THE INTRODUCTION
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
[note]Editor's Note: Yanks Abroad has been known over the three-plus years we've been around for covering the top three flights of European leagues, with the occasional South and Latin America tidbit thrown in.

As we embark on our fourth year of coverage, we thought we'd try something a little different...dig a little deeper down in the nether-regions of Europe and shine a spotlight on another young player whom we would otherwise not follow.

His name is Max Cream, and no, we're not making this up.

Max is a 19-year old striker from Southern California, and was recently signed to a one-year contract with an additional option year with German Oberliga team SV Meppen - one-time home of US soccer legend Paul Caligiuri.

We won't be changing our style of our coverage, which means we won't be adding him to our player database, nor will we mention him in previews or recaps. We won't send staff to do Press Box Reports at Cream's fourth division matches.

What we will do, though, is give Cream his own space on YA, which will let all of us weekend warriors live vicariously through the young man as he tries to accomplish his dream of top-flight European soccer.

Max will be submitting the periodic piece, updating his trials and tribulations as his season progresses. We will do only minor editing to his submissions, therefore, you might not want to expect fine prose over the course of the feature.

What you can expect, however, is a raw and authentic look into the life of an unknown player both on and off the field to hopefully shed some light on what it takes to make it in the beautiful game.

Welcome to Maximum Access.[/note]

Thanks for taking time to read my new space on Yanks Abroad, who have been gracious enough to let me share my experiences with you all. As I am aware that most you have no idea who I am, let me give you a little history about myself.

I moved to Scotland in the summer of 2004 to trial with Dunfermline Athletic, while at the same time being in contact with Liverpool, Middlesbrough, Walsall, Sunderland and Rangers youth departments. This all was hard being only 16 years-old and without an agent or guardian, so I opted to stay in Scotland rather than travelling down to England.

During this period, I was contacted by Dundee United and I was juggling whether to go to Rangers on trial or go to Dundee United where I'd possibly see more playing time. Eventually, I went to United, but ended up stuck into the youth team where I wasn't really welcomed and many of the players made it clear they weren't interested in any relationship with me off the field.

After five months of waiting for the transfer window to open, they told me I "wasn't gelling well enough with the boys," but assured me that clubs had asked about me and they'd send me to one of them. I then contacted the clubs I had previous contact with, but had trouble getting hold of coaches since many were overseas in training camps or had changed contact numbers or even clubs.

Later, I ended up playing in one friendly match for St. Johnstone against Forfar Athletic and scored all four goals in a 4-1 win. Despite that, I was told "you Americans are great athletes, but you'll never be "real" footballers," and sent on my way. It was disappointing as many of the players I had played with that day were already planning to take me out and show me the town once I signed. That signing never came and I moved on again.

I then went back to Dunfermline, played in a local youth tournament and scored three goals in three games. I was told I wouldn't be getting a contract there either.

By then I was exhausted from trials and travelling on trains, and to show I just wanted to play, I offered to take the lowest salary in the club, and they still said no. However, a local businessman who'd seen me play and whom I'd met decided to fully financially back me which allowed me to sign an amateur contract with Dunfermline.

I had a frustrating start with the club seeing very little playing time with the youth and reserves, even though I felt entitled to be a regular starting player. I decided to speak to the coach and pleaded I start the next match to prove my worth. He let me know the reason I didn't start was because I wasn't better than the players in my position, I of course thought otherwise, and was out to prove I was correct.

The next week I played against Hibernian FC youth and scored three goals (one of my three being marked as an own goal) and got two assists in 6-1 win, in my first 90 minutes in competitive play!

The next day, a newspaper article praising me was written, and when I got into training the next day I was told to "F*** off back to America" amongst other things by a club employee for getting in the newspaper over players who have been at the club for 10 years without press coverage.

From then on, I played very little and had a very bad time with racism and bigotry from youth players and even a picture of a monkey put on my clothes peg in the dressing room. I never reported the incidents to the league fearing it would only harm my already rocky career in Scotland, although I did tell my coach who more or less assured me they were only joking.

Finally I left back to the US. I went on trial with the LA Galaxy and played two friendly matches, scoring in one from an Alexi Lalas (who was filling in for some injured players) assist. Before I could sign a developmental contract, managerial changes saw me heading back to Europe with trials at Borussia Monchengladbach, Werder Bremen and eventually, Kickers Emden, whose head coach Mark Fascher decided he wanted me for the Regionalliga the next season.

Then that contract fell through due to not reaching agreements with the club president, but Mark Fascher at Emden was so impressed he called the SV Meppen head coach and told him I needed to be signed immediately. I ended up signing without having to trial.

Finally, after three years I really feel welcome and I am very happy and have big hopes at this club. It's the first time I feel people are giving me the respect in soccer I have for myself.

They have a big stadium for a lower league club with a capacity of about 17,000 and get among the biggest crowds in the division. This is a great year for us as far as promotion to the new Regionalliga because the top five teams will play in a playoff with the first place going through automatically.

Obviously we are pushing to win the league, as we are quite a big club, relatively speaking, at this level as SV Meppen is one of the "Kult" clubs of Germany like St. Pauli and FC Koln.

I hope this gives an insight into who I am and what I've done so far and where I hope to be going in the future. Continue to read this space and I will give updates on a consistent basis.

Until next time,
Max