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16

Sep, 2020

Miami Haitian-American teen Konrad becomes first American to play for FC Barcelona

 

https://www.miamiherald.com/sports/mls/inter-miami/article245722900.html

Konrad de la Fuente, a 19-year-old Haitian-American from Miami, on Saturday became the first American to play for FC Barcelona’s first team.

Konrad, as he is known in soccer circles, played and impressed coaches during the second half of Barca’s 3-1 preseason victory against Gimnastic Tarragona.

A press release from the club said: “Konrad was on the end of a simply exquisite pass from fellow debutant Trincão and his confident finish was a joy to watch. Unfortunately, the goal wouldn’t stand because of the narrowest of offside calls.

“That was not the only moment of the game when was witnessed some impressive linking-up between the Portuguese striker and Konrad, and the young American also came frustratingly close in the dying minutes when he was in a fine position to score but was denied by the keeper. Konrad will be starting the season as a Barça B player, but his performance today will not have gone unnoticed by the first team boss. We may well be seeing a lot more of the youngster in the months to come.”

Konrad recently signed a contract extension and is considered one of the club’s top prospects.

New coach Ronald Koeman started the game with Neto, Alba, Piqué, Lenglet, Sergi Roberto, Aleñá, Sergio Busquets, Pedri, Dembélé, Messi and Griezmann.

After the halftime break, he went for a youthful lineup: Iñaki Peña, Semedo, Araujo, Junior, Cuenca, Coutinho, Riqui Puig, De Jong, Trincão, Braithwaite and Konrad.

The British tabloid The Sun wrote of de la Fuente last September: “American Express — Forget Christian Pulisic, this Barcelona Starlet Could Be the Future of U.S. Soccer.”

Last October, de la Fuente was featured in The Guardian’s annual “Next Generation: 60 of the Best Young Talents in World Football.” He was the only American on the list.

How did this 5-7, 160-pound kid from West Kendall make it to one of soccer’s biggest teams?

It all began at Kendall SC, where de la Fuente and his younger brother, Richard, took up soccer while attending elementary school at The Heritage School, near Tamiami Airport. He also trained at Schulz Academy in Boca Raton, where U.S. star Jozy Altidore got his start.

When Konrad was 10 years old, his father, Conrad, took a job as a commercial attache with the Haitian Embassy in Madrid and the family relocated there.

“It was a big move to leave Miami, where I still have a lot of friends, aunts, uncles, cousins, and I loved the Heat and LeBron James,” de la Fuente told the Herald by phone last year from Poland, where he was playing for the United States in the U20 World Cup. “But I knew they take soccer really seriously in Spain, so that was exciting. I spoke some Spanish from living in Miami, so that helped.”

Shortly after arriving in Madrid, he was spotted by a scout and invited to try out for Marcet Football’s Tecnofutbol club in Barcelona. He made the team, and moved to Barcelona with his mother, Jennifer, a self-employed accountant who graduated from Barry University, and his brother. A year later, he joined CF Damm, and was soon noticed by an FC Barcelona scout, who invited him to join their famed “La Masia” youth academy, where he has trained and moved up the ranks for the past seven years.

“We picked him up when he was 12, and he is a very interesting player we hope to keep in the club as long as we can,” Denis Silva, Barca’s U19 coach, said by phone. “He has been performing very well, and is always in our first 11. He is the typical Barca wing, can play left or right, has speed and good crossing passes, and is very brave 1-on-1, trusts his skills. That is very difficult to find. He has the combination of the American work ethic and the Spanish soccer mentality.”

Konrad said he misses Miami.

“I miss the nice beaches, the warm weather, and Haitian food,” he said. “The only time I get Haitian food in Spain is when my Mom cooks it. But this is where I want to be.”

 
 
 

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Miami, Florida 33173

Phone: 305-965-0083
Email: [email protected]
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