Have you ever wondered what players are up to in the offseason? Much like the mystique of seeing teachers outside of a classroom, it can be intriguing to learn that professional athletes actually do leave the field and training ground every now and then. So what are the Loons doing outside of the sports world? To get to the bottom of this wild mystery, we sent a team to pre-season training and spoke to some of the guys.
Our captain, Wil Trapp, had a damn good off-season that started with a wedding. “My brother got married, so we had his bachelorette party in Mexico City, which was amazing,” Trapp said. “It’s a place with so much culture, so many new experiences and for me it was amazing to test my level of Spanish but also to eat good food and have a great time.”
Wil also revealed that his family celebrates what is arguably the greatest wedding tradition of all time: “My aunt was a music teacher, so she’ll take a song and repurpose all of the lyrics, and then we’ll sing and perform after the speeches,” Trapp said. “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 come out. We had the whole thing rehearsed, it was really fun and something to look forward to and then be really relieved when it’s done.”
The Trapps rocked the holidays, fried a 20-pound turkey and really gave it their all at Christmas. “Our three year old finally understands what Christmas is and what’s magical about it so we had so much fun. I think Christmas was like five days in a row of excitement and ‘Santa is coming’ and then the runner high after how much fun that was.”
Who Likes Pickleball? DJ likes Pickleball! This offseason, Taylor kept his hand-eye coordination as sharp as his foot-eye coordination with the game sweeping the nation. “Actually, I played a lot of pickleball,” DJ said. “It’s a big deal going everywhere, so yeah, I’ve been playing pickleball and stuff like that with family friends, so that was a lot of fun.”
Aside from sports being insanely fun, Taylor has reached a major milestone in his life. “I’ve had a busy off-season this year because as soon as I came back I proposed to my wife, we got engaged, so that was the first big surprise, and after that we got married on December 30.”
Though happily busy with big life moves, DJ still took some time to drop by his hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina to see his 11-year-old brother and the soccer facility where he used to train. “I spent it at home in Raleigh, North Carolina with my whole family,” Taylor said. “I always enjoy going back and spending time with family. I have my little brother, he’s 11 years old so it’s always great to see him. I was a coach when I played USL in North Carolina, so I probably visited the facility three times a week just to see the kids I used to coach and play soccer with them. So it’s always a great time to be home.”
Finally, Taylor rounded out his hiatus with a trip to Miami to relax before returning to the season. “We had a quick trip to Miami just before I came back to make sure I get some paint on before I lose it all in Minnesota, but we’re planning on going on a bigger honeymoon this off-season, maybe to Europe or something like that So Jamaica has a lot to plan for.”
Michael Boxall stayed in the Twin Cities a little longer than most as his daughter was still at school, but he traveled to New Zealand in December. “I stayed here for November because my little girl was still at school,” Boxall said. “We went to New Zealand for most of December so I was able to spend time with my parents and my wife’s parents and it was nice to get away from the cold for a bit.”
In the land of the Kiwi, Boxy soaked up as much sun as possible and spent all his time with his family. “It was a good opportunity to get the free babysitters to look after the kids and Christmas with the family is always important and just yeah…go to the beach as much as you can before coming back here and a few laps.” Play golf while we can.”
Luis Amarilla spent a lot of time in Paraguay during his off-season. “I was with my family,” Amarilla said. “I spent time with them, my son, my parents. We took the break we needed. We were also in Mexico for a while. It was my honeymoon with my wife and after that we went back to Paraguay, nowhere else but Paraguay.”
Instead of holiday traditions or big vacations, Amarilla took his time to be with his family almost exclusively. “I’ve shared family time just like that, like activities,” Amarilla said. “Having time with my little son, my baby and just being with them.”
Clint Irwin kicked off his off-season wild ride with a vacation to Mexico. “My wife and I went to Mexico. It was the first vacation my wife and I have taken without our son, so it was just nice of us and pretty chilled,” Irwin said. “Didn’t really have to do anything, could just sit there and read a book and watch the waves come in, yeah it was nice.”
