The Laredo Heat's Gabriel Claudio, Oscar Govea and Gage Rogers are all taking the next step toward pursuing pro careers as they signed with Path2Pro Soccer.
A trio of Laredo Heat SC players are taking a significant step in their quest for a pro career as Path2Pro Soccer announced this week the signings of defender Gabriel Claudio, midfielder Oscar Govea and goalkeeper Gage Rogers.
“These three are very deserving of this opportunity, and it is exciting to see more Heat players get a chance at pro careers,” Laredo Heat SC president Shashi Vaswani said. “One of our primary goals with the NPSL team is to be a steppingstone for these young athletes and to aid their development on the way to the next level. It is also great for our youth academy players to see shining examples of what can be achieved.”
Path2Pro Soccer is an agency which provides an opportunity for elite players to be seen and scouted by professional teams. The trio of players signing this week follow in the footsteps of former Heat players Younes Boudadi and Memo Diaz. They both recently completed their second season in the USL Championship with Boudadi playing for the Hartford Athletic and Diaz with the Oakland Roots. Boudadi and Diaz were with the Heat during their inaugural NPSL season in 2018 when Laredo earned the No. 1 seed in the league following a perfect 10-0-0 regular season.
“One of the biggest reasons my father decided to start the Laredo Heat, besides giving the Laredo Youth a chance to play the sport they love, is giving aspiring soccer players the chance to go professional,” Laredo Heat SC assistant general manager Rishi Vaswani said. “And with Gage, OG, and Gabriel signing with Path2Pro, following the footsteps of Younes Boudadi and Memo Diaz, we have given the players the chance to follow their dreams.”
Claudio, Govea and Rogers were all instrumental in the Heat’s success this season in the National Premier Soccer League as Laredo advanced to the Lone Star Conference championship game. The Heat went 7-1-2 in the regular season while leading the conference with only a goal allowed per game and ranking second scoring 2.7 goals per contest.
“When you work with the Laredo Heat, we have a lot of different aspirations,” Laredo Heat SC head coach John Powell said. “We want to win every game we play and win championships. That will always be at the forefront. In doing that, we want to help these younger players get opportunities.
“What you see with these three guys signing with a professional agency is they trusted the process. They bought into what we were doing in Laredo. They were fully invested and did everything we asked, and in turn they are going to see the benefits of that and see more opportunities open because of their commitment to the club.”
Powell also serves as vice president of soccer operations for Path2Pro Soccer. He was excited to give an honest and glowing review of Claudio, Govea and Rogers when Path2Pro Soccer CEO and co-owner Eric Bucchere reached out.
“We ask all the players who come in to be 100 percent committed over the summer, and in turn we will remain 100 percent committed to you well after the summer ends and you move on,” Powell said. “We want to help any way we can. Path2Pro wants to sign guys that played for Laredo. They know what we do as a club. They know the owners and the front office. They know what we’re about. I know they belong at the next level. It’s just about the opportunity. The opportunities will be there for the guys for sure.”
Claudio is excited for the opportunity as he forgoes his final season of collegiate eligibility to begin pushing toward his goal of making it to a Major League Soccer roster.
“It is one of those decisions in your life that is a big step, and you take a leap of faith in yourself,” Claudio said. “It was kind of scary, but I knew it was time. My goal is to build that relationship and trust and have a good player/agent relationship so I can go as far as I can. MLS is the main goal. I’m thankful for my family, friends, coaches and everyone supporting me.”
Starting at the junior college level, Claudio was the runner-up for Region Player of the Year at Yavapai College in 2019. He was also an All-NJCAA All-Region first-team selection during a 15-4 run to the conference title as he recorded four goals and two assists and led a backline which posted 10 shutouts and an average of just 0.61 goals allowed.
He continued his success while jumping to the Division I level with UNLV. Claudio started all 29 games for the Rebels across two seasons in 2021, and he finished with two goals, three assists and 22 shots.
“It was always a dream to go DI,” Claudio said. “There were ups and downs, but I loved every second of it and never took it for granted. I hope every minute I played for them that I served them well.”
Along with helping the Heat’s back line yield only 10 goals during the regular season, Claudio was also a steady presence on the offensive end this summer. He scored three goals and was a finalist for the NPSL Conference XI awards.
“I loved Laredo and the whole staff,” Claudio said. “It was something I will never forget. It was a new family. It was a great time. That was a really special group.”
Powell had an eye on Claudio for years and was excited to finally get to work with him during his first season as Laredo’s head coach. One of the primary reasons for his interest was Claudio’s versatility.
“He is fantastic. He can do it all,” Powell said. “He played right back for us all summer and was one of the best defenders in the NPSL, not to mention scoring goals. For UNLV he played a lot of center back in a back three and a back four. In junior college he was an All-American six. He has a great combination of pure athleticism and being an extremely talented footballer.
“You can’t just be a good athlete or a good player. You have to have it all, and Gabriel definitely does. I’m excited to see where he ends up playing at the next level. He will be extremely valuable to any organization that picks him up. He is like three roster spots in one player.”
