It was confirmed over the weekend that Mark Lavery will go on trial next week with Veikkausliiga club KuPS, with the goal to take a starting center back role in Marko Rajamaki’s lineup.
The 25-year old former Oglethorpe University alum and Atlanta Silverback reserve has attended four SoccerViza combines in the past to move on to the next stage of his career. Moving from Atlanta in 2014, Mark went on to captain Hamar in the Icelandic fourth division, before moving to Costa Rica to play with second division side Juventud Escazucena in 2015.
“Honestly, I was surprised,” Mark told SoccerViza about the news.
“I was preparing for a different move, and getting all of my coaching and life responsibilities out of the way in order to go. I wasn’t planning on leaving [Georgia] until February for my next opportunity, but when I found out that KuPS had invited me in, that changed everything. It’s one of those things where, if a team like that is interested, you drop everything and go.”
Mark had previously played in front of Rajamaki at SoccerViza’s Florida combine in March, 2015. There was interest at the time, but nothing came of it, leading Mark to take his opportunity in Costa Rica. It could be coming to fruition 10 months later, as the KuPS boss has need for a center back again, and Mark was available after terminating his contract in Costa Rica.
“It’s funny, my wife was the one pushing me the most to go to this most recent combine in San Diego. I had been thinking about it, but decided that it might be too short notice after getting back from Costa Rica. But she really wanted me to go, and then for whatever reason, Joe [Funicello] sent me a text and told me there was an open spot at the combine if I could swing it. I decided to do it, and knew it wouldn’t hurt to be in front of scouts again.”
For Mark, it’ll be his fourth year in a row with a chance to play overseas, starting in 2013 with his first trials in Iceland with Tindastoll and Volsungur following SoccerViza’s inaugural combine. After his most recent adventure in Costa Rica with Juventud Escazucena, Mark acknowledges that it would have been easy to think about hanging it up. While the playing situation was initially a good one, paperwork delays between the club, the federation, and the government prevented him from getting a work visa in time for the club to register him as a player. As a result, Mark spent several months with the team training with them and playing in friendly matches, but unable to compete as a rostered player.
“Everyone has down days. It’s one of the problems I have; I let soccer bleed into everything else in my life. If something is going wrong in the game, it affects me, for sure. That’s where my family, my wife come in and help see the bigger picture. Sure, Costa Rica didn’t work out the way I had it planned in my mind, but ultimately I worked a lot there. I learned a lot about the game. I was training and playing every day with very good players, Costa Rican national team players. It would have been easy to throw in the towel after it didn’t work out, and say I’m done. But something you love this much, care about this much, you have to look at the bigger picture. And the bigger picture was that I’m not ready to give up. It didn’t work out the way I wanted to, but God has a plan, and it not working out there motivated me to see the rest of my plan. Now we see what Finland holds.”
For SoccerViza, Mark is proof that the combine process continues to work. The Atlanta-native has used SoccerViza’s services four times, and received four opportunities from them. If a contract is secured off of this trial, Mark will be the first player from a SoccerViza combine to sign in Finland’s Veikkausliiga, which will open the door for others in the future.
“Mark has the opportunity to be a trend-setter here, to show Finland what the American underdog player can achieve,” SoccerViza Founder and CEO Joe Funicello commented.
“He’s a tremendously talented, hard working player who for one reason or another fell through the scouting net in America. He’s shown his quality in the past, being named captain at Hamar from day one, and getting 90-minute games in friendlies for a team he wasn’t registered with, playing against teams like Herediano and the Costa Rican U-23s. This is another region for him to explore, to show what kind of talent he is on a bigger, more visible stage. And if he plays as well as we know he can, then more Veikkausliiga teams are going to turn their attention this way.”
Mark will arrive in Finland on January 17 to begin his trial, which starts with a game against recently relegated side KTP, followed by a road trip to Sweden to play Hammarby.
“I can’t wait to get into the new environment; the new team, new coaches, a new level of play. Getting my feet under me is something I’m really looking forward to. I’m excited about getting into a game environment so quickly. I just want to thank SoccerViza, the whole staff there… obviously I believe in myself, my wife and family believe in me, and my friends, my old coaches… but there’s very few times when people believe in you, but also have the ability to help you. That’s what SoccerViza has done for me. They’ve helped me so many times, and I’m so grateful to have the SoccerViza Family in my corner.”