Clint went to Arizona for Thanksgiving and received some exciting news. “We spent some time in Arizona with the family for Thanksgiving and around that time I signed for Minnesota,” Clint said. “From that point on, all we thought about was how to get here and find a place.”
Probably the craziest thing about his offseason, at least for us Minnesotans, is Irwin’s move to Minneapolis…in the middle of winter. “I was basically coming behind a storm all the time, so it wasn’t snowing, but it was pretty freezing,” Clint said. “The street looked like Winter Mad Max, with cars driving around everywhere. It was a bit sketchy but nobody else was out there so it was difficult to come across 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 in this sport you learn to value your family more when you’re away from them. So you learn when you are close to them, you enjoy every moment with them.”
Arriaga thoroughly enjoyed going back to his roots and engaging in activities since childhood. “It was fun going back home and remembering things from my childhood, about my childhood,” Arriaga said. “Seeing my friends and playing games with them that we used to make as kids, so I think that was the most fun.”
Of course, Kervin also watched a lot of the World Cup. “There were various great moments, but I’m sticking with the finale,” said Arriaga. “I supported Argentina. When the game was 2-0, when France made it 2-1, I think that was the best moment. A very nice game where you as a player can get important things to learn.”
Joseph Rosales headed home to Tegucigalpa, Honduras for his off-season break. “I was in Honduras, Tegucigalpa with my family and then I visited my grandpa,” Rosales said.
Between spending time with family and supporting Argentina at the World Cup, Joseph caught up with friends and continued to play football. “It’s fun to be with my friends, play soccer and hang out,” Rosales said. Overall a relaxed time out but a nice reset for our Loons midfielder.
Zarek Valentin had a full off-season and the new Loon, coming from Houston FC, also started early. “It took a long time, I told them I hate it because we didn’t make the playoffs and that’s every player’s goal – to make the playoffs first and then fight for the championship.” said Valentine. “After all, you start your work a little earlier and try to prepare for the next season.”
In his free time, Valentin jetted around a lot. “A lot of travel,” Valentin said, “I went back to Portland for a wedding, saw my family a bit, and visited my wife’s family in Canada, so traveled a bit, but ultimately tried to settle my thoughts and leave you here.” down in Minneapolis.”
Above all, Zarek is looking forward to getting started in the Twin Cities. “The Twin Cities are beautiful, a very different landscape from Houston, but it’s gorgeous,” said Valentin. “It’s an outdoor culture, which is great, and the lake life is something I look forward to. I’m just trying to prepare as best as possible. The fan base here is one of the best in the entire league and I’m looking forward to going out and helping the team win. I came here losing pretty much every single game I played at Allianz Field so I’m excited to be on the hopefully winning side.”
Ryen Jiba spent most of his offseason just west of here at his home in Utah. “For my off-season, I was back in Utah, my hometown where I grew up,” Jiba said. “It was really nice out there, it’s snowing out there, but not as bad as it is here in Minnesota.”
When it comes to activities, Ryen enjoys being outdoors and spending his time exploring nature. “I love skiing and I also love hiking because we have beautiful mountains,” said Jiba.
Ryen also had a lot of family time, especially around Christmas. “At Christmas, me, my family, my cousins, we all gather and go to church and pray,” Jiba said. “We all make our own food and bring it all together and have a whole meal, it’s really great.”
Dunbar hails from sunny Los Angeles, so his winter months are a bit unimaginable for us here in the freezing north. “No holiday traditions, but I know this is unfathomable to Minnesota people, but on Christmas day we were in the pool at my house, we swam because it was like 75 to 80 degrees,” Dunbar said.
Cameron made a quick trip to Washington DC for Thanksgiving, but spent most of his time with his brothers in LA Dunbar. “I would bike ride on the beach, my brothers, we would go to the beach and bike ride or have some lunch.”
Many of our loons have taken some time off and made the most of it. It’s clear that the boys in black and blue hold their friends and family in high esteem and, just like the rest of us, do what we can to create great memories with those they love. Looking ahead, we can be confident that the boys will put that passion into their work performance and start this 2023 season strong. Hopefully the new year will be as busy as the offseason.