San Jose Earthquakes defender Marcos Lopez is just 20 years old, but the native of Peru has already reached international milestones and had unforgettable experiences in his career.
Lopez has represented his country at both the U-20 and senior national team levels, in addition to club side Sporting Cristal in Peru. Along the way, the left back has achieved life-long dreams, while continuing to pursue growth on and off the pitch.
In 2017, he was the youngest player on Peru’s U-20 team, which competed at the South American U-20 championship.
“Honestly it was something nice, to play for Peru,” explained Lopez. “It was something I’d always wanted since I was little. I think that players always dream of representing their national team, and in this case, it happened to me at the U-20 level.”
From there, he then got a shot with the senior national team in a friendly against Germany in August of 2018, at just 18 years old.
“I think the group that head coach Ricardo Gareca formed is very good, and he received me in the best way. I think within that group, it’s a family, because everyone tries to lean on what each person needs.”
Lopez noted the reception a young player receives among teammates and coaches at the national level is an important part of becoming assimilated into the team.
“It’s important how they receive you, because they support you when you’re young. I think for me, although I played in the younger U-20 national team, it was a bit fast because I got my first call to the team when I was 18, and it was something spectacular.”
Of all of his experiences within Peru’s national team system, one sticks out to Lopez as his greatest and most memorable achievement yet.
“At the national team level, I think it was my debut against Germany. It was an unforgettable night for me. That is my greatest achievement, because being so young and making my debut in the national team is not easy. And thanks to God, I was able to achieve that goal.”
Lopez credits his opportunities with Sporting Cristal as a driving force to his success with the national team.
“The continuity that I got at Sporting Cristal at that time was important. I think I did the right things there; I was standing out playing on that team. I think the group at Cristal was always present and stood out beyond individualities. And because of that, I had the opportunity to be called to the Peru senior team.”
Among the challenges of playing year-round, was the fact that the two different squads ran two different systems. This meant Lopez had to adapt to both, while maintaining peak performance.
“I tried to adapt because there were two different tactics, two different systems. But it’s a process that as a football player, you already have to be clear that when it comes to your national team, you will have to give 100 percent to the national team. And when you’re in the club, you will give 100 percent to the club.”
Lopez was able to find a good balance between the two squads. When he returned from his national team duty, he and Sporting Cristal won the league championship, furthering his reputation as an important player. San Jose showed interest in acquiring him soon after, and he made it clear that he wanted to come to the Quakes, despite the fact that he’d have to leave home.
“For me, it was a wonderful thing that an international club noticed me. The decision was tough because my family knew I was going to come and live here. That meant being alone and not being able to be with them.”
“I think that the MLS is growing, and it was clear that as a player, it was going to empower me, and as a person I was going to grow on a cultural level.”