A Conversation with David Schipper on His Soccer Journey, the State of American Soccer, and Southern California’s Best Tacos

David Schipper is an American soccer player from San Diego who has played all over the world since graduating from the University of Arizona. He has played in the US, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Latvia, and most recently New Zealand for Southland FC. He wrote about his journey here and here and  was kind of enough to offer me some time to talk through his journey with soccer and thoughts on the game as a whole. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram at @daschipp

T: Where are you right now? Are you in the States? Is this your offseason?

D: Yes, I am currently back home in San Diego, California for what is the offseason for most professional soccer leagues in the world. I believe the only league that is currently still in season is MLS.

T: Are you back with Southland next season?

D: I have not signed a contract extension for next season with Southland as of right now. This my final season with Southland, and my contract expires October of this year.

T: So, let’s go back a bit in time and talk through your soccer journey. What was your experience with transitioning from college into joining the professional ranks?

D: The one word that comes to mind immediately is humbling. In college, I knew I would be able to compete and hold my own against most, if not all my competition, but as soon as I had my first taste of professional soccer, everything sort of changed. I wasn’t the best, I wasn’t the fastest, I wasn’t the strongest. I literally was just a newbie on trial trying to prove myself to the coaching staff, and coming in for a tryout in a country like Mexico is the toughest thing that I’ve probably had to go through in my career to date. I actually got released by two different clubs in Mexico during their preseason which is what I think woke me up and sparked a fire within me to always be level headed, stay humble, work hard, and have fun.

T: What was the biggest difference? The athleticism, the skill level, the strength?

D: Literally everything you mentioned and more. The athleticism of the players, the skill level, their strength, the pace the game is played at, their IQs, the competitiveness, the love of the game. Honestly, anything you can think of, there is a significant difference here.

T: That’s crazy. I know you’ve played in a lot of different places, on almost every continent actually. Is there a significant difference in play style across the different leagues and world areas?

D: Yes, absolutely 100% and I can speak to it first hand. When I was playing in Canada, it wasn’t too much of an adjustment for me as their style of play is very similar to the one here in America. Brazil, I don’t think I have to go into to much detail on their style of player either, just because everyone knows of the “tiki taka” and “jogo bonito” futbol. That is literally how it was out there, everyone was so technically gifted and so good with the ball on their feet.

Now, Latvia was what you would expect in any European league, I would say. You have those amazingly talented and gifted players, but you also have those nasty rough and ruthless players also (haha). New Zealand was a bit of an adjustment for me as well just because of the physicality. In New Zealand, they played a lot of long balls from their back and depend a lot on their speed, strength, and size to win games.

T: Do you feel like you’ve picked up bits and pieces of those styles as you’ve moved from place to place?

D: Yes definitely, which is something I think will only help and benefit me. I honestly think I can adjust my style of play to fit any system as needed as I’ve done for the past 5-6 years.

T: Speaking of style of play, the American Soccer program, particularly on the men’s side, has taken a lot of heat over the past few years. What are your opinions on the development system and how they can improve to compete at the highest level?

D:  I think the development here in the USA is definitely improving and getting better as it should be. What I think has played a huge role in that is the fact young players are testing themselves and going overseas in the hopes of becoming the next Christian Pulisic, which is something great. Unfortunately, I don’t believe the development here in America will ever be anywhere near the level that it is worldwide because here in America we pride ourselves in football, basketball, and baseball.

Something, I truly believe would help is implementing a promotion and relegation system into the professional league. That would raise the competitiveness, and each game will truly mean something and have importance, as it should. I mean soccer is growing here, and the more successful the team is, the bigger the following will get.

T: Do you think that there’s something they could do with the MLS and the USL? Do you think those leagues are a positive influence on America’s success in soccer?

D: I do believe that’s something they could do with the MLS and USL, if the US Soccer federation really wanted to. As far as a positive influence on America’s success in soccer, it can be seen either way because many players on our national team play in the MLS, but I think more American soccer players have to go challenge themselves against the very best on a daily basis. In doing so, I think that is what will take our team to the next level.

T: It’s a bit of a Catch 22, with a need to grow the game here, but at the same time to exceed at a global level, they need to compete with the best talent.

D: You couldn’t have said it any better. I agree 100%.

T: Going back to the US development and some of your club experience, what are your opinions on committing to one sport at a young age as opposed to playing a variety of sports? Is there an advantage in your mind one way or another, or do you think the best athletes rise to the top?

D: I think it’s important for kids to try all sports. That’s what I did. My parents signed me up for soccer, baseball, basketball, tennis, and anything else you can think of. I do think there is an advantage in committing to one sport, as it allows you to fully focus on it, develop your game, and do what you want and need to be the best you can be.

However, there are spectacular athletes like Kyler Murray, Tim Tebow, and Russell Wilson and many others who can play several sports at the professional level. But I also think that the best athletes rise to the top in anything they do because we as athletes are competitive and love to win.

T: Do you think specific skills in different sports translate and make you a better player? I was listening to the Bill Simmons podcast, and he mentioned how Abby Wambach said her rebounding skills from basketball really translated to her header game.

D: Absolutely, it makes complete sense. When my parents and I knew soccer was the sport that I was most drawn towards, they stopped signing me up to anything else. And that was at a very young age, like 6 years, so I can’t answer that question personally for myself. I have read interview with players like Steve Nash, who credits soccer for the great court vision that he had. Kobe Bryant said growing up playing and watching soccer allowed him to see the game unfold 3 to 4 steps ahead of time. And then players like the Gasol Brothers, Joel Embiid, and many others who credit their great footwork as bigs in basketball to soccer.

T: Yeah, that’s where I land on the issue as well. Ok, last question, I was just in the San Diego area on vacation, and I was told the best tacos were the El Pastor at Tacos El Gordo in Chula Vista. What truly is the best taco in Southern California?

D: That’s so funny, I am from Chula Vista. Tacos El Gordo are delicious, and you can’t go wrong eating there, but my go-to is and always will be Lolitas. You must try it next time you come down to San Diego, and order a California burrito or some Carne Asada fries. You’ll thank me later.