BRADENTON, Fla. – As he carefully contemplated the next step in his burgeoning professional career, Gabriel Somi had plenty of options.
Some of the top clubs in Sweden and suitors abroad in Scotland feverishly chased the 26-year-old left back’s signature, but it was the New England Revolution who won the race to sign Somi, inking the Syrian international to a deal in early January.
A strong desire “to try something different” prompted Somi to consider Major League Soccer – particularly after spending the first nine years of his pro career in Sweden – but it was a conversation with head coach Brad Friedel that truly convinced the defender that a move to Foxborough was the right decision.
“When Brad called me, it was a huge adventure, and I just wanted to take the opportunity to come here,” said Somi, who joined New England’s preseason camp in Bradenton, Fla., on Saturday night. “I’m an attack-minded left back and when he spoke about his vision and his type of play, it sounded really good and I wanted to be a part of it.”
Somi is expected to compete with 11-year veteran Chris Tierney for the bulk of minutes at left back, and he’ll spend the next five weeks building his fitness and forming relationships with his teammates as the Revs prepare for their season opener on March 3 in Philadelphia.
It’s a period that will serve as a critical building block for Somi throughout 2018.
“You have to [raise] your fit level and start to know your teammates,” Somi said of preseason. “It’s going to be an intense period.”
Having not trained with a club for the past two months, Somi admits that his fitness is “not 100 percent right now,” and he said Wednesday morning’s preseason opener against the New York Red Bulls is probably “a little bit too soon” for him to feature in a match.
But it won’t take long for Somi to catch up with his teammates – he’s been working in the gym in an effort to stay as sharp as possible – and in the meantime, he’s simply thrilled to let all of the anticipation fall away and finally begin his new adventure with the New England Revolution.
“I am really happy to be here,” said Somi, who received his U.S. P-1 Visa last week. “It’s been a long process. Finally, I’m here, and I’m really excited.
“It’s a lot of stuff to see and to learn. I’m just excited about everything.”