Have you ever wondered what players get up to in the offseason? Much like the mysticality of seeing teachers outside of a classroom, it can be intriguing to learn that yes, professional sports players do indeed leave the pitch and training grounds every now and then. So what do the Loons do outside of the sporting world? To get to the bottom of this wild mystery, we sent a team to preseason training and talked to some of the guys.
Our captain, Wil Trapp, had one heck of an offseason that kicked off with a wedding. “My brother got married so we had his bachelor party in Mexico City, which was incredible,” said Trapp. “It’s a place with just so much culture, so many new experiences and for me, it was amazing to test my Spanish level but also eat great food and enjoy a great time.”
Wil also revealed that his family celebrates what, in this writer’s opinion, might just be the greatest wedding tradition of all time: “My aunt was a music teacher, so she takes a song and repurposes all the lyrics, and then we sing and perform after the speeches,” said Trapp. “So I have live video of me finishing my best man speech and immediately launching into a solo, singing for four bars, and then all my cousins coming out. We had this whole thing rehearsed so that was really fun and something to look forward to and then be really relieved when it was finished.”
As for the holidays, the Trapps took part in a big way, deep-frying a 20-lb turkey and really giving Christmas their all. “Our three-year-old finally understands what Christmas is and the magic of it, so we had so much fun. I think Christmas was like five days straight of just excitement and ‘Santa’s coming’ and then the runner's high after that of just how fun that was.”
Who likes pickleball? DJ likes pickleball! This offseason, Taylor was keeping his hand-eye coordination as sharp as his foot-eye-coordination with the game that is sweeping the nation. “I was actually playing pickleball a lot,” said DJ. “It’s a big thing going everywhere, so yeah, I was playing pickleball with family friends and stuff like that, so that was a lot of fun.”
Apart from sports that are insanely fun, Taylor completed a huge milestone in his life. “I had a busy offseason this year because as soon as I got back I proposed to my wife, we got engaged, so that was the first big surprise and after that, we got married on December 30th.”
Though blissfully busy with big life strides, DJ still took some time to stop by his hometown, Raleigh, North Carolina to see his 11-year-old brother and the soccer facility he used to coach at. “I spent it back home in Raleigh, North Carolina with all my family,” said Taylor. “I always like to go back and spend a lot of time with the family. I got my little brother, he’s 11 years old, so it’s always great to see him. I used to coach when I played USL in North Carolina so I visited the facility probably like three times throughout the week just so I could see the kids I used to coach and play some soccer with them, so it’s always a great time to be home.”
Finally, Taylor rounded off his break with a trip to Miami to relax before getting back into the season. “We had a short trip to Miami right before I came back to make sure I get my color in a little bit before I lose it all in Minnesota, but we’re planning on doing a bigger honeymoon this offseason maybe to Europe or something or Jamaica so got a lot of planning to do.”
Michael Boxall stuck around the Twin Cities for a little longer than most, due to his daughter still being in school, but he made the trip over to New Zealand in December. “I spent November here because my little girl was still in school,” said Boxall. “We took off just after thanksgiving for New Zealand for pretty much all of December, so I got to spend time with my parents and my wife’s parents, and getting away from the cold for a bit was nice.”
While in the land of the Kiwis, Boxy soaked up as much sun as possible and spent all of his time with his family. “It was a good chance to get the free babysitters in to watch the kids, and Christmas with the family is always important, and just yeah…get to the beach as much as possible before coming back here and getting a few rounds of golf in while we can.”
Luis Amarilla spent a lot of time in Paraguay for his offseason. “I was with my family,” said Amarilla. “I spent time with them, my son, my parents. We took the necessary break. We also went to Mexico for a little while. It was my honeymoon with my wife and afterward, we went back to Paraguay, nowhere else, just Paraguay.”
Instead of any holiday traditions or big vacations, Amarilla took his time to almost solely be with his family. “I shared time with the family, just like that, like activities,” said Amarilla. “Having time with my little son, my baby and just being with them.”
Clint Irwin kicked off his wild ride of an offseason with a vacation in Mexico. “My wife and I went to Mexico. It was the first vacation that my wife and I had taken without our son so it was just kind of us and pretty laid back,” said Irwin. “Didn’t really have to do anything, could just sit there, read a book, and watch the waves come in, yeah it was nice.”
