This past weekend marked another milestone in Francisco Navas Cobo’s soccer career. For the first time, the 18-year-old packed his bags and traveled with the Dynamo first team to Chicago for their league game against the Fire as part of the 18-man gameday roster.
“I was so excited when I found out I was traveling,” Navas Cobo said. “I immediately went home and told my family, and they were all very happy for me.”
It has been a quick ascent to the top for the former Dynamo Academy product, but this past weekend his teammates were quick to remind him that he, in fact, was still a rookie.
“On Thursday they told me I would be traveling, and Pat [Onstad] told me, ‘I guess you’ll be rooming with me.’ My initial reaction was, ‘Oh my god!’” Navas Cobo said.
Onstad was expected to share a room with Richard Mulrooney on the road, but with Mulrooney injured, the team thought this was the perfect opportunity to play a joke on the rookie.
“Francisco is scared to death of Pat,” said goalkeeper Tyler Deric, himself a Dynamo Academy product in only his second season. “We were leaving training, and he didn’t want to ask Pat for a ride so he rode with me.”
After Navas Cobo shared with Deric who his roommate would be, Tyler saw the opportunity to get in on the fun.
“I started telling him all these quirks about Pat that he had to watch out for," Deric said. "I told him that when [Francisco] watches television the sound has to be really low, that if he wants to talk on his cell phone he has to leave the room to do it, and if he wants to take a shower he has to ask Pat’s permission first.”
Navas Cobo tried to take in what he was hearing, but inside the nerves grew.
“I have a lot of respect for Pat,” Navas Cobo said. “But I was definitely nervous when I was hearing all these things.”
Onstad himself got in on the joke at Friday's training session, challenging his "roommate" to beat him during finishing drills. The joke continued that night, when the team arrived at the Embassy Suites hotel in Chicago. Team administrator Nick Kowba told Navas Cobo he was staying on the 10th floor and that Onstad had already picked up their room keys.
“When I got to the room, Pat was in there, but so was Andrew [Hainault], so I just assumed we were all sharing a room,” Navas Cobo said.
Hainault told Francisco he would be sleeping on the pull-out couch for the night.
“He was content with that,” Hainault said. “But as he started unpacking his things, you could see him shaking a little.”
After 10 minutes, the Canadian pair decided they had had enough fun and let Navas Cobo in on the joke.
“He was pretty relieved when we told him,” Hainault said. “He had a big smile on his face and took it pretty well.”
Navas Cobo said the experience furthered the connection he has with his teammates and definitely made him feel like one of the guys.
“Being a rookie means carrying all the stuff, but I enjoy it,” he said. “Everyone has been great with me, and I’ve been learning a lot. I just hope that I am here for a long time.”
If his track record is any indication, he will be. Then he will be the one planning the pranks and striking fear in the hearts of unsuspecting rookies.