FRISCO—North Texas SC starting goalkeeper Carlos Avilez has made a more than promising start to his professional career in USL League One. The 20-year-old is currently tied for third in the league with four shutouts from eight appearances and has made a myriad of acrobatic and timely saves to earn his team crucial points. While his fledgling could hardly be going smoother, Avilez has undergone numerous setbacks and obstacles to reach this point.
At 15-years-old, Avilez suffered a serious injury while playing for the U.S. National Youth setup.
"I know I came out for a ball and some guy just cleated me right here, it was crazy,” Avilez remembered, motioning to his forearm. “I couldn't move it after that, I had fractured my left arm. It was something bad and I had to get a surgery from it, and I had to stop playing for about a year-and-a-half.”
Being forced to sit on the sidelines for 18-months through injury is a devastating blow to any athlete, especially one so young. Not only was Avilez unable to compete in the sport he loved, he also missed out on crucial development years. Indeed, Avilez has yet to receive a call up from the U.S. National team since his injury. While it would be easy for a player at that age to be discouraged by the setback, Avilez—as he always does—used it as a source of motivation.
“I knew for a fact that I had to come out even stronger knowing that this happened, this isn’t going to bring me down,” Avilez said. “This is actually going to do the opposite, this is going to bring me up. My mind was positive, my mind was to come back stronger and knowing that I could do better."
Instead of focusing on what he couldn’t control, Avilez focused on what he could. A former outfield player before moving to goalkeeper, Avilez chose to continue to develop his footwork and distribution—important attributes of a modern goalkeeper. Now, Avilez considers his technical ability and passing to be among his best traits, a sentiment echoed by FC Dallas head coach Luchi Gonzalez who assessed Avilez’s distribution as “as good as anybody else in the league”.
But Avilez’s childhood injury wasn’t his only obstacle. At the age of 18, Avilez was loaned from FC Dallas’ Academy to second division side OKC Energy FC to gain valuable professional minutes. But the minutes never came. During his seven months in Oklahoma, Avilez failed to make a single appearance for the team.
"Honestly, I don't have another word to say, but it sucked,” said Avilez on his time with OKC. “It sucked not being able to have some game rhythm for, I guess you could say, a year. It felt pretty bad from my perspective because I wasn't able to do anything but to just train and train and keep working hard for it."
Unable to gain the experience he needed with OKC Energy, Avilez waited and continued to strive every day. Finally, Avilez was given a ray of hope as FC Dallas announced the creation of its new USL League One affiliate, North Texas SC, at the end of 2018. The new club would serve as a bedding ground for FC Dallas’ most promising young players to help them adapt to professional soccer.
But again, Avilez faced another hurdle. Having started all North Texas’ preseason games, Avilez was benched for the club’s season-opener as FC Dallas’ backup goalkeeper, Jimmy Maurer, was in need of game time too. However, the ever-unfazed Avilez kept his head up.
"Obviously, it hurt for a bit, but after that you just have to give credit to Jimmy,” Avilez said. “He's been working too just like I have but I have to keep a positive mentality because at the end of the day, it's a team thing, it's a team effort. It's not just thinking about yourself; you also have to think about the team. My mindset was positive at all times. I had to help him for whatever reason. Anything could happen during the game, so you just have to be ready for it."
Avilez’s debut came just two weeks later in the club’s second match, earning a shutout in a 1-0 win. He went on to register three straight shutouts in his first three games as a professional and established himself firmly as one of the top ‘keepers in League One.
Avilez’s early career success is richly deserved, especially considering the mental and physical obstacles he’s already overcome. However, professional success and personal glory are not his main motivators.
"Honestly, I don't have a better answer to that, than to say my family,” said Avilez on how he continues to persevere. “Every time I wake up, I know I'm doing something that I love, something that a lot of people in this world would love to do. I'm lucky, I'm excited, I'm very happy and motivated to do this every day and always do it for my family. That's always going to be my motivation."