Dillon Serna - Colorado Rapids - Ball

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – One of the key young players on the Colorado Rapids, Dillon Serna’s full attention is on the US Under-23 national team this week ahead of the start of their Olympic qualifying playoff series against Colombia on Friday (5 pm ET, FS1, UDN).

Now in his fourth season as a pro, Colorado’s 21-year-old young gun is savvy beyond his years, and has matured into a veteran for both club and country.

MLSsoccer.com recently caught up with Serna to learn more about the man who’s earned the Rapids’ Young Player of the Year award in each of the past two seasons.

He knows how to play hardball

Soccer wasn’t the first and only passion for Serna growing up. In his younger days, he would split time between soccer practice and little league. As a shortstop and pitcher for the Colorado Buzz, his local little league team, Serna had aspirations to play in the Little League World Series.

“My parents said that I was better at baseball than soccer so when I told them I decided to stick with soccer over baseball they were kind of surprised,” Serna recalls. “I think I made the right decision.”

Oh captain, my captain

Remember this for trivia night, folks:

Dillon Serna was the first player ever selected as captain by head coach Landon Donovan. In Donovan’s head coaching debut at the 2015 Chipotle MLS Homegrown Game, Serna was chosen to wear the armband when the Club América U-20s made a visit to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

10 Things: Colorado Rapids' Dillon Serna locked in on Olympic qualification - https://league-mp7static.mlsdigital.net/images/USATSI_8722522.jpg

“I think there was definitely a possibility for me or [former Rapids defender Shane O’Neill] to wear the captain’s armband playing in our home stadium,” Serna explained. “I ended up wearing the armband and it felt great to lead that team in front of my home fans.”

Colorado Ink

Serna is one of several members of the Colorado Rapids’ with an affinity for body art (including head coach Pablo Mastroeni himself). But Serna’s tattoos are unique in that they reflect his status as a Colorado native.

His left arm includes depictions of several Colorado symbols, including the blue spruce (state tree), lark bunting (state bird) and the iconic circular “C” from the Colorado state flag.  

May 13, 2014

He’s earned tenure

Alongside Dillon Powers, Serna is now the most tenured player on the current Rapids roster. Both players joined the club ahead of the 2013 season.

“It does feel a bit strange being 21-years-old and being a guy tied for the longest amount of time spent here,” Serna said. “But I feel like I’ve been around for a good amount of time now and I feel like I understand what it takes to be a pro.”

He prefers to play his game on the field

Unlike your average 20-something, Dillon Serna isn’t great at video games. At least when it comes to FIFA 16.

“We just got an Xbox for the team and before that I had only played FIFA five times in my entire life,” Serna said. “I’m still terrible at it, but it’s pretty fun. I never play against Marlon [Hairston].”

Hairston is, of course, the undisputed FIFA champion within the Rapids’ locker room.

There’s one other bone Serna has to pick with the game: His player rating. While it has steadily increased over the years, Serna’s defensive rating is a 37 in the game.

“That’s definitely interesting,” he smirked. “I like to play more of an attacking role for sure, but if the [U-23 National Team] sees me as a left back, then I think I’m able to do that.”

He played with MLS stars before playing in MLS

Before signing his Homegrown contract with the Rapids, Serna was already bumping shoulders with future MLS stars.

He played one year for the Akron Zips, a powerhouse program in collegiate soccer. It’s a school which has produced players like Darlington Nagbe, Evan Bush, Darren Mattocks and many others.

Serna, who played for current Portland Timbers head coach Caleb Porter at the school, remembered a couple teammates that stood out the most.

“DeAndre Yedlin was a guy I went to school with and one of my good friends there. The kind of career he’s had is crazy,” he said. “I went to school with Wil Trapp as well. These guys are all guys that I played with at Akron. That just goes to show how good of a school that is.”

Athlete and Scholar

Just because he turned pro doesn’t mean that Serna is done with college. When he’s not playing or training, he spends his time like a lot of other “kids” his age by hitting the books.

“I’ve been taking some classes at [Metro State University of Denver],” he said. “I still have a long ways to go but I’m definitely chipping away at it.”

After he’s retired from the game, he could very well be trading in his jersey for a suit.

“Originally I thought I wanted to declare a business major,” he added. “Rethinking it, I think I would be interested in a communications major just to have a background for when I’m out of soccer.”

He doesn’t always score, but when he does…

Serna has quickly built a reputation as a scorer of top class goals, having earned two MLS Goal of the Week honors over the past two seasons.

His first came on a volleyed shot against DC United in Week 23 of the 2014 season.

His second Goal of the Week honor came in April of last season, when the Rapids took home a 4-0 road win against FC Dallas.

He doesn’t just score long range screamers, either. His quick-strike game winner against the Chicago Fire last season came a mere 48 seconds into the match.

“When you score a goal it’s just about having fun,” Serna said. “Hopefully we’ll see a lot of them.”

He’s a dancing fool

Following his goal in the Rapids’ 4-1 victory over Colorado Springs in the fourth round of last season’s US Open Cup, Serna busted out some new dance moves.

As he explained, the moves were a tribute to ex-Liverpool and current LA Galaxy midfielder Stephen Gerrard, who led an epic dance/chant honoring teammates Yaya and Kolo Touré during a team building trip in Dubai last May.

Just like teammate Kevin Doyle, Serna’s goal celebrations have earned mixed reviews.

“That one was just kind of a laugh for the guys in the locker room,” he said. “A couple years ago I did a backflip and got some advice to not do that again from our medical staff.”

Future USMNTer?

Serna has earned consistent minutes with the United States Under-23 national team during the past year, helping the squad to its third-place finish in the 2015 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Championship.

He also earned his first look with the US senior team in Jan. 2015 alongside then-Rapids teammate Shane O’Neill.

He wasn't called in to this year's January camp that was split between members of the senior national team and U-23 players, but still managed to earn a spot on Andi Herzog's roster for the Olympic qualifying playoff series against Colombia. For now, qualifying for a berth at the Rio Games remains at the forefront of his goals on the international stage.

Marco Cummings covers the Rapids for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at marco@marcocummings.com.