For thanksgiving, Clint went to Arizona and got some exciting news. “We spent some time in Arizona with family for thanksgiving and then around that time is when I signed for Minnesota,” said Clint. “From that point on we were just figuring out the logistics of getting here and finding a place.”
Quite possibly the craziest thing about his offseason, at least to us Minnesotans, is Irwin’s move to Minneapolis…in the middle of winter. “I was basically coming behind a storm the whole time so it wasn't snowing but it was pretty icy,” said Clint. “It looked like winter Mad Max on the road, just cars spun out everywhere. It was a little sketchy but no one else was out there so it was hard to run into things.”
Kervin Arriaga spent his days off with friends and family. “I tried to enjoy [the offseason] as much as I could,” said Arriaga. “I think that in this sport, you learn to value your family more when you’re away from them. So you learn when you’re close to them, you enjoy every moment with them.”
Arriaga greatly enjoyed getting back to his roots and doing activities from childhood. “It was fun to return home to recall things of my infancy, of my childhood,” said Arriaga. “Seeing my friends, and playing games with them that we used to when we were kids, so I think that was the most fun.”
Of course, Kervin also watched a lot of the World Cup. “There were various amazing moments but I’m staying with the final,” said Arriaga. “I was supporting Argentina. When the game was 2-0, when France made it 2-1, I think that was the most beautiful moment. A very beautiful game where one as a player can pull out important things to learn.”
Joseph Rosales made his way home to Tegucigalpa, Honduras for his offseason break. “I was in Honduras, Tegucigalpa with my family and then went to visit my grandpa,” said Rosales.
In between spending time with family and supporting Argentina in the World Cup, Joseph hung out with friends and continued playing soccer. “Something fun is being with my friends, playing soccer, and hanging out,” said Rosales. Overall, a relaxing time away, but a nice reset for our Loons midfielder.
Zarek Valentin had a full offseason, and coming from Houston FC, the new Loon got an earlier start as well. “It was long, I was telling them I hated it because we didn’t make the playoffs and that is every player's goal — to first and foremost make the playoffs and then challenge for a championship,” said Valentin. “Ultimately you start your work a little early and try to prep yourself for the next season.”
Valentin jetted around a lot during his time off. “Lots of trips,” said Valentin, “I went back to Portland for a wedding, got to see my family for a little bit, and went to visit my wife’s family in Canada, so a little bit of traveling but ultimately trying to set my mind and get settled here in Minneapolis.”
Above all else, Zarek is excited to get started in the Twin Cities. “The Twin Cities are beautiful, a much different landscape than Houston, but it’s great,” said Valentin. “It’s an outdoorsy culture, which is awesome and lake life is something I'm looking forward to. I’m just trying to get as ready as possible. The fanbase here is one of the best ones in the entire league and I'm excited to get out there and help the team win. I've come here and pretty much lost every single game I've played in Allianz Field so I'm excited to be on the hopefully winning side.”
Ryen Jiba spent the bulk of his offseason a little west of here – at his home in Utah. “For my offseason, I was back in Utah, my hometown where I was raised,” said Jiba. “It was really nice out there, it snows out there but not as bad as here in Minnesota.”
As far as activities go, Ryen is outdoorsy, and uses his time to explore nature. “I love skiing and I actually love going on hikes as well because we’ve got beautiful mountains,” said Jiba.
Ryen also had a lot of family time, especially around Christmas. “For every Christmas, me, my family, my cousins, we all gather up together, go to the church, and pray,” said Jiba. “We all make our own foods and bring it all together and have a whole meal, it's really great.”
Dunbar comes from sunshiney Los Angeles, so his winter months are a bit inconceivable for us here in the ice-cold North. “No holiday traditions, but I know this is unfathomable for people in Minnesota, but on Christmas Day we were in the pool at my house, we were swimming because it was about 75-80 degrees,” said Dunbar.
Cameron took a quick jaunt to Washington D.C. for thanksgiving but spent most of his time with his brothers in L.A. “I went and visited some family in D.C. for Thanksgiving, but for the most part, I was just in LA enjoying the sun,” said Dunbar. “I would go for bike rides on the beach, my brothers, we would go to the beach and go for bike rides or get some lunch.”
Many of our Loons took their time off and made the most of it. It is clear that the Boys in Black and Blue greatly value their friends and family, and just like the rest of us, do what they can to create great memories with those they love. Looking ahead, we can be sure that the guys will put that passion into their work rate and start this 2023 season off strong. Here’s to hoping the new year is just as full as the offseason.