The Legacy Continues: Leroy DeLeon shares his thoughts about his son and daughter representing T&T.
DC United winger Nicholas Lee DeLeon has finally made up his mind about which direction his international career will be heading. That destination is in the twin island republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
While not taking away the spotlight from Nick, one cannot help but to highlight some of his father's achievements in the game and how today his country still stands a good chance to benefit from his bloodline.
Leroy, also known by his international teammates as Dilly did not want to play football as a career, but instead he wanted to be either a policeman or a fireman. However, destiny would have its say as Leroy just couldn't deny the fact that he had a God given talent that just wouldn't go away. The talented midfielder was just too good at the sport and was basically left with no choice, but to take the path of making football his career.
The Trinidad and Tobago Sports Hall of Famer is known for his impeccable dribbling skills which he dominated school football with back in the 60's; and led his school St Benedict's College to four consecutive South Zone Inter-Col titles and as a result he forced his way into the T&T national senior team at a tender age.
The rise of a football icon.
The former Point Fortin Intermediate R.C. and St Benedict's College player made his T&T debut at 16 and rose to instant stardom. Shortly after making his T&T debut he was scouted and snapped up by New York Generals where he officially kicked off his professional career.
Leroy taste for professional football didn't go as well as he would have liked though and his time with the NY Generals was cut short. This was mainly due to the coach favouring other players on the team. He did however make use of the little chances he got for them, including scoring a hat-trick for the club from midfield. Nothing he did was good enough to please his English coach though, and so he felt it was time to move on.
Leroy returned home and picked up where he left off. He was in his prime and playing some attractive football for his country, won a few MVP' and man of the match awards, and was steadily enhancing his chances of becoming a full-time T&T international, which he eventually did.
Dilly did so well that he caught the eyes of some top teams in Europe including English outfits Brighton & Hove Albion and Bristol City, as well as Dutch giants, Ajax. He was offered contracts, but refused them mainly because of the style of football in England and the frigid weather in Holland.
In the end, he decided to give playing in the U.S. another shot, so he return to the North American Soccer League (NASL) and signed for Washington Darts where fellow Trinidadian national goalkeeper Lincoln Phillips was a player/coach for the semi-pro outfit. Phillips presence obviously made things comfortable for DeLeon and it showed as he had a breakthrough season for the Darts, averaging a goal per-game.
The Egypt Village born midfielder had the privilege and distinct honour of playing against the likes of Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, Bobby Moore and Johann Cruyff to name a few. Each of these players was amongst the world’s best at the time.
Shortly after, Phillips left to coach Howard University and DeLeon followed suit and headed South to Miami Gatos. He then had further success with Washington Diplomats and the San Jose Earthquakes, before signing off with Phoenix Inferno, an indoor soccer team based out of Phoenix.
While playing with Phoenix Inferno the T&T superstar met up with his son Nick's mother Kristy (who also played soccer) and the rest as we know it was history. The pair fell in love and got married. After his playing career on the field ended, Leroy decided to stay in Arizona and peruse a coaching career at West Valley United Soccer Club, which he did successfully as head trainer and director of coaches.
Football in their genes.
Now, can you imagine what the offspring will be of a football great and his soccer-playing wife? The outcome can only lead to one thing, and that's kids with rich soccer genes. Enter Nick and Jessica DeLeon…
Nick, the older siblings led the way on the professional circuit, but it was his sister Jessica who was the first to follow in her father's footsteps and represented her adopted country, Trinidad and Tobago on the international stage.
Jessica, had been a proud member of T&T Women U-17 youth team and played under top coach Randy Waldrum in 2008. Despite her shyness and small petite size at the time, Jessica had a memorable debut for T&T. According to reports, Jessica dominated the midfield and even scored a double against El Salvador at the Marvin Lee Stadium.
Jessica is also no stranger to some of today's stars and rubbed shoulders with players such as Karyn Forbes, Saundra Baron, Afiyah Matthews, Mariah Shade, Arin King and Rhea Belgrave.
The talented midfielder is rumoured to make a return to T&T and this time if all goes according to plan we could very well see two DeLeon's representing the red, white and black on both men and women's team.
If Jessica doesn't get the call, history will still be made as this could be the first time a father, son and daughter represented Trinidad and Tobago in football and possibly any other sport.
