By Omar Soussi
Playing at the highest level of your profession is something that every young athlete wants, regardless of what sport they play. One of those who achieved that desire is San Jose Earthquake goalie Matt Bersano, a former student at Corona del Sol High School.
Bersano said that “he has a blast everyday” playing for the Earthquakes and in Major League Soccer.
“It makes training very fun,” Bersano said. “Just with the caliber of the league and how much the league…has improved over the last decade or so, it’s a fantastic time to be a part (of soccer) in America.”
For Bersano, growing up in a soccer family and playing the sport since he was three help set him on this path, he said.
“My brother played, my dad coached—it was always engrained in us,” Bersano said. “A lot of my best friends came through the sport and it was one of those things where, as I got older, I started to truly enjoy it. I had some success at a young age and I kind of just sprung with that.”
Though Bersano is a local talent in Arizona, he’s been around the country playing the sport he loves.
He went to Oregon State University to play at the collegiate level, then, in 2015, transferred to Penn State to work on his master’s degree. He has six months left until he completes the advanced degree with the same scholarship he had.
Bersano said he made this decision since he felt it was best for his career and a “no-brainer” to not rush into the league given, the career lifespan a goalie could have.
He began his MLS career earning a contract with the Seattle Storms after trying out for the team. When that contract was finished, he was given a multi-year deal to play in San Jose in 2016 as a backup.
Bersano said the biggest difference between playing in college and in the professionals is the length of each season. With college having a season going for three to four months, then taking multiple breaks within training during the off-season and summer, the MLS goes from January to November.
“You’re grinding for 10 months at a time, potentially 11 months,” Bersano said. “My first year, I was with the Seattle Sounders and they made it all the way to the MLS finals; that turns it into a season where you end up having a four- or five-week offseason, and that’s it.“
With the amount of effort and time someone would have to commit to play, Bersano said, it shows you how much you truly love the game.
“You kind of weed out a lot of the people who are in the sport just to say they’ve done it, because a lot of people hit that time and your body hurts,” Bersano said.
“I’ve always had ankle problems, so you start having sore knees. I broke a couple of bones in my hand my first year. Your body can only take so much. You kind of learn what you need to do to recuperate and be the best professional you can be,” he said.
“That first (to second) year is where you weed out a lot of those people who like the game but maybe don’t live and breathe it.”
Though he isn’t starting right away—when he signed on to the team he was competing with three other goalies—he said he’s completely focused on getting himself better and making sure he’s ready when his number is called.
“You want to go and…impress every day. I was first-team training all the time, so these first-team coaches, every single one of them, they know me on a regular basis. But you’re still technically on the second team, “Bersano said.
“So you have this motivation. We’re all such competitors that we want to rise, and get whatever position we can, so getting my shot near the end of the year and getting those two games in and being able to play and play well was kind of the payback that I got for just working hard and keeping my mouth shut and being a good teammate.”
When looking back at his time at Corona, Bersano said he was “super thankful for his time there”—not only the education he got but his time on Corona’s team.
He says he saw immediate success, becoming the starting goalie for the varsity team as a freshman, which he said is “every child’s dream.”
He also says that Corona gave him plenty of great friends that he still has to this day. Though soccer isn’t as big a sport in the United States compared to football or basketball, it’s grown exponentially in the past few years.
With attendance records being broken and the growth of fan interest, in Bersano’s eyes, the sport is on the rise. That, coupled with the big impact sports has on people’s lives, that best advice Bersano says he could give someone chasing this dream is to fully commit to the game as what you give is what you get.
“If you want to make this a career, there will always be some sacrifices,” Bersano said.
“You’ll always have choices to make. You’ll get what you put into it. If you truly want this to be something that you value, something that you can potentially get that (college) scholarship or even rise to the MLS and get these opportunities, then what you put in (influences) what you will get out.”