When Casey Walls signed as the San Jose Earthquakes’ seventh Homegrown Player back in November, he was in store for a huge life change. Previously commuting to the Quakes Academy from Mill Valley, more than 100 miles round trip, Walls would soon be out on his own and tasked with competing against players up to 20 years his senior.
Already standing 6’2, Walls doesn’t have the sort of physical barriers other young players may have upon entering Major League Soccer, especially at center back. However, just turning 17 earlier this month, and the second youngest player with the team in Cancún (Cowell – 16), the London native has plenty of room to grow in stature and mentality as the days pass by.
He credits the work of the Quakes Academy to prepare him for life as a professional.
“Playing for the academy helped me because even though it’s not professional, it’s still a professional environment,” explained Walls in-between Tuesday’s training sessions. “We trained four times a week, and the coaches pushed you to the max in those trainings. The academy gave me a platform to train with the first team last year and I kind of got a glimpse of what it was going to be like in preseason. In trainings last year, we would do some fitness, not as grueling and hard, but still fitness and that gave me a good idea of what these next two weeks are going to be.”
The first few sessions in Cancún have been very diversified, with some on the training field, some on the beach and some in the gym. Walls appreciates being kept on his toes by the often-changing schedule.
“It’s something I’ve never really done before, but it kind of just puts us to the test, and you never know what’s going to come next.
“[Head strength and conditioning coach] Guido [Bonini] is demanding. He works us, but he’s still light-hearted. He keeps us going, keeps us motivated through laughs, through his words. He’s great.”
Like any smart rookie, Walls has gravitated to more experienced players that he can learn from, including the Quakes Academy products that came before him.
“Yeah, obviously like all other guys, I learned a lot of from [the older players], but also the Homegrowns, like JT [Marcinkowski], Nick [Lima] and Tommy [Thompson]. They’ve really been looking out for me, helping me, not letting me get lost throughout the resort. I look up to them for sure. I ask them for advice. They’re super supportive.”