Woodburn High grad signs with Korea soccer club
From the Willamette Valley to just outside of Seoul, South Korea, Juan Gasca's journey has only just begun.
The Woodburn High School alumni and former Canby High School assistant soccer coach has made the move across the Pacific Ocean to play for the Uijeongbu FC. Gasca announced the signing on his Facebook page on March 23. The club is located in the city of Uijeongbu, located outside the capital city of South Korea.
Gasca first heard about the opportunity from current Canby assistant coach and Korean talent agent Won A Park, and decided to pursue the opportunity to play internationally.
"I knew what he was doing, I knew about the Korean U19 players that he took over to the Portland Timbers," Gasca said. "Ever since I found out about that, I would be bothering him, 'Hey, I want to try out in Korea, I want to do this, I want to do that.' But he wouldn't take me seriously until one day, I think he was in a good mood, and I convinced him."
After Park got the deal set up, Gasca flew over to South Korea to try out for the team, and had to compete with top local talent to land a spot on the squad.
"It's very competitive," Gasca said. "The guys are fast and everything, but I'm confident about my game and what I do."
After working his way through the tryouts and showing off his skills, Gasca made the final cut. He received his jersey and was on the squad. Due to missing registration, Gasca will have to wait for a chance to play, but he will be able to compete within three months. For the Woodburn native, it is a chance to inspire those who have had dreams to follow soccer for a living.
"I've always wanted to open doors for local players in Woodburn and Canby, and that's what I'm here for," Gasca said. "It's not just about me, it's about opening doors for other local talent. We've had lots of talent in town and it just goes to waste because there's nobody to give them that extra push. I can tell you that I want to open doors either as a soccer player or a soccer coach."
"As I was growing up I would sleep with the ball, and soccer was my thing," Gasca added. "I see a lot of kids doing the same and it reflects on me, you know? I want to help those players to achieve what they really want."
Gasca, who had played collegiately at Chemeketa Community College in Salem, is currently training with his new squad. There is a slight language barrier, Gasca says, but the staff and his teammates are patient and willing to help him through it. It is an exciting step further down a path dominated by soccer.
"I'm feeling excited for this new journey," Gasca said via text to the Herald. "I never thought it would happen this soon."