Returning senior and now co-captain David Perez takes what he learned playing for the Chattanooga Football Club (CFC) this season and hopes to channels it towards the Lee pitch this fall.
CFC is a semi-pro soccer team that plays in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL). In the summer 2016, CFC made it to the NPSL championships with the help of Lee’s own David Perez.
Perez said he impressed Bill Elliott, head coach of the Chattanooga Football Club, so much that he ended up getting a call from him. Elliott, also the University of West Florida’s head coach, saw Perez’s skills during a conference match against Lee. After a tryout with many soccer players, CFC set Perez up with a locker, a jersey and an exciting summer.
As a rookie, Perez earned himself a consistent starting position. Playing for CFC in front of over 10,000 fans, he said he realized it is possible for him to reach his dreams of becoming a professional soccer player.
"He's a great attacking player. He's explosive, he's technical, he has a creative mind with his movement and his play,” Elliott said in an interview with the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
With former Lee captains players like Jon Finlay, Tom Halsall and Gabe Franco having graduated and gone, a heavy burden has fallen onto Perez’s shoulders to step up. He is taking this burden in stride after playing for CFC and is confident he and the team will do well this season.
“He’s definitely gotten better. I’m expecting an even better year from him than last year, he’s going to do what he does and lead by example,” Finlay said.
Perez focused on defensive tactics and believes he developed a new style of playing the game while with CFC this summer. He said he hopes to bring a new level of leadership and inspiration to the Lee team that he learned from playing with older, higher level players on the CFC team.
“Train like you’re second best and play like you’re number one,” Perez said.
Perez hopes to return to CFC in the summer of 2017.
“It gave me the mindset of just give it my all every single day, games and practice, because this is my last year,” Perez said.
After his playing career is over, Perez plans to teach history and coach soccer at a high school level after graduating this spring.