It’s been a big couple of weeks for New York City FC’s Keaton Parks. The young midfielder scored his first MLS goal against San Jose before heading back to his hometown of Frisco, Texas to take on FC Dallas.
The matchup is close to home for Parks because although he never played for their academy, he grew up around the club.
“It was like two or three years that my parents had season tickets so we would make it out to games. I actually got to walk out for the anthem before the game with Clarence Goodson,” Parks told reporters. “I mean I went to a lot of games and then even for high school soccer we played some of our games in that stadium. I know the stadium really well and I know the area so it’s going to be cool to play professionally back there.”
His homecoming will be one for the books because of the support that he will have in the stands.
“I’m super excited. My immediate family’s going to be there of course and then I have a lot of cousins, aunts, and uncles that live in the Dallas area that will be out at the game,” he said.
“I have all my high school friends and my old coach and his teams, just everybody, everybody’s coming out to see me so it’s going to be awesome.”
Parks’ entire support system has been influential in his life and his career, but there’s one face that stands out the most. His coach of ten years, Armando Pelaez, who helped shape him as a player and a person.
He began playing for Pelaez at the age of eight and stuck with him ever since, where his coach went Keaton followed.
“Since I was a little kid he knew that I wanted to play and he pushed me extra hard since I was really little. He used to play professionally so I knew he had the connections and he told me if you really want this and you work for this he’ll get me there,” he remarked.
“I stuck with it and he’s still a big part of my life right now.”
Many of the tactics that Pelaez instilled in him at a young age stick with him into his life as a professional soccer player.
“To play with confidence and to play with freedom. He was never very strict on our teams and he always wanted us to experiment and try stuff out,” he told NYCFC.com.
“Try dribbling, try to make that hard pass, so he gave us a lot of freedom when we played and it helped us a lot. He would always get on to us too. On the ball, he gave us a lot of freedom and I think that’s important in growth and to try new things to find out what works.”
Parks’ playing style has always been described as calm, cool, and collected, which now we know comes from the confidence that was embedded in him at such a young age.
“Growing up we always played in small spaces and I learned really well how to do one touch, two touch, keep the ball and be confident in tight spaces. In our box and in the defensive box it’s a little more nerve-racking because you’ve got to get rid of the ball quicker, but I feel like I’m pretty calm on the ball and pretty confident when I’m aware of who’s around me,” he said.
“I think I help a lot. All of the players have confidence… I think I do help bring a calmness to the team and sometimes I’m maybe too calm so I get yelled at by Ringy. But I think it helps a lot to have a guy in the middle who is calm and confident on the ball. It helps calm everybody down and keep the ball and play with confidence.”
Although Keaton will be back in his hometown, he’ll be coming in as an opponent of the home team, which doesn’t seem to phase him.
“I’m not going to switch it up or play any different just because I’m back home,” he said.
Expect to see him in his usual form - calm and ready to help his team in every way possible.
As NYCFC hits the road, the Boys in Blue look to extend their unbeaten streak to eight games and remain atop of the East. If you can’t make the trip, tune in to UniMás to support your Boys in Blue.