From Argentina with love, why Zaca Moran appreciates playing soccer in Richmond

Posted at 1:36 PM, Sep 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-01 00:50:43-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Darren Sawatzky is in the midst of his second season as head coach of the Richmond Kickers. He is trying to build a lasting culture of success within the program that will eventually sustain itself.

Something like that doesn't happen overnight.

"We're building something here for the long haul. It's a marathon, not a sprint," said Sawatzky. "I want to win right now. I want trophies right now. I say it every day."

Part of building a new culture is borrowing from others.

It's no secret that in many parts of the world, soccer is a much bigger sport than it is here in the United States.

Argentina is one of those locales where the game is more like a religion.

Zaca Moran came to the Kickers earlier this year from one of the most prestigious soccer programs in South America, River Plate, with which he won two Copa Argentina titles.

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"He's a guy that looks at what the game needs and he adds that to the game as much as he can," Sawatzky said. "We live in a culture, particularly in the United States, where kids are playing for the names on the backs of their jerseys more than the front."

"This guy just shows up and says coach, whatever you need," Sawatzky added.

"Everything I'm doing on the field is to help the team. My success will come overall throughout the game but really, the focus is the team and to win games," said Moran.

Changing the culture of the team is just one hurdle for Moran. Learning the culture of his new country is another -- and in some ways the more difficult of the two.

"They have to adjust to American culture, food, living, driving, how the clock works. My guys from the Caribbean don't wear watches. You have to adjust to all these things," said Sawatzky.

"Coming over here was definitely a new experience, but it was great to have my wife around with me here," said Moran.

But Moran is here for more than just a soccer opportunity.

He left behind most of his family and friends for the opportunities that the U.S. offers for a successful life -- not just a successful career.

In so many ways, it makes him, and others like him, far more appreciative of what they can have here if they're willing to work.

"The trick is to find someone who really wants the American experience because it's a wonderful life here. We are so lucky to live in this country," said Sawatzky.

"Go to Argentina for six months. You will come back and kiss the carpet at the airport, I promise you. I've done it," he added.

"Everything has a certain order in this country which is different than in Argentina," Moran said. "A lot of things in terms of the government and all that, it's all kind of a mess over there, and the amount of opportunities there are in this country."

"They want the opportunity to live in this wonderful country, and because of that, they're not going to take it for granted. So you have a guy who's willing to die for the badge because he gets the opportunity to live here," said Sawatzky.

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