Gringo Report: Falcao's American protege in Colombia
GUADALAJARA, Mexico — With friends like Radamel Falcao, a stint with River Plate already behind him and interest in his services from Argentina and Spain, 18-year-old American right winger Kevin Rozo is clearly doing something right.
Currently with the Millonarios Under-20s in Colombia, Rozo’s career is entering a crucial period. His club is urging him to stay, but there are some tempting options abroad that could play yet play a part in his future.
"I've spoken to the directors [at Millonarios] because opportunities to go to Argentina and Spain have come up," Rozo told MLSsoccer.com by phone from Bogotá on Wednesday. "The directors have told me to stay because next year I could be in the first-team squad, and that's what I'm working towards."
The Miami-born player moved with his family to Colombia at the age of three and returned to the United States from 2001-04, but he’s been in South America ever since. He’s good enough that he’s appeared on the radar for both US Soccer and, in recent months, Colombia, for whom he could feature in the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey next year.
"I'm ready to play for the first one that offers me the opportunity, be it the United States or Colombia," he explained, adding that playing at next year's U-20 World Cup is one of his major upcoming goals.
Rozo joined Millonarios in 2006, but trained at River Plate's famous academy in Argentina in June 2011 for three months before returning to Colombia to complete studying commitments. He says the experience in Argentina was exceptional and is contemplating a possible return south, depending partly on his situation with Millonarios and what other opportunities present themselves.
Whatever Rozo does decide, he will be able to call on one of the hottest properties in world soccer to guide him: family friend Falcao.
On return to Colombia for World Cup qualifiers in October, the 26-year-old Atlético Madrid striker dropped in to see Rozo (right) and to hand him the cleats he wore in August's European Super Cup, when he destroyed Chelsea with a hat trick, as a gift.
"When he comes to Colombia, we speak and he gives me advice," Rozo said. "He tells me not to get worried, to play practically and with calmness and to not get flustered."
The cleats are safely stored away, and Rozo insists he will use them for an important game in the future. Where he’ll play that game, however, remains to be seen.
Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org