Q: As someone who has coached at the highest levels of this game, how exciting of an opportunity is this next step for you?
Nico Estevez: I’m really excited. It’s a great opportunity for me. When I came here, I was always waiting for an opportunity like this, and I think it’s good to have this option and, of course, I’m very grateful for Gregg [Berhalter] to give me this opportunity.
Q: When you joined the Academy, did you ever think this was a possibility?
NE: When I joined the Academy, it was very clear what my role was there and I wanted to help the Academy to grow all over the country—not only in the state of Ohio. I never thought, in a short time, to become part of the First Team, because I was very, very focused in a lot of things that we had to do in the Academy to improve, and I never thought of this option. It’s a reality and this is very good news.
Q: What are you looking forward to most about working with the First Team?
NE: To help give my experience that I had in the past and what I learned here these two years, watching every single training for the First Team, working with the Academy, working within the presence of the First Team, watching MLS games, understanding better ‘what is the context here,’ what the players need and then give everything that I learn to the players to try to help them achieve the things that they want.
Q: In your Academy role as the Director of Methodology, a large part of it was emulating the First Team, making sure everything was in alignment—the philosophy was the same and reflected in both—coaching players individually and focusing on their development. How does your work in those areas translate to your new role with the First Team?
NE: I think it’s a good advantage for me because I was spending two years doing a job in line with the First Team’s style. This will help me adapt very quickly for what they want. The things that I have to adapt quickly to are the different ages and the different goals. In Development, we have more time and we don’t have to rush. With the professionals, they have another base. We can demand more than the younger players. This experience that I had is going to help me to do a better job in the First Team.
Q: How do you adapt to that and make that transition? What is the biggest challenge in going from having more time to having more urgency with the older players?
NE: The older players have the experience and they can adapt quicker. They understand things quicker than the younger players. Sometimes, for the younger players, the concepts are a little bit abstract. They need more time to understand things. And then the older players, they have the experience to learn quickly and this is one of the things where they’re different. The other thing is the demand.
Q: In what aspects of your role do you think you learned the most? Was it being actively involved and working so closely with the First Team?
NE: I think to have another vision—seeing how the First Team works, how the staff is working, how the players move on the field, all the things that happen during the session—I think it is very good for learning, and now all this experience gives me the resources to help the players during training.
Q: For people who may not know or may have forgotten, your experience coaching for Valencia CF and coaching against Real Madrid, how did affect you in the course of your career, or did that play a role at all in your career?
NE: I think all the experiences are great. I had the great opportunity to live this experience. I think the players are humans. We have to interact with them every single day, we have to help them grow, we have to keep their confidence and their motivation very high. This is our job, as a coach. This is what this experience gave me. Someone who is coming from a lower position and arrived to the First Team and has to lead a team in a match against a big team, like Real Madrid, and to have the confidence that it is the same thing that you are doing every single day, but the only thing that changes is for the boss— more cameras, more media, more press—but finally, it is a game. It’s 11-versus-11, there are tactics and there are components that every single day you are seeing. Of course, the quality of the players is higher, the quality of the coaches and the tactics they use, and you have to be ready for these circumstances and then you have to adapt very quickly.
Q: Since you’ve joined Crew SC, you’ve been very dedicated to this club and it’s evident in getting this promotion. Where does that motivation and that drive stem from?
NE: The thing is my passion for soccer. Gregg gave me the opportunity to come here to learn another soccer culture. I was always very open to learn another soccer culture and this was a great opportunity. I think Columbus is a great city to live in. People are very welcoming and offer help for everything. For me and my family, it’s been a great couple of years here. My passion for soccer—it doesn’t matter if you’re doing it in Spain or here—it’s finally soccer, so when the ball starts to move, we all smile. I’m smiling because I’m thinking it’s great for me to have the opportunity to be here, to help the kids from Ohio to grow as professional players, to in the future, make their dreams come true. It was as fantastic experience for me and now I will continue working on this dream for these players from another position. But so far it’s been great. Finally, to have the possibility to open other countries like the United States and how MLS is growing here and soccer is growing here—this gave me the patience to grow as a professional and as a person too.