At only 20 years old, Pleasanton's Nico Lemoine has experienced more on the soccer field than most people will in their entire careers.
Now a member of the Houston Dynamo in Major League Soccer, Lemoine packed a lot of different experiences on the pitch while on his road to being a professional soccer player.
From the beginning of his life, there have been strong bloodlines for Lemoine to be a successful soccer player. Both his father Sean and his late uncle Erik were standouts in the youth, high school and college ranks. Nico's grandfather Chuck was a longtime local soccer coach as well.
From his under-9 to U-13 playing days, Lemoine was getting it done for Ballistic United Soccer Club. At that point, BUSC's Developmental Academy was in its infancy stage and players in search of high-competitive soccer at the age had to go elsewhere.
Off Lemoine went to the DeAnza Force in the South Bay, where he started playing at the age of 14 with the Force U-16 team. From there, Lemoine went into the United States U-17 National Team Residency, wearing the colors of the USA in international competitions.
He then came back to the Bay Area and had a spot on the San Jose Earthquakes Developmental Academy team for over a year, spending the summer of 2017 training with the Earthquakes United States Soccer League affiliate, Reno 1868.
In 2018, he joined the Dynamo's Academy during and led the team in assists with six that season in the U.S. Soccer Academy League.
He then signed a contract with the Dynamo USL affiliate -- Rio Grande Valley FC -- heading into the 2019 season. Finally this all led to June 11 of this year when Lemoine signed with the Dynamo and became an MLS player.
After just two weeks of training, Lemoine found himself with the Dynamo in Orlando for the MLS is Back Tournament.
"That was great -- I was super stoked for it," Lemoine said of joining the MLS parent club. "At first it was hard to believe, but then I got super excited. I just kept working hard and wanted to be ready if Tab (Ramos, the Houston coach) called on me to play."
That didn't take long, as Ramos called upon Lemoine in the team's first game in Orlando -- a 3-3 tie with the Los Angeles Football Club.
"That was amazing to play against LAFC, one of the best teams in the league," Lemoine said. "The speed of play, the tempo, was crazy. It was so much faster. I wasn't really nervous, but more excited than anything."
The uniqueness of the tournament being at Disney World with all the MLS teams sequestered in hotels because of the COVID-19 pandemic took some time to adjust.
"It was different being in the bubble," he said of the arrangements. "We all had our own rooms and that took time to adapt. It was really lonely to a degree."
As Lemoine has every reason to look optimistically at his career the rest of playing days, he always looks back at the BUSC years as the foundation that go him going.
"My Ballistic days were the best days," Lemoine said. "From under-9 to under-13, those were my boys. I still talk with them all today. Ballistic is where I fell in love with the game."
Editor's note: Dennis Miller is a contributing sports writer for the Pleasanton Weekly. To contact him about his "Pleasanton Preps" column, email [email protected]