2010 is only a bit past the halfway mark on the calendar, but it already has been a big year for AC St. Louis midfielder Chris Salvaggione. The twenty-three year old not only signed his first professional soccer contract, but also signed an even more important document this summer — a marriage license. Chris and his high school sweetheart, Hillary, were married this summer in Colorado.
Chris began playing soccer and baseball when he was three or four years old, the backyard and the street being his field of dreams. After high school, Chris headed east to Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Spring, North Carolina. “I really enjoyed my time playing there,” said Chris . “It offered me a great opportunity to come into the Division 1 level as a freshman and get quality playing time to get me acclimated to the pace of the game at that level. After my second season there I felt like I needed to get myself into a bigger program so I would have a better chance of being seen by professional teams. Moving to UNC Charlotte ended up being the best thing to happen to me in college. The coach at Charlotte, Jeremy Gunn, really opened my eyes to a different style of play and had a huge role in developing my game. He brought me up to a level where professional teams would be interested.”
Chris played soccer during the summer in the Premier Development League, although he didn’t take it very seriously at first. “After my freshman year I went home to Colorado to play for the Colorado Springs Blizzard. It was more about having fun and staying in shape than really working on my game at that point,” Chris stated. “I decided that I needed to focus and use my time over the summer a bit more productively so after my sophomore year I went to Dallas to play with the DFW Tornados. I had a bit of a tough time getting into the side but I used the time over the summer to get all my injuries healed up and start to get into form for the upcoming college season. After I had a really good first season at Charlotte I really wanted to work on getting to a professional level before my senior year so the summer after my junior year I went down to Austin and played for the Austin Aztex U-23. Again I had a pretty tough time getting into the side, but I had the opportunity down there to train with guys that had played in the MLS already and I really just took after those players and took in anything that they had to show me. It ended up being one of the best things for my career. I went into my senior year and did everything I had hoped to do and got the attention of the right people.”
Chris was successful in catching attention, and went to Europe, trialing with three different teams. Chris told me that “my time in Europe was quite an adventure. I went over to train with a lower league team called KSV Klein-Karben, hoping that I would be able to get into the team and start moving my way up from there but the level wasn’t quite what I was looking for. I had a short trial with FSV Frankfurt, which was pretty strange in itself because with such a big language barrier and no translator there to help, it got pretty frustrating. After that I went to Saarbrucken, on the border of France and Germany. That trial went really well. I stayed there for a week and then ended up getting invited back for another trial during their preseason in the spring. When I went back the second time I trialed for a week and played in a game with their second team and at the end of that trial I was offered a contract to stay over there.”
Chris flew home to Colorado the day after Saarbrucken’s offer to “figure out if this was something I was going to take advantage of or if it was a good enough opportunity to move to Germany for.” Chris informed me that “when I got back to the states my agent told me about the trial in St Louis and I knew Brad Stisser was coming out for it, so I decided that it was something I was going to take a shot at. I had a rough first day of the trial after flying back from Germany and then flying to St Louis in a matter of 2 days. But the second day of the trial went really well for me and I ended up scoring 3 goals in about 60 minutes. It was enough to gain the attention of the coaches and the rest is history.”
Chris didn’t feel that he had to make a big adjustment to USSF D2 as far as pace or the physicality of league play. What has frustrated him so far this season though, has been injuries. “I have never really been plagued by injuries and I have really never faced injuries bad enough to sideline me for extended periods of time, so I guess it has all caught up to me this year,” he said. “It’s really been tough dealing with all the injuries during my first pro year but its just part of the game and I am pretty sure the worst is over and once I get back onto the field from the minor ankle injury I hope I can continue the form I have recently found and keep helping the team towards the playoffs.”
Chris finally got healthy and scored his first professional goal against the Montreal Impact on July 10. “It has just been tough getting back from a bad injury at the start of the season and as nice as the goal was itself it felt a lot better to just finally get off the mark. As a goal scorer it’s a big relief to get that first goal, after the first one goes in it just seems like the rest come a bit easier. On the topic of the goal though, I have never scored off a bicycle kick before, and for it to be my first professional goal was a pretty amazing feeling,” Chris confided. He added another goal in AC St. Louis’ next match against NSC Minnesota, then was hurt in his next start against the Austin Aztex, suffering a sprained ankle.
Chris and Hillary are enjoying their time in St. Louis, although when the heat and humidity get too much for Chris he heads to the pool. Chris roots for the New York Yankees and Liverpool FC, and looks for inspiration to players like Fernando Torres, Cristiano Ronaldo and Arjen Robben. Chris enjoys golf and sand volleyball, and is a big fan of the hit TV show “Entourage,” and is also getting into “Wipeout” and “Downfall.” I have met Chris several times, and also had the pleasure of meeting Hillary, and they are a happy couple with great smiles. Chris brings a lot of energy, enthusiasm and skill to the AC St. Louis team. I hope he gets healthy again soon, and can continue making 2010 a special year to remember.