In his journey to professional soccer, Connor Presley may have found the only path from Austin to San Antonio longer than 35 South. It took him through Europe.
The attacking-minded player signed his first professional contract with San Antonio FC in the middle of the club’s 2017 United Soccer League campaign, and appeared in six matches before the close of the season. This season, the 19 year old earned a role in SAFC’s season opener in Sacramento and has gone on to contribute 161 minutes, appearing in four of the club’s five matches to date.
Presley’s soccer story began roughly an hour’s drive North of Toyota Field, where he grew up as part of a soccer loving family in Austin. Presley described his earliest memories of soccer as something he had always been around, with both of his parents and his siblings all playing the sport.
After playing with several youth clubs in his home city, including Lonestar SC, Presley set out at 16 years old to join the FC Dallas academy. The three years between leaving Austin and joining San Antonio FC grew the young player into an athlete ready for a professional contract.
“I was forced to mature and I think it’s benefited me now,” Presley says on leaving Austin at 16. “I’m still only 19 and I feel like I’ve had the experiences for three years of someone living on their own.”
After spending around a year and a half at the FC Dallas academy, Presley chose to try his luck in the competitive European market.
Presley earned opportunities to train with several high profile clubs in Portugal, England, and Ireland including Estoril, Bradford City, and Bohemians. But in a sport with such strict rules on foreign players, Presley chose to take his talents back to Austin and rejoined Lonestar SC while plotting his next moves towards a professional contract.
Presley couldn’t have known that a scrimmage between Lonestar SC and some of San Antonio FC’s depth players would be what earned him a contract with a professional club.
But it did.
After catching the eyes of the SAFC coaching staff in that scrimmage, Presley was invited to train with the Alamo City club and soon offered a contract as an 18 year old. On playing in 2017, Presley cites family and familiarity as two big bonuses of playing with SAFC:
For a long time I had been away from my family so it was nice to play in front of people that I was close to, and play close to Austin, and in Texas. I had been searching for a pro club and it’s awesome that it turned out to be San Antonio. It’s somewhere that I spent a lot of time growing up. I used to play soccer at STAR [Soccer Complex]. Five or six times a year I’d have a tournament here.
Presley made his first appearance for SAFC as a 70th minute substitution in a home match against Vancouver Whitecaps 2 on 23 August 2017. Just moments later he was inches away from banking his first goal:
Fast forward seven months and Presley has forced his name into the conversation of a squad bursting with talented players.
In the offseason I put my head down and went to work. Technical work. Strength work. Things that I had done before but it was nice to have the time to focus. It was nice to have somewhere to come back to and know if I put the work in I could fly going into the season.
I knew what I needed to work on, I feel like I’ve put on some more strength. I got a little older so I feel like I’ve gotten a little bigger too. It’s nice to have put in the work in the offseason and reap the benefits now.
Presley hasn’t scored for the club in 2018, but he was a key factor in the club’s two goals in the home opener vs. Saint Louis FC. Coincidently, the other two players directly involved on those goals are also Austin youth soccer products, Kris Tyrpak and Mikey Lopez.
— San Antonio FC (@SanAntonioFC) March 26, 2018
I feel like that’s my game. I want to make an impact. Growing up that’s what I’ve always done, make things happen. Now we just have to keep it going and keep those relationships developing.
As 2018 continues, Presley will continue to insert himself into any conversations the coaching staff has about match day squads. Presley says he’s comfortable playing anywhere on the attacking side of the formation, outside or more centrally. The versatility he’s picked up in his unique path to becoming a professional will serve him well in an SAFC squad filled with experience and talent.