On that note, there are two other father and daughter combinations to have played for T&T and they would be Ivan and Jasmine Sampson, and Mark and Amaya Ellis. Jasmine however, is the only one of the pair to have played for a T&T senior team, Mark and Amaya only made youth appearances.
Leroy pitches his 2 cents
Speaking to Soca Warriors Online (SWO), Leroy didn't want to get too in depth, but offered some advice for his son, “I don't know what position the coach will use him, but I believe that Nick can bring value and depth to this T&T team. My advice to Nick is not to come into the team trying to be perfect, but to play the football that he knows how to play and be comfortable.”
“Coach Hart is doing a great job and to an extent he has been given the chance to do his job to his likeness and I am seeing improvement as a team and in the players. He seems to have a good relationship with players so I know Nick will grow under him.”
“My daughter Jessica is also interested in playing for Trinidad and Tobago again, but wants to graduate first.”
SWO reached out to TTFA president David John-Williams regarding Nick DeLeon and he seems at first willing to assist him in obtaining the necessary documents to represent T&T despite never acknowledging my follow-up.
“I am thankful for that,” said Leroy. “I am happy to hear this, I don't know much about David, but from what he has done with W Connection I am sure he can bring something to Trinidad and Tobago football and with his connections and contacts, yes, at this time he might be the right person for the job, but time will tell.”
“As for local coaches and players, I don't wish to call names, but there are coaches that should be more involved in local football and should be encouraged. Local players also need to be consistent because there isn’t any local player who is constantly playing well at each game. They vary from game to game and this is the lack of proper infrastructure.”
“We can improve the Pro League, but it has to go back to the communities. Manchester United and Liverpool just to name a few, they belong to communities and because of this they benefit greatly. The T&T government and corporations must come together and help to get the football back into the communities, and give the league funds to assist and established proper venues,” ended Leroy.
Praise for Nick
Nick meanwhile, was a stand out for the University of Louisville. He had a very successful first season with the Cardinals, starting all 24 games and scoring 8 goals and 3 assists, and was named to the All-Big East first team and went on to win the 2010 Big East Soccer Tournament and advanced to the final of the 2010 College Cup, where they fell 1–0 to the Akron Zips.
In his senior year Nick also started every game for the Cardinals, scoring 6 goals and 6 assists, and was again named to the All-Big East first team. His two goals in the first two games helped them to the quarterfinals of the 2011 College Cup and saw him named to the Cup's All-Tournament team.
He was invited to the 2012 MLS Combine based on his strong collegiate performances, was snapped up by DC United and never looked back. Nick did so well in his first season with the Club that he was voted runner-up for the 2012 MLS Rookie of the Year award, losing out to Austin Berry of the Chicago Fire.
If you are a DC United fan you will never forget the ferocious long range goal scored by Nick against Real Salt Lake on August 2015 and his winning goal in his rookie year that knocked the New York Red Bulls out of the playoffs to take his team to the Eastern Conference finals.
The technical director at DC United, Dave Kasper gave his impressions of Nick. “Nick is a very, very talented player … Great 1-v-1 … Works extremely hard on both sides of the field. He’s very smart, takes good spots inside the box. Very good athlete, great work rate … Very good vision, can create his own shots and make final passes as well.”
“He does a lot of the simple things correct in terms of taking balls on and dishing them off, running in behind. He’s only going to get better… He’s got an ability to score and set them up. He’s got a pretty complete package… He has some speed and size and he’s very opportunistic. He knows where to go… He anticipates and sees things before they happen,” added Kasper.
Nick has already played over 100 games for DC United and is a fully seasoned professional who wants to enhance his football resume by representing Trinidad and Tobago.
Speaking of which, Nick had twice declined invitations to represent T&T. In 2012 he was invited to join the Junior Soca Warriors in their quest to qualify for the 2012 Summer Olympic games and though he showed up to see the team train at a Los Angeles camp at the Home Depot Training Centre, he chose to support them from the stands.
A year later, T&T came knocking on his door again and offered him with a more tantalizing deal with a senior men’s team call up for a friendly against Peru in 2013, but once again Nick declined. In spite of this, Nick did make it clear that he did not eliminate the possibility of representing T&T in the future and was honoured by the invitation.
