After a successful tenure across South America, Luis Seijas feels at home with the Phoenix Rising.
The Venezuelan midfielder joined the Rising late in the 2020-21 season to add a veteran presence to one of the United Soccer League’s top teams. The team’s next game is Saturday, March 5, against Tucson.
Soccer has always been part of Seijas’ life. The 35-year-old credits his dad, who brought the game from his Peruvian background to the family’s new life in Venezuela.
“I was probably 7 or 8. I was on a club, like a social club in my city. It was with my dad, for sure,” Seijas says. “He’s from Peru, so he loves soccer. In Venezuela, at that time, there were not so many kids playing soccer, but because my dad was from Peru, we played a lot with my brothers.”
Playing for various South American clubs, Seijas finds the atmosphere in the United States very different than any sport. Seijas played in Argentina, Colombia and Brazil, among others. The conditions were often dangerous, and losing games only fueled the fire to the passionate, if not fervid, fan base at times.
“I’ve always been in leagues in other countries where it’s all different kinds of pressures,” Seijas says. “Where they live soccer with so much intensity that sometimes you don’t enjoy your family time, your time with your kids and your normal life. For example, in Colombia, if we lost two games in a week you don’t go out, because people like to let you know that you are doing bad and it’s wrong. I think it is wrong, because, like I said, we also have families and we also have people around us. We need to have fun and live through it.”
Seijas wanted to escape the stress of South American soccer and play for a top team in the United States. The Phoenix Rising fit the bill. Having his family present was another motivating factor in his decision to come to the Valley.
“My wife and my daughters the last two years, they didn’t go too much to the stadium, because it was dangerous,” Seijas said. “So, I want to be able to share the last two or three years of my career with my daughters. I want them in the stadium. I want them in the locker room, and here you can do that. That’s why I’m so grateful.”
Since arriving in Phoenix, Seijas and his family have enjoyed their new life. Compared to the chilly year-round temperatures in Bogota, Colombia, Phoenix’s weather is a dream. Seijas’ wife and two daughters settled into their new apartment and are excited to explore a new city.
“I’m loving Phoenix. My kids are loving it, and my wife is really excited to be here,” Seijas says. “This is our first week of putting together the apartment and getting all the stuff we need. But so far, it’s been amazing.”
After initially settling into a new country, it was time for Seijas to get to work. Fitting into a new team isn’t always easy. It can be difficult for the most talented players to adapt to a different style of play and culture.
For Seijas and the Rising, he credits the team’s humility and diversity as reasons why he acclimated quickly and easily.
“It was really easy because the group is a very humble group. We have one of the best rosters on the team, but they’re really humble and the guys let me in,” Seijas says. “Also, being able to share with Santi (Moar), Jon (Bakero), Arturo (Rodriguez), Ivan (Gutierrez) and the guys who speak Spanish, it made the whole process easier.”
Like other Arizona teams, the Rising is a varied team. The roster consists of players from eight different countries spanning five continents.
Arizona already has a Venezuelan connection with Jose Herrera and David Peralta representing from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Seijas says he knew of the connection beforehand and wants to connect and meet his fellow countrymen.
“I love that. I love that we have Africans, we have Jamaicans, we have Mexicans. I’m the only South American, but we are Latin Americans, we’re the same,” Seijas says. “I love that. I think it sends a good message for the fans, for the league, for what I think we want the sport to be. The place where no matter where you come from, you can just go have fun and be a part of something.”
The team already has a Wednesday tradition: They go out to get half-priced wings, which he calls a great team bonding activity.
Playing in the midfield, Seijas conducts and orchestrates the team, manipulating his teammates to be in the right positions at the right time. His ability to control the game comes from his impressive experience, a big reason head coach Rick Schantz brought him in late last season.
“Wow, Luis, his experience is unquestioned. Luis has played in stadiums of 50 and 60,000 fans and played in CONMEBOL games,” Schantz says. “He’s a very good pro, works extremely hard and is very gifted technically.”
Schantz compares Seijas to the Rising’s biggest stars in the past, like Didier Drogba and Shaun Wright-Phillips, in terms of status and experience.
As a locker room leader, Seijas imparts lessons and tips to the younger players on the team. Playing everywhere in South America gave him unique experiences that he shares with his teammates.
His relationship with the young players is strong, as they listen to him.
“Well, I think that the pressure doesn’t come from outside. If you want to grow, the pressure you have to put on yourself. Just don’t be in your comfort zone,” Seijas says.
“At my age, you start looking at the training sessions and not only focus on you but also try to see around you and see what compliment you can give, maybe ‘do this instead of that’ situation. I try to pass tips to be better on the field.”
Despite being in his career’s twilight years, Seijas is still motivated to win. This desire to win aligned perfectly with the Phoenix’s culture, making the decision to join the club even easier.
“(Winning) is the first thing you hear when you sign from (general manager) Bobby (Dulle) and the owners. There’s a culture over there winning not only at sports, at their business, and they want to pass that to the whole organization,” Seijas says. “So yeah, that’s a very important part of why we train and how we train, and at the end, that’s what drives people to the stadium. If you don’t have a winning team, people are not going to be here.”