Striking Gold — and Black

Adrien Perez ’16 is among the most accomplished men’s soccer players in LMU history, ranking third all-time in points and fourth in goals, even while missing much of his junior season due to injury. Now, Perez is winding down his first regular season as a forward for the powerhouse MLS squad, Los Angeles Football Club. The L.A. native sat down for a chat with LMU Magazine this past week at the LAFC Performance Center training grounds and operations center. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity. Perez was interviewed by Jeremy Rosenberg, a frequent contributor.

Earlier this month, in Orlando, you earned your first MLS start and scored your first goal. What was that like?
I knew I had to be ready for the opportunity, and as soon as it came, I felt like I was going to get my goal. It was everything I wanted it to be — except we didn’t get the win. That was the only bad thing. [LAFC tied Orlando, 2-2.]

Your celebration was pretty subdued. You pointed upward, but otherwise didn’t make a big deal out of scoring.
I just gave an all glory to God. Of course, I thank my family and everyone who helped me make this moment happen.

Was it also because in practice you score all the time, so it’s not such a big deal?
It was a big deal. But I don’t just want one. I want to push for the stars. I want to keep going. I want 100. That’s my goal. That’s somewhere where I will be really impressed with myself.

This season, you’ve had talented players ahead of you on the depth chart: Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi, Brian Rodríguez, Adama Diomande, Fito Zelaya. What has that been like?
They’re all very talented players. I’m learning from each of them. Of course Vela because he plays my position. It’s a good feeling, to have mentors like that.

What’s one specific thing you’ve learned from Vela?
From Carlos, I’ll say his calmness on the ball, and being able to make something happen.

The LAFC system seems like fun to play in, especially for attacking players like yourself. It seems creative and positive.
You’re 100 percent right. Our attack is about having your own ideas and making your own plays. That’s what the coaches emphasize. It’s not always a playbook. You have your own ideas, you go for it.

You were a star at Ontario High School, a star at LMU, a star with the Ontario Fury indoor team. How did it feel coming to LAFC and not being in the starting 11 or sometimes on the 18-person match roster?
It was for sure a challenge. I’d never been a bench player. Never. I just knew that I had to work harder. I had to learn from everyone. And I knew I was going to get my opportunity, and I need to make the most of it.

When did you know you belonged?
The first minute I got here, I knew I needed to be on this team. It’s where I wanted to be, especially because I’m home. I grew up in L.A., so it was very special to me.

I read that your parents didn’t go to college. Were you the first in your family?
I was.

Are your parents more proud of you for going to LMU or for making LAFC?
My dream was to become a professional soccer player. My mom has given everything she has. She would take me to practice, take me to all the games. That was a bigger accomplishment. But, of course, going to college was something my mom wanted me to do and follow through on. It was important to them because they didn’t get the college experience.

What’s something you gained from LMU that stays with you?
The school is small, so you have to be active in your classes. You’ve got to learn how to talk. I kind of like sitting back, so that really pushed me to be a little bit more talkative. I think it helped me not just in soccer, but in the outside world, to communicate with people.