FC Alliance alum begins pro career in Costa Rica
For FC Alliance alum Cameron Schneider, the end of a long journey is a new beginning. A former attacker for the club’s 97 Boys Black, Schneider has signed a professional contact with Escazu FC in Costa Rica. The road to professional soccer in Central America wasn’t easy, and the reward is just a foot (or cleat) in the door. However, so far the Knoxvillian has made the most of it, impressing the club and earning time with the first team.
Before arriving in San Jose, the capital city of a country in which soccer is a way of life, Schneider made several pit stops in Division 1 college soccer. He played at both Marshall and East Tennessee State, dealing with both the highs and lows of collegiate athletics. He has already seen some time in the limelight, as a wicked bicycle kick goal in a summer league match went viral in Europe. However, at times, he struggled finding enjoyment in what he felt was a brusque style of play in American college soccer.
This new stop, in the land of the Ticos, is an entirely new way of life and a heightened level of play. And he is loving it.
“Costa Rica is a perfect example of a soccer country,” Cameron Schneider said from his home on the outskirts of the city. “You can see kids playing in the street all day long and that shows on the field. The technical ability is a really high standard.”
Being highly technical himself, he fits right in. In the United States, Schneider was known for his flashes of deft skill and deep knowledge of the game. This did not always mesh well with the brute force often seen at the collegiate level.
“I really enjoy the style here,” he said. “It’s more of a possession-based game where physicality and size aren’t seen as so important.”
If anyone is unaware of how good Costa Rican soccer is, just check the 2014 World Cup. Behind superb skill and beautiful passing, the Ticos shocked the world and advanced to the quarterfinals. The nation of less than five million went unbeaten and won a group featuring former World Cup champions Italy, England, and Uruguay. In the round of 16, they beat former European champions Greece. They eventually lost in penalty kicks to the Netherlands, but not before recording one of the most historic runs in the history of Central American soccer.
“Playing in Costa Rica is a dream come true for Cameron,” said Jon Schneider, his father and the executive director of FC Alliance. “He now plays six days a week and his job is soccer. This along with learning a new culture has been an incredible experience so far.”
Making the decision to consult with an agent and pursue professional soccer was not an easy one. Schneider still had college eligibility left. However, the kid from Knoxville with big dreams decided he had to take a chance. Mirroring his opportunistic style on the soccer field, he found a small opening and he took it.
“The path getting here was a big risk,” he admitted. “I didn’t feel that the college system fit me well and I have always aspired to play at the next level. I decided to take the risk and so far everything is paying off.”
This came with full support from his parents, who urged their son to follow his heart.
“We knew from a young age that Cameron wanted to play soccer professionally,” Jon Schneider said. “As with all worthwhile things we do in life, there are obstacles, and all we ever tell Cameron is let the frustrations be the reason you made it and not the reason you didn’t.”
This advice has paid early dividends. Upon arrival, Schneider wasted no time raising eyebrows in an ultra-competitive environment. He racked up several assists in one of his earliest appearances and Escazu FC wasted little time promoting him. From over 2000 miles away, his parents beam with pride as their son’s lifetime of dedication to the sport is being rewarded.
“Ever since I can remember, he has had an advanced understanding of the game,” his dad said. “Starting as early as when he was six or seven, I would walk in the house and see Cameron sitting there watching full-length matches on TV.”
Although the younger Schneider is soaking up the life of being a Costa Rican professional soccer player, he sees this as an opportunity for even bigger things.
“Looking forward, I’m hoping that I will be able to land in Europe eventually,” he said. “I feel like every player’s dream is to play in Europe. So I’m just going to continue to focus on developing my game and to understand that I have a lot to learn. I am lucky to have a great foundation to grow from.”
For those who know his talents and sheer determination, few will be surprised if one day his European dream becomes a reality.
Training advice from professional player Cameron Schneider:
“For anyone that’s looking at following a similar path, I can’t stress enough the value of individual training. Two or three team trainings a week isn’t enough. That’s a thing I’ve really focused on since I got here. Technique is what allows players to reach higher levels. Constant training and emphasis on technique trumps everything else at this level.”