Axel Picazo was a 10-year-old former Club América youth player living in Austin, Texas when he first remembers taking notice of the quality of Mexican international and recently acquired Philadelphia Union midfielder Marco Fabián.
It was an El Súper Clásico match in April 2011 between América and the first of two goals Fabián scored that day for rival club Chivas Guadalajara that the 17-year-old Philadelphia Union Academy midfielder specifically remembers.
“I didn’t remember he scored two,” Picazo said. “I only remember the first one.”
Watching the video highlights of the game, it’s not hard to figure out why.
Up 1-0 at home in front of some 46,000 fans at Estadio Akron in one of the biggest rivalries in the world, Fabián found himself in the box with space and rocketed a left-footed shot that beat the keeper inside the left post.
It wasn’t a happy memory because of Picazo’s allegiance to the América side of El Súper Clásico, but it was a memorable moment in a career that has included plenty of big goals since — his two goals against Spanish giants Barcelona in a friendly that August also stood out in Picazo’s memory.
Picazo spent the first decade of his life in Mexico City before moving with his family to Austin, where his play with Lonestar Soccer Club earned him camp invites to U.S. youth international teams and led to him joining the residency program for the Philadelphia Union Academy in the summer of 2016.
Two and a half years later, Picazo is now wearing the same club crest as an El Tri star.
“When I saw the Union signed him I was very surprised,” Picazo said. “It’s great to see a player from the same country I’m from. It’s also great having a player of that high caliber because he plays kind of the same position as me so having someone like him to learn from is nice as well.”
Picazo will graduate from YSC Academy this June and still has the same goal in mind to turn pro as he did when he stepped off the plane for the first time in Philadelphia. He was one of 15 academy players invited to preseason with Bethlehem Steel FC in Florida earlier this month and has made a couple appearances in preseason matches.
While he shares a connection with Fabián not many other people around the organization have, he thinks the Mexican international’s arrival at the club will be to everyone’s benefit.
“I mean he has a lot of experience, he’s been to the World Cup and the Olympics and also played for Frankfurt so yeah he’s for sure someone the academy players will look up to,” Picazo said.
For the 29-year-old Fabián, part of the draw to the team despite getting more lucrative offers elsewhere was the opportunity he would have to raise the level of the team’s play while also serving as a role model to younger players.
“This is a good responsibility for me,” Fabián said after he was introduced to fans at the jersey launch party two weeks ago, noting that he hopes to “help everyone else I see” and “transmit my experience.”