Exclusive Interview with Mike Palacio
Mike Palacio is a young player from Long Beach who has experienced a lot already in his career. From playing in MLS with the New York Red Bulls to playing in Serbia with Radnički Obrenovac, suffering through injuries that led to him playing for local amateur sides, and then back in pro soccer in the NASL. Still only 26 years old and entering what are generally considered to be the prime years for a pro soccer player, Mike is a terrific example of what can be accomplished if you are dedicated and persevere with anything you choose to do. He’s had a lot of success the last couple of seasons in the NASL and hopefully we get to see more from Mike Palacio over the next several years.
SLI: What have been some of the best things about playing soccer on Long Island throughout your life?
MP: The best part about playing on LI was definitely just making friends throughout Long Island and NY and continuing those relationships today. I have met so many great people, coaches, and players throughout my time here.
SLI: What were some of the things that you got out of the time you spent playing college ball at Stony Brook?
MP: Playing at Stony Brook was a tremendous experience. I had great coaches and great players to play with for 4 years. In college, I learned about making the transition from being a kid on the field to being a man. Fortunately, I had a great team of coaches and teammates that helped me get there. While I do credit with Stony Brook with many things the biggest by far was that the (soccer) staff there helped me mature on and off the field.
SLI: Tell us about the time that you spent with the Red Bulls and in Serbia, the best parts and the toughest moments of those experiences.
MP: When I got drafted by the Red Bulls from a small D1 school, I just thought from then on out anything was possible and there were no limits. When I got to preseason I had to adjust to the pro level. I was good enough technically, but physically and mentally I was not on that level. Luckily, Juan Carlos Osorio, the coach at the time, took a chance on me.
As time went on I started playing well and was playing the best football of my life until I had a major setback. In May I tore my ACL. By far the worst experience in my career not so much because of the injury, but the timing of it. I had just started to break into the first team. Too make matters worse 3 months after surgery I had appendicitis, which just made my recovery a 1 year thing. It was still all worth it because we made it to the MLS championship and it was a great experience. I still have best friends from that team. I also credit the Long Island Rough Riders with helping me in my recovery and getting me fit to go to Europe.
When I got to Serbia I didn't know what to expect. Life was different and football was everything. I had a very good team and played with some big time players there. I fit in very well there because they relied on technical ability rather than physical ability, which is the opposite of the American game. We also won a promotion I was playing there.
The biggest thing I learned about playing in Europe was that football really was a matter of life and death. So many times I remembered playing back home as a kid and how easy and stress free it was and how playing in Europe soccer was a business not a sport. That's why I don't think anyone knows soccer until they witness it like that. I also played since college with forward Chris Megaloudis who played on every team I was on, which made it easier for me to adjust.
SLI: What other pro teams have you played or trained with, tried out for, etc.?
MP: Ever since Serbia I played with the Pancrypian Freedoms of the NY amateur league and realized that I still think I should be playing pro somewhere. In the 2011 season, I played for the NASL club Fort Lauderdale Strikers which was amazing. We had a successful run to the championship and I led the team in assists. This season I’m playing with the Carolina Railhawks and as we speak, I'm currently in Tampa Bay for the 2nd leg of the Semi-final series. I had a very good season here scoring 4 goals and 7 assists and hopefully we make it to the championships. I'm also very excited to see the Cosmos come into our league next season. I definitely want to be playing soccer as long as I can until my body can't go anymore. I feel it's a blessing to get paid to do what you love. A big moment for me this season was scoring 2 goals against my former club as well as scoring against MLS side Chivas USA in the U.S. Open Cup.
SLI: What areas do you think could be improved to make soccer better on Long Island?
MP: I think that soccer is far from being great here but I think it's on its way. The problem for me is that there is no pro team in the LI area or city and NY desperately needs that for the sport to grow. One thing that stands out for me that has been helping the careers of young players in which I never had is the establishment of academy soccer. Academy soccer has done a lot of great things. It separates the serious players from the recreational. The academy will lead to more college scholarships and professional contracts. Not to say recreational soccer is bad. It's great, but with the academy everyone is on the same page with wanting to get a scholarship or a professional contract.
SLI: What advice would you give to a young person on Long Island who is interested in playing the game and wants to become a better player?
MP: I would say to keep working hard and to utilize everything around you such as getting a trainer for strength and conditioning or a nutritionist because soccer is a game of inches and all of this makes the difference as well as mental toughness. The best and biggest thing in soccer for me was establishing great relationships with people throughout my career.
Follow Mike on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Palaciomike