Like Claudio, Govea is also forgoing his final year of collegiate eligibility to chase his dream of playing professional soccer. He had been in touch with Bucherre since his freshman year and decide this was the right time to make the move.
“I just felt very comfortable with the guys, and I’m very excited about doing this journey with them,” Govea said. “I know they will help me with any setback I come across and will keep me on my toes when I’m doing well. A lot of guys have told me it’s exciting to get an agent you trust and somebody you can really bond with. I’m totally for it with Path2Pro.”
Govea made 40 starts in 44 appearances the past three seasons at Sacramento State. He finished with seven goals and eight assists while recording 71 shots with 24 on goal. He is now eager to take on the challenge of making it as a professional.
“It has been a dream of mine since I started kicking the ball around as a kid,” Govea said. “My mindset really hasn’t changed. I still haven’t accomplished anything. I’m still working. I see it more as a challenge to prove myself and others wrong. That’s what I’m looking forward to the most is the challenge.”
Govea was a key part of the Heat’s offensive and defensive efforts this year on his way to being honored in the NPSL Conference XI Selections. He picked up an assist in the playoffs as Laredo opened at home with a 3-0 victory over the Midland-Odessa Sockers FC.
“Playing with the Heat this summer was an opportunity I will always be grateful for,” Govea said. “It was something I have never experienced before in my life, and I’m glad I did it. It helped me grow as a person, off the field and on the field. I also met a lot of guys. On this journey you come across a lot of great guys, and these guys ended up turning more into brothers by the end of the summer. I would do it all over again if I could. The coaching staff, the owners, the announcer, the players and everyone else were all amazing. They helped me grow a lot in soccer as well as off the field.”
Powell is confident in Govea’s chances after seeing his passion and dedication both on and off the field in Laredo.
“He is one of the most complete midfielders I have ever seen. He has caught the eye of a lot of professional clubs and caught the eye of Path2Pro because of all the things he does,” Powell said. “He is a box-to-box midfielder. He has the right mentality, which is big when you want to move on to the next level. He wants it. He wants it bad. He lives and breathes to not only play the game but to train and work on weights and recovery. He is all in as far as becoming a pro. He is a technical passer, he can create and he can score goals. He really can do it all.”
Following his redshirt senior season at California Baptist, Rogers has a solid backup plan in place to become a business professional as he is in the final stages of completing a masters in IT management to pair with an undergraduate degree in international business. However, he is eager to first pursue a professional soccer career with the help of Path2Pro Soccer.
“I am really excited for the opportunity to be able to join a prestigious agency such as Path2Pro,” Rogers said. “They have a great track record of finding players in that niche of maybe not MLS but just under that. As many people have hopes to get drafted to the MLS right away, it’s just not realistic. There are probably 10 to 20 players who make it to an MLS team from the draft. There are still lots of players who are able to play, and I feel like I still have the ability and the potential to play. I just need an opportunity, and I think Path2Pro is going to help me find that opportunity.”
While Rogers is taking a pragmatic approach to his professional pursuits, Powell likes his chances of drawing immediate interest. The MLS has roster limitations on the number of international players, so a 6-foot-7 American-born goalkeeper is likely to catch the eye of scouts.
“I see him as a no brainer,” Powell said. “When Path2Pro called and asked for an assessment, I can say extremely positive things about his goalkeeping, his shot stopping and his communication and organization skills. He is also 6-foot-7 and is an American goalkeeper. He is a fantastic kid and a great leader. He was a captain at Cal Baptist. I see him instantly making a roster, and I’m really excited to see what he does.”
Rogers started his collegiate career at Oregon State and recorded 25 saves in seven starts with a 1.41 goals against average and one shutout. He was on the field for 2,038:34 with 22 starts and 23 appearances in two seasons with California Baptist. Rogers went 12-7-4 with the Lancers while recording 107 saves and a 1.37 goals against average. He had four solo shutouts and a pair of combined clean sheets.
“It wasn’t the year I had dreamed of, but I felt like I grew leaps and bounds,” Rogers said. “This summer really prepared me and helped me. The way I was playing by the end of the year, I was having déjà vu of some of the performances I had in Laredo. The last six or seven games I was able to really turn it around and showcase what I am about like I displayed this summer. I’m a little sad for it to be done, but I’m glad for what the future will bring.”
Clean sheets were a regular occurrence for Rogers and the Heat this season. Laredo recorded five shutouts, and the 3-0 playoff victory over Midland-Odessa was the fourth in a span of five games. The performances landed him a spot in the NPSL Conference XI Selections. Rogers ended up being grateful his other plans fell by the wayside because it led to him joining the Heat.
“I had no clue what I was getting myself into. I had other plans that kind of fell through, then I got a call from John,” Rogers said. “I first looked up on the map where it was then decided I might as well. I couldn’t ask for a better experience. I still talk to the boys I met almost every day. They are experiences I am going to hold onto for my lifetime. I’ve been telling my other teammates if they have a chance that Laredo will help them more than they know.”