Family and soccer. You can drop a pin just about anywhere across the globe and these two things are often the driving forces in everyday life. It's no different for Mexican-born Rapids midfielder Ricardo 'Richi' Perez, and those closest to him.
Perez was born in Ciudad Juarez on May 30, 1995. Shortly after birth, his family moved to Guadalajara where they resided until his father’s job brought them to Colorado in 2003.
“Mexico is very similar to the States,” Perez said. “Everything there revolves around family and friends. We look for any excuse to get the family together - enjoy food, music and a good time.”
It's no different now that Perez, 22, makes a living playing professional soccer player.
"On Sunday we have carne asada – a big steak dinner,” Perez shared. “We have guacamole, tacos, everything you can think of. My parents get the meat at the local market, prep it and we do the whole thing.”
Every time a family relocates, whether down the road or to another country, there are challenges to face. After 14 years, Richi can look back on those his family faced.
“My mom (Veronica Carrillo) did not know any English when she first came to Colorado,” Perez said. “It’s extremely tough to move to a foreign country when you’re older and try to adopt a brand-new language. However, she does not give up on anything and worked extremely hard to become fluent.”
Richi still makes the commute back and forth from Commerce City to Fort Collins. He talks soccer with his dad, Roberto, who works for Hewlett-Packard and doesn't miss many home-cooked meals prepared by his mom, who works as a middle school teacher.
“Mexicans are known to work hard for everything in life,” Perez said. “Every head of the household lives so they can support their family, and give them what is best in life. I’m very proud of that.”
Like so many countries around the world, the favorite pastime and true love south of the border is soccer.
“Everybody’s schedule revolves around it. Some people might struggle to make ends meet, but they’ll still purchase tickets to the matches because they love it so much.”
Soccer among the youth is the common denominator, an invisible bond. The game is at the core of the culture, and when the Mexican National Team is playing it brings the country together.
“It’s the one thing everyone can look forward to and enjoy with their family, kids and friends,” Perez said. “You see little kids playing on the street, not even with soccer balls, but with anything they can find. At that age, kids are already thinking ‘that’s the one thing I want to be, do, watch, play.’ It’s embedded in the root of our culture.”
It wasn’t that long ago that Perez was that kid playing in the streets, dreaming of becoming the next soccer star. He credits growing up in Mexico and following in the footsteps of his older brother Roberto, Rapids Academy alumni and former goalkeeper for Altamira FC, for igniting his passion for ‘the beautiful game.’
“My first memory of playing soccer was with my older brother and dad just kicking the ball around,” Perez said. “Even when we came to the States, all I wanted to do was watch soccer on TV and go outside to play. I definitely got that from Mexico.”
Perez, with the support of his parents, joined the Rapids Academy in 2008 at the U-14 level to further develop his skills.
“When I was playing for the Academy, I would come to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park to watch the Rapids play. Having that exposure to train on the same fields as the first team, and seeing the stadium right there every day – that’s when it caught my eye and my dreams of going pro began to develop.”
Perez accepted an offer to play soccer and get an education at Creighton University, a soccer powerhouse located in Nebraska. After four years at Creighton, the 2016 BIG EAST Midfielder of the Year’s dreams came to fruition when he signed his Homegrown contract with the Colorado Rapids on January 6, 2017.
Now wrapping up his rookie season with the first team, one thing is for sure - Perez will never forget his roots. He will continue to don his Chivas Rayadas jersey to cheer on his hometown club, C.D. Guadalajara every chance he gets. "If you can go and experience the atmosphere and the people and the passion that goes around the game – I’d say you have to experience that."