For some, soccer is just a hobby. It is something that a person plays in order to be a part of something. It is something that someone may do in order to become more active.
For Columbus Crew 2 captain Marco Micaletto, however, soccer is a way of life.
“When I was four or five, Roma won the league,” Micaletto remembered. “And I remember my parents and me out in the street celebrating. That was the moment that I truly fell in love with (soccer)”.
Growing up and playing soccer in Europe is completely different than in the United States. Micaletto described it as “a religion” in Italy, where he was born. Micaletto played half of his youth soccer in the country before moving to England at the age of only nine years old.
The midfielder started his soccer career in England at Southampton, which was a culture shock. It was Micaletto’s first taste of a professional club and it was a lot to handle, adjusting to the game at a new level after having just moved to a new country and learning a whole new culture.
“It was a brutal game,” he told Massive Report. “Everyone was looking out for themselves, and most were praying someone else made a mistake to get their chance. But that is when I started to understand what it took to be a professional.”
After four years at Southampton, Micaletto took another opportunity and decided to move to the Brentford Academy. He remained a part of that club until he was 17.
“For me, and it may sound cliché, but soccer is my rock. I’m incredibly blessed to have such a passion for soccer and I am proud of the work that I have put in,” Micaletto said about what playing soccer means to him. “Soccer helped me out of trouble, and not the drugs and alcohol type of trouble. It kept me from going out on Friday nights because I knew I had a soccer game the next day.”
Micaletto’s last stop before finding his way to the United States was with Nottingham Forrest. It is every soccer player's dream to get a first professional contract. But that would not come from his former club, or any other European club, for that matter.
In the United States, players rarely come straight out of high school and into the professional ranks. That was something different to Micaletto.
Coming to the U.S., Micaletto found himself playing collegiate soccer. He played for a couple of different schools, most notably the Akron Zips of the Mid-American Conference.
“Learning new cultures helped me open my mind to other things,” he said. “Before college, I had never stepped foot in a gym.”
This time was a learning curve for Micaletto, as soccer players are looked at differently in America when it comes to athletic ability.
“In the United States, the better athlete that you are able to become, naturally the better player you can be,” Micaletto said about the difference in player types he has seen throughout his career.
“I knew I wasn’t fast, I wasn’t strong and wasn’t very mobile. But it was what you were able to do with the ball that matters,” Micaletto said about being a soccer player over in Europe.
Everything Micaletto has done has led him to where he is today: the captain of Crew 2.
“Both opportunities, I don’t know how I got them,” he admitted. “I don’t deserve to have the privilege to lead this team and organization.”
But the call to move to Columbus was a dream move. Micaletto recognized the history of the Black & Gold and said he was “at a loss of words” when the opportunity came to be a part of the first club in the history of Major League Soccer.
The move to Columbus was even more special when he was named the captain of Crew 2, the first in the new reserve team’s history and something Micaletto called “hugely humbling.”
The experience that Micaletto, who is much older than many of his teammates at 26, has gained through being a professional athlete and being able to bring that experience and teach the young players on this team is something that he will not take for granted. As a leader, Micaletto wants to make sure the team knows why things happen.
“I want us to understand why we win games and how we could have lost,” he said. “When we lose, I want us to understand what we could have done to win.”
Through the opening 11 games of the MLS NEXT Pro season, Micaletto has been instrumental to the team’s success. Not just being the captain of the team and leading his fellow Crew 2 players, but also contributing statistically with three goals and two assists.
Micaletto and Crew 2 look forward to the rest of the season, as they look to make the playoffs in the first season of MLS Next Pro. Fans can watch Micaletto and Crew 2 every matchday, as every MLS Next Pro match is streamed live at mlsnextpro.com.