A 2011 MLS SuperDraft first round pick, Bobby Warshaw started his soccer career in a round patch of grass in his driveway. Starting off at the age of eight, Warshaw would spend the next 15 years dreaming about a career in professional soccer. Hard work took him from his driveway to the United States U17 team, followed up by four years of soccer at Stanford. After landing in MLS at FC Dallas, Warshaw’s professional soccer career would ultimately stretch for six seasons across three countries. After wrapping things up last season with the Harrisburg City Islanders, Warshaw chose to share his experiences with the honest and informative When the Dream Became Reality.
When it comes to his soccer experience, Warshaw breaks things down geographically. The book is neatly split into six sections based on where Warshaw was playing soccer at the time. This allows the reader to easily follow his growth as a player, and also his emotional growth as he learns more about what it takes to be both a soccer player and a good teammate.
The first section, set in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, follows a young man who is absolutely dedicated to improving his soccer skills. As Warshaw relays to us, he even went so far as to wake his friends up early after a middle school sleepover so they could all walk over to the soccer field and squeeze in a quick training session. They were sure he wasn’t serious. He was.
Intensity like this is a common thread through Warshaw’s high school and college years. He seemed to have had the natural energy and drive for perfection that cannot be taught. There’s superstar athletes today who can clearly be seen at times coasting by on their natural abilities, knowing that they don’t really need to put in their full effort to succeed. Warshaw was more of the type to stick around after practice had finished, working extra drills until he was completing them to his satisfaction.
Warshaw’s work ethic and his driven nature is what got him to the the 2011 MLS SuperDraft. The range of talented players was remarkable, including MLS mainstays like Darlington Nagbe, Will Bruin, and CJ Sapong. All the hard work that led to him getting selected by FC Dallas with the 17th overall pick was about chasing the dream. Once the cameras turned back away and people went back to their jobs, that’s when he had to face the reality.
The dream is to hear your name called in the first round of the draft. The reality is that after the media team spend 20 minutes making you feel like the center of the universe, they’re going to walk away to prepare for the next kid that’s coming down the line.
About three fourths of the book is dedicated to Bobby Warshaw’s six seasons in professional soccer, stretching from MLS to USL with a few stops at the Swedish Superettan and Norwegian First Division in between. Warshaw has a remarkable memory for the key moments at the various clubs, although he never gets too bogged down in the details of any particular matches. It helps keep the action moving at a brisk pace while making sure the reader, who probably wasn’t watching any Angelholms FF matches in 2013, still has all of the essential details.
What truly begins to stand out as Warshaw goes over the details of his playing time is just how much of a soccer player’s career is impacted by circumstances that are completely beyond a player’s control. Warshaw’s natural position was to be a central defensive midfielder, but when he was at Dallas he could usually only find time as a substitute at that position. Compare that to defender Matt Hedges who joined Dallas in 2012. He was able to find playing time early on due to other players going down due to injury, which allowed him to work through his rookie nervousness and develop into MLS Defender of the Year by 2016.
For Philadelphia Union fans, it’s reminiscent of the situation with former goalkeeper Zac MacMath. He put in his time to develop with the Union only to see the team select Andre Blake first overall and then sign Rais M’Bolhi on top of that. Fortunately for him he had the opportunity to move to the Colorado Rapids. But then as soon as he settled in as the starter there, Colorado signed Tim Howard. Poor guy can’t catch a break.
Warshaw asks a lot of hard questions about how a player is expected to conduct himself, but he provides few answers. But that’s only because his career repeatedly demonstrated that there are no truly right answers to the uncertainties facing a professional soccer player. He stands up for himself when he thought he was being misused and overlooked in Dallas, and he was told to look for another team to play for as a result. So when he’s asked to play out of position (as a striker of all things) for GAIS in Sweden, he tries to do what’s best for the team rather that make waves. Ultimately this approach isn’t successful either.
Warshaw spent almost 15 years of his life working toward his goal of playing professional soccer. It’s understandably frustrating to put that much effort into a career that can easily be undone by circumstances beyond a person’s control. Over the course of his six years as a professional, it seems like Warshaw ran into every potential problem he could face. There were uncooperative coaches, bad locker rooms, and selfish players just to name a few.
But Warshaw is not bitter or regretful about how things went down. The events are relayed in an honest, matter-of-fact way that helps the reader understand Warshaw’s perspective. He’s not some massive soccer star with all of the answers, he’s just another twenty-something who’s trying to make the best choices for his chosen career.
Throughout the book, Warshaw saves the biggest criticisms for himself. He’s a 28-year-old who has chosen to evaluate the actions of his younger self, which isn’t a fun job for anybody. Warshaw has taken it to the next level by publishing his evaluation in book form. His combination of excellent memory and incredible work ethic means that there’s times where Warshaw remembers a specific practice that he didn’t give his full effort and he beats himself up over it. The man is dedicated.
While Warshaw’s playing days may be over, his work with this book shows that he has a bright future with his writing. He was penning articles for Deadspin and Penn Live while he was still playing, so it was obvious that he had some talent. That experience is probably what helped give Warshaw the skill to bring his story out in such an engrossing way. You don’t need to be intimately familiar with Warshaw’s career to get something out of When the Dream Became Reality. Fans and players alike would be able to find plenty to enjoy in Warshaw’s first book. After reading it, I wouldn’t mind if he decided to go for a second in the future.