SAN ANTONIO – It’s no secret that San Antonio FC has transformed itself into a hub for developing local soccer talent. The current roster features several of the Alamo City’s most dynamic young playmakers: Jose Gallegos, Ethan Bryant, Leo Torres just to name a few.
This year, that list also includes Ollie Wright.
After growing up in London, England, Wright starred here in San Antonio at St. Mary’s University and was a major contributor to the Rattlers’ run to their first NCAA Division II Tournament in 2019. That season, Wright racked up accolades, earning co-Male Athlete of the Year honors at St. Mary’s, Long Star Conference Player of the Year honors, and he was even named the D2CCA South Central Region Player of the Year.
But while the awards came rolling in, the junior midfielder’s immediate future began to change. The COVID-19 pandemic was rolling across the world, shutting down sporting events and seasons, sending players and teams into an unprecedented period of global uncertainty. Wright found himself torn between two choices.
“I had to make a decision,” Wright said. “Do I go back home [to London] and risk maybe not being able to come back into the [United States] because of the travel restrictions? Or do I sacrifice seeing my family over Christmas time and continue training with the guys? I chose the latter, and luckily it worked out.”
It did indeed. Thanks to financial support from his family overseas, Wright stayed in America and fought for as much playing time as he could in smaller weekend leagues, general practices and four-on-four drills. Eventually, he earned the opportunity to train with San Antonio FC, and on Dec. 15, the club offered him his first professional contract, validating the risk he chose to take.
Wright made his professional debut in San Antonio’s season-opener against Colorado Springs on May 1, subbing in for Nathan in the 85th minute and helping preserve a 3-0 shutout victory. It might have only been five minutes, but Wright felt how different it felt playing under the lights at Toyota Field.
“It was nerve-wracking,” he recalled. “I’d never played in front of so many people before. The atmosphere both home and away has been electric every time we’ve played. You do eventually get used it. It’s nice having the fans supporting us and backing me all the way.”
Since that first exposure, Wright has turned into a solid option for head coach Alen Marcina off the bench. He tallied a pair of assists in back-to-back matches that salvaged draws in each situation and even scored his first professional goal in one of SAFC’s exhibition matches against Querétaro FC on July 6. It’s an impressive start to his still burgeoning professional career, but there’s one specific aspect of the game that he is still learning to adjust to.
“Getting used to not getting the ball whenever you want it,” Wright explained. “I’ve had this conversation with Coach Alen quite a few times. At the college level and at USL, too, you run all over the field and try to find the ball because you want to do something good every time you get it. I’ve had to realize that at the pro level, the level is obviously a lot higher. You can’t do that. You have to be more disciplined in your role and become more of a team player as opposed to an individual.”
It has been a roller coaster of a season for San Antonio FC so far, but if Wright’s energy and attitude is any indication, there’s a bright future for both him and the club ahead.
SAFC will return to the pitch on Saturday, Aug. 14 against New York Red Bulls II. That match is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.