ranks over the years.
The goalkeeper spoke to Angels on Parade this week, reflecting on his tenure with OCSC and his season, as well as the proof-of-concept move abroad.
“I thank the club for signing me so early, it just and trusted me so early at such a young age and they really opened up a pathway for me to just get bigger and just do better things,” Cervantes said of OCSC.
With Orange County committing to producing young players who can move up the levels, both domestically and abroad, Cervantes was asked to take on a mentor role with some of the other players coming through.
“When they brought on younger guys like Francis [Jacobs] and Kobi [Henry], and now Raymond [Drai] and all those guys now, they told me to kind of put them under my wing and just show them the way and just set an example of what the standard is at Orange County for young players.”
The 2020 season ended in disappointing fashion for OCSC, with the team, considered a contender coming in, slumping to finish play in a difficult group and missing the USL Championship playoffs.
When asked about the season overall and his performance, Cervantes was straightforward.
“I thought we started off strong, beginning of the season. I know the coronavirus kind of like messed us up, messed everybody up this season, because we had to play the same exact teams over and over again within the span of a couple days. It’s tough on the body, it’s tough for everybody so I think we started off strong and I think I had a good season. I definitely learned some stuff over these past I mean, not just a season, I feel like I’ve learned a bunch of stuff over the past three years since I started when I was 15,” he said.
“I mean we had some good teams in our group. Galaxy’s a good team, Phoenix is a powerhouse and San Diego, Vegas and all those guys. I feel we should have done better and at least made the playoffs, but I mean, it is what it is, that’s the game, you know,” Cervantes added.
Splitting time with other, more experienced goalkeepers the past two seasons, Cervantes said his baptism by fire in pro games was important for his development, and he did certainly improve by leaps and bounds.
“All those minutes just taught teaching points for me, you know. All those minutes and all those games have just been lessons. I’ve made mistakes, I’ve seen different situations, different scenarios that I had to deal with and the next level is going to get harder, and I think I can bring all that all that knowledge I’ve learned from these last three years and all these games that I’ve played to bring to the next level,” he said.
When he was asked about joining the roll of Americans at Rangers, from U.S. Men’s National Team stars DaMarcus Beasley and Carlos Bocanegra, to Claudio Reyna and Maurice Edu, Cervantes sounded pleased to be in that illustrious company.
“Yeah, big, big names, especially Americans that are on Rangers. I think Rangers is a big club, it’s one of the bigger clubs in Europe and they’re really successful and it’s an honor to play for them,” he said.
While arrangements are still being made for when Cervantes moves to Europe, and Rangers have already said they are hoping to loan Cervantes out soon if they can find a deal, the California native gave a deadpan response when asked what he’ll miss most about California: the sun.
“They told me it’s cloudy all the time, it’s always cold over there but yeah there’s not gonna be any Laguna Beach down there, so we’ll see,” he quipped.
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