Nick has matured since that time and has been busy on and off the field as he tied the knot on December 14, 2013 to his long time girlfriend Jordan. Regarding football, the talented winger, still only 25 has been exploring his options and has finally made up his mind on wearing the red, black and white.
1. Nick, on behalf of the Soca Warriors Online (SWO) I would like to say welcome, and we the fans are very happy that you have expressed your desire to play for T&T. So, why the change of heart?
ND: Thanks Flex, appreciate it. Believe it or not, T&T has always been on my mind. That is where my father is from, it would be very special to play for them like he did.
2. Obviously, you have followed T&T’s progress. What is your personal opinion of the Team? Also, did you catch the T&T vs USA game recently, what are your thoughts if you did?
ND: My thoughts on the team are, they play a brand of football that is very intriguing. I can tell they like to play in tight spaces, meaning technical football . Very athletic and very prideful. Also, I did not catch that USA/T&T game, so I cannot really comment on it. But T&T has been playing some really attractive football, the coach seems to be really putting in some hard work as well.
3. What do you feel you can bring to the team that’s different and tell us a little about your game and what position you like to play the most?
ND: In my humble opinion. I'm an intelligent/technically gifted football player. My favorite position is playing in the middle, I love to dictate the rhythm and tempo of the game. I also like to attack, get forward and create goals or assists. I am a team player.
4. What are some of your proudest moments and biggest accomplishments?
ND: Some of my proudest moments are winning the Open Cup with DC United and getting drafted in 2012 to play professional soccer. Scoring my first playoff goal in 2012 against our biggest rival (NY Red Bulls) to win 1-0 in the 89th minute was also special. Those are some of my proudest moments. I would also like to add T&T to my proudest moments list, hopefully, very soon, I can't wait.
5. Did you know your father (Leroy) was voted the greatest Secondary School Football League (SSFL) player in its 50 year existence. The SSFL happens to be a school league which is also one of the biggest leagues in T&T. Do you feel you too can be a T&T great one day or do you feel pressured to fill your father’s shoes?
ND: I did not know that actually. Dad does not brag about his accomplishments to me. Also, I do not feel pressured to fill his shoes because we are two different people. Now I know people will compare us, but that is their right and choice. The fact is, we are two different people in two different eras of football with two different approaches to the game.
6. Tell us a bit about your mom and how she has helped you be the person you are today, your sister's involvement in T&T football; and how did you end up choosing a soccer career as opposed to another sport that’s more popular in your country.
ND: Well, my mother is a very strong women on and off the pitch. She would be the first to tell me that I had a really good game and she would be the first to say what was I doing out there. She tells me how it was, no pampering. My sister played with T&T for a bit and she really enjoyed the experience on and off the pitch. Mom and Jessica both had the pleasure to see where Dad grew up. Lastly, I have always known I would be a soccer player since I was little boy. It was and still is one of my biggest loves in life. My father played and my mother played, so of course naturally as kid I wanted to do the same thing my parents did.
7. Who do you adore as a player the most in the world and who are some of the T&T players you like and follow?
ND: To be honest I don't adore anyone in particular. I respect players for their talent and the hard work they put in to reach the levels they are at. A few players to name from T&T would be, Dwight Yorke, Kenwyne Jones and of course my father Leroy (smile). These guys were really good and I know Kenwyne is the team captain, so it would be nice to play alongside him.
8. Have you ever had any Trini dishes, if yes, what are some of the foods you like?
ND: I have really only tried curry.
9. How has the experience been playing in the MLS and would you consider playing aboard one day? Also, which clubs teams do you support apart from DC United.
ND: My experience at DC United has been fantastic. When you have a coach and staff who believe in your talent, it can go a long way with a player. I have considered playing abroad for sure. If the right situation presented itself I would have no trouble going aboard. I have always been a Manchester United fan since I was little boy. Still enjoy watching them play today.
10. Have you ever visited the SWO (socawarriors.net) website? If you did, what can we do to make your visits more frequent?
ND: I like the website. It's very informative, easy to navigate and I will visit more. I also want to say that if you are a foreigner like I am, the site really helps you know and learn more about Trinidad and Tobago and some of it's fantastic players from past to present.
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