Only one season removed from being denied entry into the league, AFC Ann Arbor has qualified for the National Premier Soccer League playoffs. AFC Ann Arbor will face AFC Cleveland in the first round of the NPSL Midwest Region playoffs on Friday, July 22 in Grand Rapids.
After spending its inaugural 2015 season in the Great Lakes Premier League, AFC Ann Arbor was granted admission into the NPSL in 2016. The club earned a playoff spot by finishing second in a hotly contested NPSL Great Lakes West Division.
One of the biggest reasons for Ann Arbor’s success is Dario Suárez, a 23-year-old forward/midfielder from Havana, Cuba. Suárez led AFC Ann Arbor with 6 goals during his first campaign with the club.
If Suárez’s name sounds familiar, it should. He was one of four members of the Cuban national team to defect to the United States during the 2015 Gold Cup. Since that time, Suárez has been trying to build a new life and a professional soccer career far from his native home.
Scratching the Pitch caught up with Suárez for a question and answer session ahead of AFC Ann Arbor’s playoff match against Cleveland.
Who were your favorite soccer players growing up?
Since childhood (Brazilian) Ronaldo has been my idol, and now I opted for Cristiano Ronaldo. His perseverance and professionalism is well worth admiring, and his qualities as a player
What do you think are your strengths on the pitch?
Since childhood I always put a lot of effort to improve the technique every day, that is my weapon, and my shot with both feet, speed and decision making.
How are things going in the United States for you?
In America, things have gone very well.I love this country by the amount of opportunities offered to develop yourself.
What do you miss the most about Cuba?
In Cuba is my friends and family, but it was a decision for the future, so we can be all well and happy.
Have you been able to ask other players who left Cuba for advice?
I have seen Cuban players have succeeded in this, such as Osvaldo Alonso, among others, and that has inspired me to try my luck.
Why did you choose to sign with AFC Ann Arbor?
I came to Ann Arbor to play because I was in Miami FC the entire preseason but failed to sign with the team, and with very short time to try other clubs. Then my friend Hector Morales told me to come to play with this team if I was interested in playing with him this season together, so get here.
Are you a fan of the University of Michigan now?
I love University of Michigan. I have some friends who are students and I think that is one of the best.
How do you like the snow in Michigan?
I have only lived in Michigan in the summer, but those who live in the snow say it’s strong and much respected. I am not used to the cold so hard.
Who is your favorite American singer?
My favorite singer in the United States is Enrique Iglesias.
What are your ultimate goals in your soccer career?
I want to play professionally, then to help my team win titles.